Although it's officially the end of winter and the first day of spring, September 1 isn't noticeably different from the handful of days before it.
There's no sudden shift; it's just part of a (sometimes painfully) slow transition. But from a racing perspective, this year is a spectacular exception. In just seven days, we've come from watching jumpers and wet-trackers plodding around in bottomless bogs to seeing some of the country's best horses coming out to play in the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes.
It's the opening day of the Rush Munro Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival. The 16 horses will burst out of the starting gates at 4:31 today in the first Group 1 race of the 2012-13 season, battling it out for a prize of $200,000 - about $50,000 more for this one race than the total prizemoney on offer for the entire day at either Auckland or New Plymouth last Saturday.
Although this marks the end of the bleakest patch of the New Zealand racing calendar every year, the damage of a particularly wet winter may have been done.
Heavy rainfall over recent months has taken its toll. Hastings track staff have advised that a track rated Good is out of the question. The best we can hope for is the better side of Slow, perhaps even Dead. All eyes will be on the sky in the 48 hours before the race - the last thing we want is more rain and long spells of sunshine could make a huge difference.
And it won't just be organisers and fans watching the weather. For many of the 16 horses, their chances depend on what happens with the track. It's nervous times for many connections.
Among the most notable of these is defending champion Mufhasa, whose chances of scoring an incredible 10th career Group 1 win will improve with every moment of sunshine.
The $3.1 million earner thrives on the dry tracks of midsummer and clearly dislikes ground that his feet sink into. Although he's not going to get the sort of track he prefers here, his class always takes him a long way - in this race last year, it carried him to a superb win on a Dead 5 surface. If this track ends up with the same, or even a slightly worse rating, it should be no hindrance.
The same may not be able to be said for brilliant Telegraph Handicap winner Guiseppina. The Johar mare has an incredible turn of foot, but she seems to only be able to show it on dry ground - she's won six of her 14 career starts, all of those six on tracks rated Good.
She's probably got great things ahead of her this season, but unless she's become a less fussy over winter, she's unlikely to get track conditions to suit.
The same could probably be said for talented local hope The Hombre, who's recorded five of his six wins on Good tracks; and He's Remarkable, who would probably be one of the most popular Group 1 winners if he manages to break through - he's still seeking his first taste of Group 1 glory, having been robbed of it by a relegation in Perth last year.
Ocean Park seemed to be another who needed dry ground to show his best - a reputation built on a breathtaking Wellington Stakes win on rock-hard ground at Trentham in January, as well as the fact that he was scratched the day before the New Zealand Derby due to the predicted downpour. An amazing performance at the Te Teko trials on August 7 that turned heads and had fixed-odds punters reaching for their wallets has gone some way to changing that. On a track rated Heavy 10, he demolished a tidy field that included VRC Derby hope Dundeel by three-and-a-half lengths. It was such a good performance his odds for this race, which were as high as $10 before the trial, were halved. At $4.60, he's breathing down the neck of $4.40 favourite Mufhasa.
Some horses, though, have proven beyond doubt they have the versatility to be right in this race regardless of the track conditions. The most prominent has to be Fleur de Lune, who raised her game at Te Rapa two weeks ago to score her first Group 3 win in the Foxbridge Plate. It was the best performance of her career so far.
The other horse that has to be mentioned is Fritzy Boy, who won this race in 2008, then ran ninth in it in 2009, third in 2010 and fifth in 2011. He'll have plenty of supporters cheering him home, and he rarely disappoints them.
Race 1: Green Wings, Platinum Lincoln, Travino.
Race 2: Mac Orla, Sunseka, Indiana Jones.
Race 3: Taats, The Palm King, Marvon Downs.
Race 4: Destiny Cove, Mr McCloud, Yangming.
Race 5: No Excuse Maggie, Back In Black, Platinum Passion.
Race 6: Papilio, Joy's Choice, Annie Higgins.
Race 7: The Knight, Royal Queen, Baldovino.
Race 8: Mufhasa, Fleur de Lune, Innovation.
Race 9: Thunderbird One, Bolt Action, Belleek.