This year's Brisbane Carnival is unrecognisable from past versions, thanks to COVID-19, but one thing that has not changed is the Stradbroke Handicap being the banner event.
The 1400-metre race's seven-figure purse is gone, this year to be run for $350,000, but it retains Group 1 status and remains the race most with any interest in Queensland racing have been counting down to.
A common denominator between last year's edition and the new-look 2020 version is Trekking, who is aiming to become the ninth horse to win the Sunshine State's most famous race more than once.
Seven horses have won the Stradbroke in consecutive years, but Hall of Famer-in-waiting Rough Habit (1991/92) and Black Piranha (2009/10) are the only ones to do so in the past 70 years. Daybreak Lover won multiple editions in that time, but in non-consecutive years - 1984 and 1986.
Trekking will carry 58kg this year - four kilos more than 2019 - and is spotting more rivals a large chunk of weight than most 'Straddy' topweights.
Eight horses have contested a Stradbroke under at least 58kg since 1990 with Rough Habit - who won with 58.5kg in 1992 - the only winner.
Most of the others have gone close, though. Schillaci (1995), Buffering (2012 and 2013), Boban (2015) and Black Heart Bart (2016) all finished runner-up under 58kg and Spirit Of Boom was fourth in 2014 under the same weight, while Rough Habit finished fifth with 59.5kg in 1993.
Show A Heart (56kg, 2002) is the only other winner in the past 30 years to carry more than 55.5kg and while a good race for those with 50kg or less until 2007, Sincero (50.5kg, 2011) is the only winner in the past 12 years to carry less than 52.5kg.
Kementari has 55.5kg on Saturday, but no other runner has more than 53kg with 11 on 52kg or below.
Among those towards the foot of the field are three three-year-olds, including favourite Dawn Passage (50kg).
Impending (2017) was the last 3YO to score, while Sincero and Sniper's Bullet are other recent male 3YO winners, but the previous three 3YOs to win were fillies; La Montagna (2006), Private Steer (2003) and Dane Ripper (1998).
Exhilarates (49.5kg), runner-up to Dawn Passage in last week's Fred Best Classic, is the lone filly engaged this year.
Exhilarates drew barrier four (three if the emergencies don't start), which would seem an advantage on paper, but one thing that jumps off the Form Focus data sheet is the record of wide gates.
Half the winners since 1990 have started from gate 10 or wider, including seven from 15 or beyond. Barrier 18 is the equal most successful gate, along with four, in the past 30 years with four wins.
That's good news for Dawn Passage, who will start from the outside alley in the 18-horse field, with Trekking to start to his immediate inside.
What might be of more concern for Dawn Passage ($4.80 fav with BetEasy) and Trekking ($7), is the Stradbroke's recent tendency for a blowout result.
Trekking won as $7 favourite in 2019, but the previous punters' pick to win was Black Piranha ($4, 2009).
Eight of the nine in between started double-figure odds, including five at $20 or better.
THE VERDICT: Starting the search with those at double-figure odds, who have between 55.5kg and 52.5kg and not put off by a double-digit gate. That leads us to three - Niccanova, Ranier and Tyzone - but, if forced to split them, will go TYZONE ($16, barrier 16, 52.5kg), who finished runner-up last year and has 0.5kg less this year.
Trekking, picture Stevehart.com.au