Day At The Track

Battle of Hope

09:22 AM 07 Jun 2017 NZST
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Enghien,Harness racing
HRNZ photo

It is a bit like asking a parent which one of their kids they love more.

So you can forgive trainer Greg Hope for taking an awfully long pause before answering what might be the question of the trotting season.

Because the battle for Trotter of the Year as the annual awards in August will come down to a pair of horses -- both trained by Hope and his wife Nina -- who have had wildly contrasting seasons.

In one corner is undoubtedly New Zealand’s best trotter Monbet, who only raced three times this season and won them all.

More importantly two of those wins were of the highest quality, national records in both the Dominion and NZ Free-For-All during Cup week before niggles ruled him out for the season.

In the other corner is his less talented, but in the contest of this season better performed, three-year-old stablemate Enghien, like Monbet a son of French stallion Love You.

He has raced nine times, winning eight and only beaten in the other because he galloped.

To add to his case he has won every race that matters, the two trotting Derbys, the Harness Jewels and the group two Sires’ Stakes as well as the Sales Series.

His domination has been compete and utter and even though driver Ricky May couldn’t give him his head on Saturday because he wasn’t trotting faultlessly,he still won.

Enghien’s season is far from finished, with two more group ones in Victoria on the horizon.

“We are definitely heading there because there isn’t a lot for them as four-year-olds so we might as well take what we can get now,” said Hope.

“So he will contest a Breeders Crown heat here at Addington, then go to the Victoria Derby in August and then Breeders Crown final at the end of that month.”

Victory in either or both of those won’t aid Enghien’s bid for Trotter of the Year as the awards are voted on by the media before his Australian campaign begins.

So the question will be: do three wins at the highest level, the last of them recorded by Monbet in November, trump eight wins from nine starts spread from the heat of December to the chill of June?

“Its a tough question,” says Hope, who simply doesn’t want to answer it.

“I mean, I think we all know Monbet is the best trotter in the country and Enghien isn’t in his class yet.

“But I also suppose trotter of the year isn’t about the best horse but the best season.

“If it was about the best horse then Monbet has to get it. But if it is about the best season then it is hard to argue with what Enghien has done.”

Enghien’s win capped a remarkable last two seasons for the Hopes, with their future trainer and chief statistician son Ben telling Dad something he didn’t know.

“After that win on Saturday we have now trained the winner at least once of all the major trotting races for young horses we had have a starter in for in the last couple of years.

“That means the Derbys, the Sires’ Stakes, Sales Series and now all three Jewels. We needed the three-year-old Jewels because Monbet finished second in that so Enghien completed the set.

“Ben keeps on top of these things so that’s kinda cool to have done that.”

Hope says while the training is a family affair, some of the credit for their rapid rise to the top of trotting has to go to stallion Love You.

“He has been huge for us and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves.”

Love You also sired Saturday’s two-year-old trot winner Paramount King and the runner-up in the four-year-old trot in Gentleman Sir.

Monbet’s season:

Three starts, three wins.
* Two national records 
Two group ones and a group three win.

Enghien’s season:

Nine starts, eight wins.
One national record.
Three group ones and one group two win.

Michael Guerin


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