Crack colt Pierro might be back on top of the current Sydney three-year-olds, but Timeform is well aware that waiting in the wings lies a vastly improved All Too Hard currently taking all before him in Melbourne.
After some indecision on where Pierro would resume his Autumn campaign, we finally saw Pierro stick to his own age group in the G2 Hobartville Stakes over 1400m at Rosehill last Saturday.
And he did not disappoint, scrambling home in a close finish from the vastly improved Rebel Dane and stablemate Proisir.
The Hobartville Stakes is recognised as the major starting race for three-year-olds heading towards races like the Randwick Guineas and Australian Derby. Whether Pierro goes down that path or heads for the George Ryder and Doncaster remains to be seen, however, he did tick one box on Saturday and that was a winning return after his courageous third in the Cox Plate behind Ocean Park and All Too Hard during the spring.
Pierro came into Saturday's race after the two obligatory barrier trials, winning one and second in the other, so he was close enough to winning form but nowhere near fully wound up.
In a surprising move, blinkers were removed, trainer Gai Waterhouse suspecting the colt may race too fiercely fresh up.
And according to rider Nash Rawiller, it probably was a winning move as Pierro relaxed comfortably on the back of the speed until produced in the straight.
Pierro's win was full of merit. Racing fresh up on a heavy track, he settled well in the race, and although he had a hard fight to hold off a determined late challenge from Rebel Dane, he once again displayed the will to win.
The merit assessment of Pierro's win was a Timeform rating of 121p, two pounds below his best Timeform rating in the spring and six pounds below his best juvenile rating effort.
Saturday's Hobartville renewal was strong. The 121 figure for the race was three pounds higher than the five-year winning Timeform average for the race, with the value sitting at the midpoint of possible values suggested by race standardisation techniques.
In terms of historical facts, the win by Pierro set a new standard. In 20 years no Golden Slipper winner had won the Hobartville Stakes, and in the same period no horse has raced in the Golden Slipper and won the Hobartville Stakes.
Pierro now has that record on his own.
As far as the record goes for three-year-olds that had contested the Cox Plate in the spring and the Hobartville Stakes the following autumn, Pierro became the second horse to achieve that feat, Danewin in 1994/5 being the other.
In the last 20 years just one horse had previously won the Hobartville Stakes first up - Nothin' Leica Dane, also trained by Gai Waterhouse.
It will be interesting to see the path Pierro follows and how much improvement he takes from this race.
The improvement the previously unbeaten Rebel Dane has made is impressive, lifting his rating by ten pounds from his Royal Sovereign Stakes win a fortnight earlier.
Rebel Dane has won four of his five starts and ran to a new master Timeform rating of 120 last Saturday.
The Hobartville form is likely to be a strong reference in the weeks ahead, the race show-casing several autumn aspirants.
Waterhouse's other runner Proisir was good for third first-up but badly needed the run. He ran to a Timeform rating of 112 but has at least another nine pounds up his sleeve on his spring form.
ATC Champion Stakes (2000m) winner It's A Dundeel caught the eye with a near last-to-fourth effort on a track hard to make up ground on. He ran to a Timeform rating of 110 and has 12 pounds of improvement in hand for his spring engagements.
The Peter Snowden-trained pair of Proverb and Solemn both found the 1400m too short and will come on sharply as their distances increase, the ATC Derby the obvious target for the staying duo.