Day At The Track

Monbet out of Dominion

06:13 AM 17 Oct 2017 NZDT
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Monbet,Harness racing
Stuart McCormick photo

The odds are stacking up against one of New Zealand’s most talented horses.

Because champion trotter Monbet is out of the New Zealand Cup carnival, almost certainly the summer and probably the whole season.

And while trainer Greg Hope still remains optimistic we will see the best of the one-time Horse of the Year, doubts must be creeping into his mind and those of his army of followers.

Monbet was supposed to have his first public trial this year at Ashburton today as as lead-up to his much-anticipated return in the Flying Mile on that track next Monday.

But Hope has pulled the pin on both of those and says the defence of his Dominion title at the New Zealand Cup meeting is also over.

“He is not quite right and he is too good to take any risks with,” says Hope, who trains the six-year-old with his wife Nina.

“He has been nagged by something for a while and I think the knee we took the bone chips out of last season is still worrying him.

“And that is now making him off-load and hurt his other knee.

“Some people tell me he is fine and the vets say it isn’t that bad but I am not going to risk him because I’d hate to make it worse.

 “He is still only six and if we look after him I hope we can get him back.

 “But basically the Cup carnival is gone and so too is the summer probably.

“What we will do next is looking at some stem cell injections in that area and if that all goes well hopefully we could get him back for the Rowe Cup in May.

“But it is all a bit up in the air at the moment.”

Monbet was crowned harness Horse of the Year last year but the bone chips saw him only race three times last season.

That trio of starts reminded racing fans why he may be our most talented trotter since Lyell Creek as after a fresh-up win in the Flying Mile he won both the NZ Free-For-All and Dominion in national record time.

He has not been seen in public since and trotting has been the worse for it.

For all Hope’s optimism, Monbet’s body has often struggled with the demands of his record-breaking motor and the fact he couldn’t even make it back to the trials this campaign doesn’t boost confidence we are going to see any sustained racing from him this season or maybe ever again.

 The TAB got whiff of Monbet’s problems two weeks ago and opened a market for the Dominion with him excluded from the getting and only re-opened their main market it with him in the futures betting yesterday. It is now closed again.

 Last season’s injury cost Monbet’s connections a fortune as most of the group one trots Australasia-wide were won by horses who wouldn’t live with a fully fit and sound Monbet.

 That class void worsened when his arch rival Speeding Spur was injured twice and missed many of the top races last season as as well while trotting millionaire Stent is still making his way back from injury.

 He continues that path at the Motukarara trials today and could still make the New Zealand Cup meeting although he hasn’t raced for over 21 months.

 The reports are good though for Speeding Spur, who has done two works faster work after a four-month slow build-up.

 “He feels good and we have the green light with him to press so but he won’t make the Cup carnival,” says co-trainer John Dickie.

 “But all going well, and I think it will because his injuries haven’t been because of unsoundness, we could have him back racing by mid December.”

While Ashburton face having no Monbet for their huge meeting next Monday they have left entries open after securing only six nominations for the Flying Stakes, including four from the All Stars.

 NZ Cup favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks warm up for that race with a workout at Ashburton today.

Michael Guerin

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