Tasmania's two outstanding mares Mystic Journey and Still A Star are heading for further clashes over the spring after both ran a place in the $300,000 group 2 Let's Elope Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
Respective trainers Adam Trinder and Bill Ryan have mapped the same path to their ultimate goal, the $1 million group 1 Empire Rose at Flemingon on October 30.
Mystic Journey and Still A Star will do battle again in the $300,000 Rose Of Kingston at the same track in three weeks.
There is then a gap of four weeks until the Empire Rose and that is the only time the two mares may part company.
Trinder said he would give Mystic Journey another run at Caulfield a fortnight before the Empire Rose "only if I think it's necessary."
However Ryan is reluctant to do that.
"Four weeks between runs isn't ideal for Still A Star - I'd rather it be three - but I really wouldn't want to give her another run in between," he said.
"I might have to trial her here instead."
Trinder was rapt with Mystic Journey's fast-finishing second to Turaath on Saturday at her first start since an operation to remove bone chips from her knees.
"They are reporting that she ran the fastest last 200m of the meeting, which is amazing considering there were three sprint races down the straight," the trainer said.
Ryan was also "delighted" with Still A Star's first-up third behind Turaath and Mystic Journey, finishing only a neck behind her fellow Tasmanian.
"She blew up a bit at the finish but still found the line - she picked up again when Mystic Journey loomed up beside her, as she always does," the trainer said.
"Both the Tassie horses did really well because the winner was having her sixth run this prep and was rock hard fit."
TRINDER, RYAN STRIKE AT SPREYTON
Trinder and Ryan capped a good weekend when both were among the winners at Spreyton on Sunday.
Trinder struck twice with Incriminate and Miss Tuppence while Ryan scored with his only runner Red Letter Lady.
Promising filly Miss Tuppence, placed in last season's Gold Sovereign, defied an amazing betting drift to easily win the Benchmark 60 at her second run after a spell.
After opening favourite at $2.60 she started at $6.50.
Trinder said he was prepared to overlook the filly's first-up failure four weeks earlier.
"I thought she'd win first-up but she may have been a bit rushed and things went wrong," the trainer said.
"Hence a senior rider (Daniel Ganderton) went on today.
"She is a nice filly and she'll have a couple of weeks in the paddock now before being prepped up for the good three-year-old races."
Ryan also has a good opinion of Red Letter Lady, who won the Benchmark 66 at her first start since February.
"I thought she'd be hard to beat - she had trialled well behind the good mares and she ran right up to that," the trainer said.
"She used to be a rip-and-tear horse that would bolt on the track but she's more relaxed now and has been nicely settled in her work.
"She ran well in some good races last season and we'll give her a crack at them again."
FAVOURITE SAYS WATCH ME GO
Watchmylips looks to have a stranglehold on the $50,000 Raider Stakes final in a fortnight after demolishing his rivals in Sunday night's first heat at Devonport.
Driver Ricky Duggan sooled the Rodney Ashwood-trained gelding out of the mobile and he had no trouble crossing quick beginner Colby Sanz to take up the running.
And that was the end of the race. Watchmylips exploded clear when Duggan let him loose, scoring by 33m in a 1:59.9 mile rate and 57.7 last half.
Colby Sanz ($4.80) finished second 2m ahead of Bold Centurian ($84).
ROCK WINS AFTER DOING IT HARD
Rockandahardplace produced a tough run to score an upset win in the second Raider Stakes heat for trainer Kent Rattray.
Wade Rattray drove with some urgency in the early stages to find the death outside Karalta Invader and rolled to the front in the back straight the last time when that horse started to tire.
Kosimo (2.40f) and Kivik ($5.90) both loomed as possible winners rounding the home turn but Rockandahardplace ($28) held them at bay to score by 2-1/2m in 2:01.9.
Wade Rattray not only drove the winner but races him on lease from owner-breeder Shane Hawes.
Rockandahardplace has been competitive in his previous Sires Stake appearances, finishing third in the Dandy Patch and fourth in the Globe Derby, both times at cricket-score odds.
AMOUR AIMING TO GO ONE BETTER
Rowella trainer and co-owner Paul Carlson will be hoping Better Amour can avenge her second to Blame It On Me in last year's $50,000 Bandbox final after his well-bred mare's upset win in Sunday night's Granny Smith Prelude.
Given a lovely run one-out, one back by Ricky Duggan, Better Amour ($14) raced past Iden Gorgeous ($5.50) and Blame It On Me ($1.30f) rounding the home turn and went on to a convincing 3-1/2m win in 2:00.7.
Iden Gorgeous had gone to the front with just under 2-1/2 laps to go while Blame It On Me did plenty of work to find the death.
All three placegetters came off the second row, as the barrier draw for the prelude was decided on national ratings.
However it's a random draw for the final so all have the chance to come off the front row.
Blame It On Me drew 5 and Better Amour drew 7 when they ran the quinella in last year's Bandbox at Mowbray.
If Better Amour can win the Granny Smith final she will emulate her dam Cher Mon Amour as a Sires Stake winner. That filly won the Evicus final in 2003.