Day At The Track

Monbet on song

02:05 PM 24 May 2016 NZST
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Monbet,Harness racing
Stuart McCormick photo

Any glimmer of hope Monbet’s rivals harbored heading into next week’s Harness Jewels might have just been sledgehammered by harness racing trainer Greg Hope.

Because the Canterbury horseman says his trotting freak is working in career-best form heading into the final race of his magical season.

On a day that could boast seven odds-on favourites Monbet is set to be the hottest, with the TAB still only offering betting on the four-year-old trot division with him removed from the market.

After a huge season dating back to September 25, Monbet has won six group ones, a group two and a group three race, meaning victory on Saturday week would at least put him in the conversation with Have Faith In Me for Horse of the Year.

But after such a long season there could understandably be concerns about Monbet holding his form, especially as so many of his follow open classers, both pacers and trotters, who could have headed to the Jewels have fallen by the wayside.

Yet Hope says the four-year-old flyer will travel north this week in peak form.

“He worked as good as he ever has on Saturday morning,” said Hope.

“He obviously hasn’t raced for a while (April 29) but he felt great and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
 With arch rival Speeding Spur sidelined with injury, Monbet could be expected to sit parked and win on Jewels day if he had to and gives Hope and wife Nina a huge shot at becoming only the third stable to win two trotting Jewels in the same day --- the All Stars stable (under two different partnerships) and John Dickie being the other two.

The Hopes also train Enghien, who is now $1.45 to win the two-year-old trot division after smashing his rivals in the Sires’s Stakes Trot at Addington on Saturday.

Not only did he come from 12 lengths off long-time favourite Habibti Inta to thrash him but he did so untouched, suggesting he is right in the zone.

“He has improved a lot mentally and we will give him a look at Cambridge at the workouts this Saturday, not that he needs it for fitness,” says Hope.

“He and Monbet could both trial there but they won’t be out to do anything special.

“Most importantly we want a front line draw with Enghien for Jewels day.”

Also heading to the special Jewels workouts will be Field Marshal, who trainer Tim Butt says is over a bout of colic suffered last Tuesday.

“It was a bit of a shock at the time but we got him to the vet straight away and got him treated and he came right pretty quickly,” says Butt.

“We were able to work him properly on Saturday morning so he is still on target for next week.”
 While his Taylor Mile and Messenger wins suggest Field Marshal deserves to be favourite for the four-year-old male pace, that will be tested should he draw outside Titan Banner, who has been one of the biggest market movers in Jewels history.

Punters could get as much as $26 about him before he joined the All Stars stable a few weeks ago but he is now the $2.40 second favourite.

He was enormous beating Christen Me at Addington on Saturday with trainer Mark Purdon much happier with how he paced after the addition of an overcheck.

“He was a lot smoother than the week before and we still have two more weeks to work on him,” said Purdon.

“But I am not that worried about him around Cambridge now because he didn’t hit his knees anywhere as badly on Saturday."

Meanwhile, the last Australian entry for the Jewels still not in New Zealand will complete his preparation at Menangle on Saturday night.

Heza Bromac, rated a $26 chance in the three-year-old male pace, was to have trialled at Menangle yesterday but was scratched.

But he is still on target for the Jewels and will start from the outside of the front line in a solid three-year-old mile.

The other Australian contender for the Jewels, My Kiwi Mate, races at Alexandra Park on Friday night.

Michael Guerin

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