The final stages of Terror To Love's farewell tour briefly became a little easier then a lot harder yesterday.
The $2.4 million earner is deep into the home straight of his career, with two more races in the next 12 days before he is retired to stud.
Owner Terry McDonald has confirmed win, lose or draw, the three-time New Zealand Cup winner will not race again after the Easter Cup on Saturday week.
"I'd love nothing more than to see him go out with a win and I am sure a lot of other people would, too," said McDonald. "He had some issues after the Inter Dominion in Sydney but has bounced back well in training and is ready to go again.
"But Graeme and Paul [Court, trainers] can only get him ready, whether he goes out a winner or not is out of our hands."
The chances of that appeared to have been boosted yesterday when Ohoka Punter, who stole Friday night's Superstars at Addington, pulled out of the $25,000 free-for-all there this Friday.
That appeared to leave Terror To Love set to face nothing of his class in his penultimate start until his old arch rival Christen Me was a surprise nomination for the 1950m mobile.
His trainer Cran Dalgety had earlier favoured going straight from his Auckland Cup win on March 6 to the Easter Cup, but will decide this morning whether to add in this week's race.
Considering he is the Miracle Mile, Victoria Cup and NZ Free-For-All winner, Christen Me will almost always be favoured over Terror To Love in a sprint race. So if he accepts for Friday's race then Terror To Love's chances of a heart-warming win will be more than halved. If Christen Me doesn't start, the race should provide a perfect start to the farewell week for Terror, with the Cup a week later a $100,000 bonus.
Herlihy will let Ohoka Punter bypass this Friday's race to be spot on for the Easter Cup, in which he will get a 20m start from both Terror To Love and Christen Me.
"This Friday's race was always only an afterthought because safely through the Easter Cup he still has the Taylor Mile and Messenger up home," said Herlihy.
Herlihy's star 3-year-old Express Stride will also not be heading to Addington this Friday as he has been pulled out of the $200,000 New Zealand Derby, his season over.
"He got a bit of a bug and while it was nothing serious it meant he couldn't race this week," he said.
"So it seemed the right time to give him a break. He could have raced on for the Jewels and the Breeders Crown in Aussie but that means staying up for his entire 3-year-old season and he still has some developing to do.
"I think he can come back a better horse next year if we look after him now." One big name who will be at Addington is Stent, fresh back from a five-race unbeaten streak in Australia, culminating in the A$300,000 Great Southern Star.
He goes into the $80,000 NZ Trotting Champs with career earnings of $965,155 so victory would carry him into the exclusive club of millionaire New Zealand-trained trotters, joining Lyell Creek, Take A Moment, One Over Kenny, I Can Doosit and Vulcan.
Stent would be the only horse in that group without winning one of New Zealand trotting's two greatest races, the Dominion or Rowe Cup.
End of the road
• Terror To Love is two races away from retirement.
• One of those could be a surprise clash with arch rival Christen Me at Addington this Friday.
• Stent is looking to become NZ trotting's sixth millionaire this week.