Premier Hunter Valley trainer Clayton Harmey believes Straddie and Western Heir's Regional Championships (2030 metres) heats on Friday night at Newcastle Paceway are "their races to lose" after favourable draws on Wednesday.
Straddie drew two in heat nine and Western Heir gate three in the seventh when fields for the second and final round of qualifiers for the $100,000 group 1 decider at Newcastle on May 23 were released.
The winners of the 10 heats will contest the final and Harmey already has Kanye Crusader in the race.
Kanye Crusader, also owned and bred by Harmey, was the longest-priced of the Cessnock trainer's trio on night one of the series last Saturday at Newcastle.
Straddie and Western Heir finished well back in their races, but Blake Hughes took Kanye Crusader to the lead from gate five in heat two and he controlled the pace to win by 6.4 metres in 1:57:9.
Harmey had set Straddie and Western Heir for the series but Kanye Crusader's entry was an afterthought.
"It was a massive run," Harmey said.
"Before the race we put the gig on him and I said to Blake, 'what do you reckon here?' He said 'I'll lead and win'. I said, 'Get into it but I don't like your chances'.
"I didn't think he would cross and he did a fair bit of work to cross. When he tried to get a break, he got attacked, but Blake drove him good because he got a cheap third quarter and that helped us.
"When everyone was starting to move, he kicked away, and Blake said he was strong."
Straddie and Western Heir both started from gate six last week and finished seventh and eighth respectively after tough runs. Harmey believed better draws this week would help them challenge and he expected both to lead.
"Western Heir got caught outside the leader and they ran the second and third quarters in 28s, and it was just too hard," he said of last Saturday night.
"He's got the lesser chance of the two this week because Roll With Lachlan [gate eight] is in his heat. He was very good last week, but we've got the draw advantage.
"Straddie's draw is good and there's not much in his race, so he's got every chance.
"His run was a wee bit ordinary last week but again, he was three wide for the lead time and they ran 29.7 and not many get home once you break 30 for the lead time, especially three wide working forward.
"On paper his run looks ordinary, but if you do the times and sectionals, he was up against it from the start.
"Both seem to have pulled up well, so they are their races to lose really. Everything has fallen my way with the draws.
"These two horses are really in a different league to Kanye Crusader, but they've got to prove it."
Bobs Farm trainer Geoff Harding had top hopes in four heats last week without success. Rocknlachlan (heat six, gate six), Roll With Lachlan (heat seven, gate eight), Jasper Styles (heat eight, gate two) and The Choreographer (heat nine, gate one) return on Friday night.