Veteran trainer John Hawkes is confident his regally-bred three-year-old colt All Too Hard is capable of upstaging hot favourite Pierro in Saturday's $1 million Caulfield Guineas (1600m) - provided he brings his 'A game'.
All Too Hard - the younger brother of unbeaten superstar Black Caviar - created a huge impression last autumn when he won the Group 2 VRC Sires Produce Stakes over 1400 metres at Flemington at only his second start.
But after ending his autumn campaign by running second to the unbeaten Pierro in the Group 1 AJC Sires Produce Stakes over 1400 metres at Randwick in April, All Too Hard has managed just one placing from three starts during the spring during which time he has developed a bad habit of missing the start in his races.
As a result, All Too Hard has been all but written off by punters ahead of the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas in a betting market totally dominated by Pierro - who is set to start the shortest-priced favourite in the history of the race.
However Hawkes - who has trained other past champion three-year-olds such as Octagonal and Lonhro - has no doubt All Too Hard is capable of beating Pierro on Saturday provided he is mentally switched on come race day.
"We have put the barrier blanket on him at home and he flies out of the barrier every time," Hawkes told Melbourne racing radio station RSN on Thursday.
"Now it's a question of whether he can do it on race day."
Hawkes said there was little in ability between Pierro and All Too Hard but said the former at this stage was by far the more professional racehorse of the pair.
"All Too Hard is at the elite level if he brings his A game," Hawkes said.
"The problem is lately he has been bringing his B game while Pierro brings his A game to the track every time."
One factor that gives Hawkes confidence of causing an upset on Saturday is that All Too Hard is unbeaten in Melbourne with all his below-par performances so far this spring having been in Sydney.
"That is a plus, Melbourne feels like home to him and hopefully it might help him to switch on better on Saturday," Hawkes said.
"But we won't know until race day and if he leaves the barrier (and is now slowly away) that will be a big start."Hawkes said he would consider starting All Too Hard in the $3 million Cox Plate if he were to win the Caulfield Guineas but said the horse would be sent for a spell if he again ran below-par.