Apprentices take the spotlight at Flemington on Saturday with a tense battle looming between two of the state's most promising teenage riders in the Rising Stars Final.
After 23 apprentice-only races in the Rising Stars series scattered throughout the state and the season, it is Stephanie Thornton who holds a four-point lead over fellow 19-year-old Ethan Brown with just Saturday's 1700-metre Benchmark 84 race for fillies and mares at Flemington remaining.
For Thornton, victory in the series would be a great reward for a season of ups and downs.
After a sizzling start, Thornton spent more than a month on the sidelines following a fall at Cranbourne trackwork in May, which resulted in her badly bruising her arm and sustaining a nasty cut above an eye.
But Thornton has been back riding for six weeks and has recaptured her early-season form.
"It would be great (to win the series) but I am certainly not getting my hopes up," Thornton said on Monday.
"Ethan Brown is quite close to me and he's the danger for me heading into the final.
"Every apprentice wants to win it and I am no exception."
For much of the season, Thornton and Brown have been stablemates as both had their indentures with Mick Kent at Cranbourne but in recent weeks Thornton has gone back to her original master - her father Glenn, who trains out of Colac.
The series winner will be awarded a $6000 retail voucher and the Rising Stars Trophy while second place is awarded a $2000 voucher and third place a $1000 voucher.
The series has proven a launching pad for apprentices in the past with previous winners including Blake Shinn, Craig Newitt and Nick Hall and in more recent years, Jye McNeil, Regan Bayliss, Beau Mertens and Ben Thompson.
The current Rising Stars leaderboard:
57 - Stephanie Thornton
53 - Ethan Brown
51 - Ben Thompson (ineligible - now a senior rider)
37 - Georgina Cartwright
34 - Thomas Stockdale
32 - Chelsea MacFarlane
28 - Nathan Punch
26 - Chris Caserta
24 - Harry Grace, Melissa Julius
20 - Fred Kersley Jnr