Terror To Love’s Australian campaign is over but the confusion over his record there is no clearer to being resolved.
The three-time New Zealand Cup winner has been pulled out of next week’s Victoria Cup in Melbourne after an embarrassing last placing in Saturday’s Miracle Mile.
Terror To Love settled last in the A$750,000 race, hung badly and then improved wide before dropping in the home straight.
It was his sixth failure at Menangle, where he has yet to win a race, and his connections are as stunned as any of the fans who watched him win his third New Zealand Cup so incredibly three weeks ago,
“We have no idea what is going on with him,” said co-trainer Paul Court.
“He just never seemed happy. He hung, which he can sometimes do in New Zealand but he also straightens up in the straights.
“But on Saturday he actually paced roughly in the home straight too.
“He just wasn’t himself at all and we have no idea why.
“So we will miss the Victoria Cup and he can come home, but we are none the wiser as to what is going on.”
His performances at Menangle are baffling because you can argue against any conceivable explanation.
While some horses struggle with the intense Mile racing there, Terror To Love jogged a 1:51 mile at Ashburton back in June, when arguably not as screwed down as he was on Saturday.
The Ashburton track and Menangle are almost identical and while driver Ricky May was concerned the track surface was hard on Saturday, that would hardly explain Terror To Love hanging so badly early in the race when he can’t possibly have been jarred up.
He paraded before the event looking amazing and when you consider he gave Christen Me a 30m start and thrashed him in the New Zealand Cup, it is impossible to work out how he could perform 20m inferior to his fellow Kiwi rival just 18 days later.
It also raises a serious question for his connections: whether they should even bother taking Terror To Love back to Menangle for the Interdominion Final on March 2?
They would almost certainly win their Addington heat on February 15 but can’t have any great confidence he would bring anything like his A-game to Sydney.
Whereas if they elected to bypass the Inter, they could aim as the Ballarat and Hunter Cups in Victoria in late January before the Auckland Cup in March, worth a total of $950,000.
“The problem is we want a big Aussie win for his stud career,” admits Court.
“It could boost his future service fee by $2000 or something, which is a lot of money over a few seasons.
“But we almost don’t know where to start with that.”
One of the great ironies of the race was that Terror To Love’s arch rival Christen Me looked far more at home at Menangle than he has been on his home track at Addington.
He will now head to the Victoria Cup and could be best placed staying in Australia for the entire summer, culminating in the Interdoms.
The Kiwi invasion on the Victorian carnivals started well on Saturday when Tim Butt prepared Vulcan and Pass Them By to win at Melton while Mah Sish was a greatly-improved third in a free-for-all.
There rapid improvement matches their form last season in Victoria, where Butt’s team seem to grow another leg, suggesting they are in for another profitable summer.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)