The Rush Munro Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival now beckons for unbeaten colt Sacred Falls, and his appearance in the Hawke's Bay Guineas is set to be a highlight of the spring classic next month.
The O'Reilly colt hinted at future stardom with a spectacular win in the Westbury Stud Challenge Stakes at Ruakaka on Saturday and is bound to kindle interest in the New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance Spring Classic on Saturday, October 6, in Hastings.
With clearly the best performance of the 3-year-old season so far, Sacred Falls crushed a hugely talented group of youngsters in the excellent time of 1:09.60 for the 1200m.
The win extended his career record to three wins from three starts, and it moved him into outright favouritism for the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton in November.
It's been confirmed that the next stop along the road to that Christchurch feature will be the Group 2 Hawke's Bay Guineas.
He's following in the footsteps of Antonio Lombardo, who also won the Challenge Stakes at Ruakaka 12 months ago before brilliantly winning the Bay Guineas.
With the talent and turn of foot Sacred Falls showed in Northland on Saturday, he looks set to start a short-priced favourite in his bid for Bay Guineas glory.
Sacred Falls had already shown plenty of ability before Saturday - flying home from a long way back to grab a last-gasp victory on debut, then improving sharply with a dominant three-length romp at his second start. But he went to another level on Saturday in what was his first start at stakes level.
Highly rated local D'Cash Man seemed to have the field in trouble when he went for gold at the top of the straight and opened up a three-length lead.
He'd impressed in winning his previous two starts on the same track, having used the same bold front-running tactics and proving impossible to get past.
The same result appeared to be on the cards again, and he was seemingly en route to an upset win that would dent plenty of reputations.
But then Sacred Falls unleashed his powerful sprint and sailed straight past. Rider Leith Innes never asked him to fully extend, and he looks to have another gear or two to call on in the tougher assignments ahead.
The first of those will be the Hawke's Bay Guineas and the extra 200m of that event is likely to be ideal.
If he performs to the same level in that as he did on Saturday - or, scarily, continues to improve - he's going to be incredibly hard to beat.
The Hawke's Bay Guineas also looks a suitable next target for the underrated Southern Lord, who also accelerated stylishly and hit the line strongly to finish a good second to Sacred Falls and convincingly beat the remainder of the field.
Another notable winner at Ruakaka on Saturday was the previously-mentioned Antonio Lombardo.
Facing a small but strong field of open-class sprinters, the 2011 Hawke's Bay Guineas winner asserted his superiority over the closing stages and scored an emphatic win - the seventh of his 17-start career.
A return to Hastings may also be on the cards for him.
The Group 3 Traderacks Stakes on October 6 is the likely target.