The event has attracted many of the country's top riders, and three showjumping selectors and new high performance leader Richard Sunderland are expected to be on the sidelines.
Course builder Kevin Hansen has made it clear he'll be giving no concessions despite the earliness of the season, vowing riders can expect a big and technically challenging course.
With next year's World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in mind, he says there'll be no softening up.
"I'm picking at least three of the riders who start on Friday will end up in the final five in Kentucky for New Zealand," Hansen says.
The world games rank alongside the Olympics and 2010 will be the first time they've been held outside Europe. The WEG will be an integral part of New Zealand's bid to make the 2012 Olympics in London.
On Friday's start list are Katie McVean (Mystery Creek), Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) and Anna Trent (Hawke's Bay), who are all on Equestrian Sports New Zealand showjumping high performance squad.
Trent is flying high having earlier this year represented New Zealand at the World Cup final in Las Vegas and competed with success in North America and Canada with Cortaflex Musketeer NZPH.
She's left Muskateer in the US and will be competing in World Cup events this season on Cortaflex Levitation NZPH, who won in the grand prix at Gisborne Show last weekend.
But Simon Wilson (Waipukurau), who lost the 2008-2009 World Cup series to Trent on count-back after a heart-stopping final, is hoping this will be his year. He's won the series before and both his horses - Swinger and Right Royal - are looking fabulous.
His wife Claire Wilson and her grey stallion Answer Back are also starting.
Katie McVean is bringing her Olympic horse Dunstan Forrest II but will also start the very promising Dunstan Delphi.
Maurice Beatson defines the word competitor. He's dead keen to wear that silver fern once again at a World Cup final and will start both My Gollywog and Zibbibo, who is owned by his partner Sally Clark.
Julie Davey (Hastings) has picked up the ride on Air Hill the Rajah for the injured Sue Thompson-Brown and this will be an interesting combination to watch. Rajah and Thompson-Brown won the series a few years back and Davey's style is not unlike his previous jockey so they should go well together.
Robert Steel (Hawera) and his home-bred Gospel always manage to be thereabouts, and Catherine Cameron (Cambridge) is another danger in any field. Doug Isaacson (Dannevirke) and the Brown brothers - Major Brown and Brother Brown - have shown they can foot it with the best, and Ike Unsworth (Tauranga), Paula Mussen (Pukekohe) and Jasmine Sketchley (Whangarei) are all in the mix, too.
Conditions look perfect in Hawke's Bay and organisers are hoping the forecasted southerlies don't hang around.
The New Zealand series will be run over nine rounds, with the final two in Gisborne in late January 2010, including a speed round. A new indoor round at Manfield Park in Feilding on the evening of December 12 will add a new spectacle to the series. A large field is expected there as any World Cup round winner who plans to represent New Zealand at the final must have competed at the indoor venue.
The final will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 14-18.
Friday's class is scheduled to go at 2pm.