The big stage holds no fears for young Morrinsville horseman Tim Hall.
Hall takes Randalstown to Alexandra Park tonight to tackle the $25,000 Northern 3yo Stakes and on the face of it appears out of his depth.
The son of Badlands Hanover is one of only six starters, but the others include last season's champion two-year-old
Five Card Draw, Breeders' Crown winner Bit Of A Legend and the impressive Arden Rooney, who was sold recently for a large six-figure sum.
But Hall thinks his charge is ready for the step up in grade and is looking forward to mixing it with the big boys.
"He's got better and better all the way through. He is a nice little horse that has been racing really well,'' Hall said yesterday.
"It's a big step up but I think he is ready for it. We probably weren't thinking about this race until after last week. For me that was the sign that he deserved a crack at the better horses.
"He's a lovely follower and is gathering ringcraft as we go along. He will win his fair share of races but will have to be at the top of his game to match it with them this week."
Randalstown is owned by the Greaves family of Hawera who have four horses in work with Hall as well as a handful with Cambridge horseman Colin Butler.
"They've been great to me,'' Hall said.
''I have this horse's younger brother as well as a couple out of Miss Abigail for them."
Hall and father Pat were celebrating earlier this week when Keystone Del won his debut outing at Menangle in Sydney.
Keystone Del used to race out of Hall's stable and won twice at Palmerston North in October. Pat Hall has remained a part-owner with the pacer transferring to Sydney-based Nicole Molander.
"It just seemed more sensible to send him there to race where the handicapping is better, the track is kinder for him and the stakes are better,'' Hall said.
"The way it works over here, one or two more wins and he has to take on the best horses in handicaps."
Tonight's meeting kicks off the Auckland Trotting Club's annual summer carnival and features super-trotter I Can Doosit, who shoots for 18 wins on end in the Gr II $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes, a race he has won for the past two years.
Only five horses are down to oppose him, including last-start Cambridge-trained winner Charlemagne.
The transplanted Gr II $40,000 Franklin Cup sees up-and-coming four-year-old stars Smolda and Jivin Cullen take on star six-year-old Sir Lincoln and the Mark Purdon-trained pairing of Highview Tommy and Sushi Sushi.
Purdon's unbeaten three-year-old filly Adore Me is the pre-post favourite in the Gr II $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship Stakes.
Hamilton mare Averil's Quest, who impressed when winning last week, tackles Bettor Cover Lover in the Gr III $30,000 Northern Breeders Stakes.