The eastern-states runners engaged in Saturday's Railway Stakes have not had what you would call the dream preparation for the $1 million Group 1 at Ascot in Perth.
Best Of Days and Reykjavik, who has been adopted as a Victorian since taking up residence at Lindsey Smith's Warrnambool base, were on a plane ready for takeoff on Monday night only to have the flight cancelled due to a fuel leak, with the process to be repeated on Tuesday night.
It is not what was needed, especially given the record of eastern-states horses in Western Australia's signature race. The only non-WA horses to win the 1600-metre handicap since it moved from around the new year to late November are Sniper's Bullet (2009), Gathering (2010) and Good Project (2015).
That trio were all from NSW. It's 20 years since the most recent Victorian winner - the Mick Price-trained Slavonic - while Black Heart Bart (second in 2017), Annenkov (third in 2008) and 2006 minor placegetters Confectioner and Niconero are the only Victorians to run top three since 2001.
It's not like Victoria has been light-on for chances, either, with only four of the past 18 Railways run without a member of the Big V, many of which were prominent in betting. Last year, Victoria's two runners were $6.50 second favourite Peaceful State (last) and $7 third elect Iconoclasm (eighth).
Last year's race was won by Galaxy Star, just the fourth mare to win in the past 30 years.
Sent out the $2.90 favourite, she also arrested a lean run for the punters' pick. El Presidente ($2.80, 2007) and Luckygray ($4, 2011) are the only other favourites to win since the date change.
This year's Railway is one of the most open on record with Tellem We're Comin, Samizdat and The Velvet King battling out favouritism in BetEasy's market.
Tellem We're Comin is a last-start winner of the Northam Cup, the race Great Shot finished equal third in before winning the Railway two starts later in 2017 but does not feature in the lead-up form of any other winner since 2001.
Samizdat and Regal Power filled the quinella in the race that Galaxy Star won at her final lead-up last year - the Asian Beau Stakes - while The Velvet King finished third in the Lee Steere Stakes.
The Lee Steere has been the most prolific producer of Railway Stakes winners since 2001 with half of the past 18 having contested the 1400-metre G2, including seven who used it as a final lead-up.
The next most successful final lead-up is the Peter Stakes, with five winners.
The three others who filled the top four spots in the Lee Steere Stakes - winner Star Exhibit (56.5kg), runner-up Gatting (58kg) and fourth-placed Achernar Star (55.5kg) - join The Velvet King in Saturday's race, but they all have the burden of weight to overcome.
Luckygray, who carted 58kg to victory in the second of his wins, holds the weight-carrying record since the introduction of metrics in 1972. Sniper's Bullet (56.5kg), El Presidente (55.5kg) and Better Loosen Up (55.5kg) are the only others to carry at least 55.5kg to victory in that time.
The Verdict: Hard to know who will start favourite, but as a local on the minimum (53kg) who came through the most prolific producer of Railway Stakes winners, it's hard to go past THE VELVET KING.