Trainer Paul Court admits Terror To Love is vulnerable in his comeback race at Invercargill today.
The three-time New Zealand Cup winner hasn’t raced since a dreadful last in the Miracle Mile in Sydney in November but it isn’t just a lack of race fitness that worries co-trainer Court heading into today’s $50,000 Northern Southland Cup.
It is also the hard-running presence of Arden Rooney off the front line and his ability to dictate the tempo of the race and therefore how many, if any, mid-race challengers eventuate.
Arden Rooney may not be in the same class of Terror To Love yet but he continued a huge summer with a crushing Ashburton Cup win last start, winning by 11 lengths against many of his opponents today.
“After what he did at Ashburton he will be hard to catch,” said Court.
“We can’t be arrogant enough to think we will just turn up and win all the time and if Arden Rooney gets his way in front then he could sprint the last 800m in 56 seconds and we might be giving him a five-length start.
“So it is a tricky race and while we are very happy with our horse he could easily get beaten.”
Terror To Love looked sharp enough at the Ashburton trials last week but was all out to win this race last season and that was chasing inferior horses to those he faces today.
The real problem could be that Arden Rooney is the only starter off the front so should easily lead and then after what he did at Ashburton rival drivers will be loathe to attack him, giving his trainer-driver Mark Purdon a huge tactical advantage.
One attacker, like Jimmy Johnstone or Glencoe VC, could change the dynamic of the race but if his rivals fall into racing in pairs behind him, Arden Rooney might sneak the win.
The local connections of Franco Ledger are hoping for a return to form after his libido got the best of him when he failed as favourite at Omakau last start.
“He got very colty and had run his race before he even got on the track,” said managing owner Brendan McIntyre.
“He was kicking out in his box and then got on to the track and pulled very hard there but he has apparently settled down well so we are confident he will go better.”
At least Arden Rooney’s presence should ensure a solid tempo, which is what Franco Ledger needs to show his best.
The day’s other feature, the $20,000 trot, sees track specialist Springbank Sam up against two of the rising stars of New Zealand trotting in Sheemon and Royal Aspirations in a clash that will even rival the Cup for highlight of the day.
Meanwhile, one of New Zealand’s best pacers will try and end his standing start hoodoo in Victoria on Saturday night.
The Gold Ace is now trained by Belinda McCarthy in Sydney and will head to Shepparton in Victoria for the standing start Cup there on Saturday, taking on Smoke Up.
The Gold Ace won the New Zealand Free-For-All and Flying Mile last season but struggled in his standing start races but is dipping his toe back in that well with a view to the A$400,000 Hunter Cup at Melton in two weeks.
“He has been stepping well at home and with the Hunter being worth so much it if worth giving him another go from the stands,” said driver Luke McCarthy.
By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald)