Tiny Terror (Shafiq Rusof, outside) finished second to Von Trapp (Andrew Calder), but the result was reversed in the inquiry room.
Talented first-starter Tiny Terror lowered the colours of the previously unbeaten Von Trapp at Te Rapa today, claiming the $25,000 John Letts Guest Speaker 17th August 3YO via protest.
Von Trapp had won all three trials leading into his debut at Ruakaka last month, where he created an enormous impression and won by more than three lengths despite racing greenly.
Today’s three-year-old event was a step up for the $1.90 favourite, taking on stakes placegetters Cyber Attack and More Wonder along with the interesting first-starter Tiny Terror, a nine-length winner of a recent trial.
Von Trapp worked to the lead as the field turned out of the back straight and was still on top turning for home, but he was quickly tackled by Tiny Terror and rider Shafiq Rusof.
In a two-horse battle to the finish, Von Trapp’s Ruakaka greenness returned to haunt him as he drifted outwards into Tiny Terror’s line. With a final margin of a mere head, that movement proved costly.
Stipendiary steward Matthew Williamson pointed out that the most significant interference occurred between the 150-metre mark and the 50-metre mark, and that the margin between the two horses was half a length with 150 metres to run.
“It’s not an ideal way to win, we feel sorry for the other owners, but I think it was a far decision,” said Pam Gerard, who trains Tiny Terror in partnership with Michael Moroney.
Carrying the colours of prominent owner Max Whitby, Tiny Terror was a $70,000 yearling purchase. The son of Shamexpress is out of a half-sister to the dam of Queensland Derby winner Brambles.
“Max Whitby has been a great owner for me,” Gerard said. “I’ve had three horses for him, all named after his grandchildren. Max sadly lost his wife yesterday, so this win was for her.
“This is a very strong little horse. He’d trialled up really well. He was making his first start today against some pretty good horses, so we wanted to get a line on him. We do think he’s pretty good, and he’s shaping up as a nice chance for some of the early three-year-old races coming up.”
Von Trapp’s rider Andrew Calder was full of praise for his mount’s performance.
“I think it was better than it might have looked,” Calder said. “He didn’t step all that well from the gate, and I had to use a fair bit of petrol to get to the front. Then I had to ask him to sprint again quite early in the straight. He certainly didn’t enjoy the slow (Slow9) track today either.
“He could be anything. At the moment he’s just doing it all on raw talent.”