Racing: Curtain call for winning Cup driver

By Michael Guerin

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Jim Curtin knows he is going to have to walk away from Terror To Love.

The best horse the quietly spoken horseman has ever driven won him his second New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington yesterday, prompting a rare outburst of emotion from the stoic Cantabrian.

He punched the air in delight, and partially in relief, after they hit the line racing clear of Smoken Up, who looked to have an unassailable lead just 300m earlier.

Curtin knows the 4-year-old stallion with the movie star looks may be the horse of his lifetime.

But he also knows he has to give up the drive, maybe sooner rather than later.

Because a few hours before Curtin's Cup miracle he partnered Franco Emirate to win the junior free-for-all, a race he was forced to contest because he doesn't handle the standing start conditions of the Cup.

The problem, admittedly an enviable one, is Curtin trains Franco Emirate which means when he and Terror To Love eventually meet, he has to stick with his own horse.

"That will be a hard day so let's hope we can avoid it for as long as possible," said Curtin.

"I'd love to keep driving them both because they are the sort of horses you dream about but the bottom line is my first priority is Franco Emirate.

"I have been lucky to be on this horse, especially today, because you don't often get a real chance to win a New Zealand Cup and I'll enjoy it while I can."

Curtin says Terror To Love has more raw speed than Franco Emirate but the latter is a great stayer, although Terror To Love did a pretty good impression of a great stayer himself after being pushed to near last mid-race.

That he was able to come so wide and beat Smoken Up was both unbelievable and a thing of pacing beauty.

Terror To Love will be allowed to bypass Friday's New Zealand Pacing Free-For-All and will, instead, head to Sydney for the Miracle Mile two weeks on Saturday, so Curtin will partner his own horse on Friday.

But if Franco Emirate happened to win the Free-For-All on Friday he, too, could sneak a Miracle Mile invite and Curtin may be forced off Terror To Love at his very next start after the Cup.

If they don't both make it to Sydney though Terror To Love and Franco Emirate are unlikely to clash again this season, with the former sticking to mainly 4-year-old racing and Franco Emirate steering away from standing starts.

So their most likely, and perhaps only, meeting would be in the Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park in March.

While he got all the plaudits yesterday, Curtin admits his drive could have been labelled a disaster after he was pushed so far back at the 800m mark. "I turned to Dexter [Dunn, driving Smiling Shard] at the 800m mark and said I'd much rather be where he was than I was after I had worked mid race and got nowhere for it.

"But when he sprinted he really took off and at the top of the straight we were flying."

The win caps the career of co-trainer Graeme Court, whose interest in harness racing has been reignited by his son Paul returning home from his OE to join him in partnership.

"Paul coming home has been great for me and it means we share the load," said Court.

The younger Court, affectionately known as Hanger because he is so skinny he resembles a coat hanger, is hardly your normal conservative harness horseman.

He got married four years ago to a woman he met on the day of the wedding in a radio promotion, which one would assume is a first worldwide for a group one winning horse trainer.

Of the beaten brigade there could be few excuses, with Smoken Up's driver Lance Justice lamenting the fact Terror To Love divebombed his horse but the winner was too good.

Highview Tommy ran the race of his life to come from last for third while Gomeo Romeo was a strong fourth and Monkey King seventh as he chased his third Cup win.

- NZ Herald

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