The men behind three-time New Zealand Cup hero Terror To Love have declared their hand going into tomorrow night’s $50,000 Inter Dominion heat at Addington.
And that leaves key rival Smolda looks set to play the hunter over what should be a sizzling final section of the race.
The pair headline the 2600m mobile heat, the first of six run at five different tracks around Australasia in the space of 80 minutes tomorrow night.
Crucially the first two home in the Addington heat automatically qualify for the $A750,000 final at Menangle on March 2, which should turn the heat into a two-horse race.
With Terror To Love drawn the ace and Smolda alongside in barrier two they look certain to lead and trail, leaving punters seeking the answers to two questions: Which one will lead? Can the trailer outsprint him?
The first question looks easier to answer than the second with co-trainer Paul Court adamant Terror To Love will use the advantage of his ace draw.
“We want to lead and I have told Ricky (May, driver) that,” said Court.
“We have the advantage so why would be give it up and he is back on his home track. And Ricky agrees.
“I am not saying Smolda can’t come off our back and beat us because he is a very good horse but good luck to him if he can.
“As long as we finish first or second and are happy after the race he will be going to Sydney.” Terror To Love disappointed by his very high standards when second at Invercargill two weeks ago but looked tired after making that long road trip twice in a week and should be more potent racing from home, as many older stallions are.
Smolda has been the big mover in the Inter Dominion market since a stunning return to racing last start but the reality is Terror To Love would have done the same thing with the same trip in that field.
Trainer-driver Mark Purdon believes the five-year-old will have improved but seemed almost resigned to his fate of having to trail Terror To Love if the big horse wants to lead, especially as Smolda is not a natural flyer off the mobile.
“I’m very happy with my horse but if we trail it will be hard to pick Terror To Love up,” says Purdon.
“A lot will depend on the tempo of the race but the draw give him a slight advantage.”
The TAB opened Terror To Love $1.55 to Smolda’s $2.30 but with the race certain to attract Australian punter’s interest where Smolda is more popular, they could be closer to $2 each on the tote.
The Addington meeting also hosts Master Lavros and Stent as they prepare for the A$200,000 Glenferrie Farm Trot in Sydney, with the former having a huge advantage in the draws.
Another top trotter preparing for that Sydney race is Irish Whisper, who returns to racing at an excellent Alexandra Park meeting tonight.
He faces a 40m handicap but has gone to another level this season so can still, with a rejuvenated Dr Hook perhaps his greatest danger.
Irish Whisper’s trainer-driver Tony Herlihy is the man to follow tonight as he lines up most of his stable stars, including Fly Like An Eagle (R11, No.6), Snooki (R10, No.1) and Ardee (R5, No.1) giving him the chance to continue a career-best summer.
By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)