You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Clark's trotting star, The Fiery Ginga, is preparing for the Glenferrie Farms Trotters' Challenge at Menangle, near Sydney, on March 3, in which five trotters from each side of the Tasman are invited to contest the group 1 mile event.
The first two Kiwi invitations predictably went to I Can Doosit and Stig, while Escapee's strong form in Australia in recent weeks helped her get the nod. That left Dr Hook, The Fiery Ginga and the Sean McCaffrey-trained Sovereignty fighting it out for two spots, with a panel of four selectors - including Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell and Auckland Trotting Club racing manager Kevin Smith - making the final call.
Dr Hook and The Fiery Ginga got the call-up, leaving Sovereignty as the first emergency. McCaffrey told the Waikato Times the panel had ''a love affair with The Fiery Ginga because he can win races in Southland''.
Clark believed The Fiery Ginga's last start, in which he ran second behind Stig at Addington on February 1, might have got him over the line.
''I thought it would come down to him and us, and that's probably why that last run at Addington was a defining race for me deciding that he was ready to go, and for [the panel] making a decision,'' Clark said.
''He probably got as close to Stig as anyone has got in the last three races and he was taking ground off him at the end.''
That second placing, three-quarters of a length behind Stig, is just one of several black-type placings for The Fiery Ginga this season. He chased home Dr Hook in the Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile for second, and was third in the two group 1 races for trotters during New Zealand Cup week.
There is a strong possibility Sovereignty may get his chance anyway, as Stig's transtasman trip is up in the air, due to ongoing arthritis issues.
The Fiery Ginga, who now has 90 race starts under his girth, flies to Sydney on February 26 where he will stay at Paul Fitzpatrick's property.
His 2012 Australian campaign was a mixed bag, winning an Interdominion heat before he lost form as he travelled between Victoria and New South Wales.
''The warm weather seemed to agree with him and every race he went pretty well, until he went up to Sydney and his form tapered away,'' Clark said.
''He came back home and he had lightened up a lot, so he'd obviously picked something up.''
After the Menangle mile, Clark will send The Fiery Ginga to Noel Shinn's property near Melbourne, to prepare for the Great Southern Star on March 23, where Australasia's best trotters compete in heats and final on the same day. If any horse can handle that, it is The Fiery Ginga, who has backed up from one day to the next in the past.
''All the good trotters can really go, but I think two heats would suit him,'' Clark said.
''I think they'll probably come out and run 1.55 in the heats and 1.54 or 1.53 in the final because the class of horse there is just so good.''