It may only be rated a Group 3 race but today's James & Annie Sarten Memorial Stakes at Te Rapa in Hamilton is looming as one of the highlights of the spring.
And a large part of that burgeoning anticipation and expectation is due to a couple of spectacular performances we saw at the recently completed Rush Munro Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival.
Two undefeated horses which soared to stardom at Hastings - Sacred Falls and Pure Elegance - will meet for a mouth-watering clash that could go a long way towards deciding 3-year-old supremacy.
It's a perfect illustration of how quickly things can change in racing that these two now indisputably sit atop the 3-year-old ranks.
Throughout and even after the main races of the 2-year-old season last summer and autumn, few had even heard of Sacred Falls and Pure Elegance, and many were concerned about the quality of the upcoming 3-year-old crop. But the feats of these two horses since then, particularly in major stakes races during the carnival at Hastings, have blown those fears away and set the 3-year-old season alight.
Sacred Falls heads to Te Rapa with a perfect four-for-four record, having won stakes races at his last two starts. But that unbeaten record looked to have gone out the window within the first couple of strides of the Group 2 DHL Global Hawke's Bay Guineas on Spring Classic day. He stumbled badly and dropped out to be clear last, all hope seemingly lost in what was his toughest test to date.
The fact that he was able to recover, sprint three times and effortlessly win with his ears pricked proved to a stunned Hastings crowd that he was a special talent. Very few horses are capable of overcoming a start like that and winning even in a low-grade race, let alone a strong Group 2.
It was an unbelievable and unforgettable performance, and Sacred Falls put forward a very strong case for the title of best 3-year-old in the country.
The horse with the next-best claim to that title is probably the beautifully bred Pure Elegance. The daughter of Redoute's Choice and Our Echezeaux went into the Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes having only had one start in her career - a facile victory over three hugely outclassed rivals at Waipukurau. The field lining up against her in the Gold Trail was in another league, but she rose to the challenge and scored another emphatic win. And her connections said after the race that she still had some improving to do.
So now these two star 3-year-olds head to Te Rapa for the Sarten and put their unbeaten records on the line.
In each other, Sacred Falls and Pure Elegance are coming up against their fiercest foe to date.
There's only one way to find out for sure which one of these horses is better, and it happens at 2.20 this afternoon. One of them is going to lose their unbeaten record.
Or maybe both of them will. There's plenty of class in this field outside of the big two. Warhorse is the champion 2-year-old of last season and has already won a stakes race at 3. And in Rollout The Carpet, Waterford, Fix and Oasis Rose, the field has the second, third, fourth and fifth placegetters from the Gold Trail, all lining up to try to turn the tables on Pure Elegance.
This i race should be one of the many sporting highlights of an action-packed Labour Day weekend.