THERE was little joy for Bathurst's three hopes in Friday night's opening round of the Inter Dominion Pacing Championship heats at Auckland.
Steve Turnbull's Conviction battled on along the pegs to be the best of the Bathurst trio, finishing eighth in the opening heat, while Chris Frisby's 2018 Inter Dominion runner-up Our Uncle Sam was 10th after receiving a check from Henry Hubert.
Turnbull's other chance, Atomic Red, had every opportunity to run home with the leaders after enjoying an inside run throughout the second heat but simply couldn't match his opponents, finishing ninth.
The results leave the Bathurst runners needing big improvements over the next round of heats this Tuesday and Friday night.
However, Our Uncle Sam's driver Anthony Frisby believes his horse can get himself back among the front runners based on the way he finished off his race.
"I was pretty happy with him. We didn't want to give him too hard of a run in this one," he said.
"We tried to drive for a bit of luck and I was trying to push out around the corner but John Dunn [on Henry Hubert] was laying all over us and we got a really bad check coming into the home straight. That cost him all his momentum.
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"He balanced back up and hit the line well. Every start should be an improvement from here on."
The opening heats were run over 2,200 metres but the distance drops back to 1,700m this Tuesday.
Our Uncle Sam will go out from gate four and Conviction has gate two in the same heat.
Atomic Red may find the going tougher with his draw of gate six in the second of the night's heats.
"San Carlo has drawn one and Bling It On's following it. [Mark] Purdon has got a couple off the front from out wide and I'll imagine they'll mosie forward since it's over the mile. There's a fair bit of speed there," Frisby said.
"It's going to be a bit of a funny one. It's a good and bad draw, in a way. If he gets a nice spot there and the speed's on up the front he might be able to get over the top of them."
Tuesday's heats start at 6.20pm AEST.