Day At The Track

Unexpected stay for Hope and horses

09:54 AM 02 Jun 2018 NZST
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Harness Jewels winner Enghien
2017 3YO Jewels winner Enghien.
HRNZ Photo

Relaxing at a Marlborough vineyard sounds like a lovely way to spend a couple of days. Unless you are supposed to be 800km away preparing two of the favourites for today's Harness Jewels at Cambridge.

Welcome to the week of trainer Greg Hope, the man behind Enghien and A G's White Socks, who have the draws and group one records to both win their four-year-old Jewels today.

Enghien is a genuine open class trotter up against mainly intermediate grade horses while A G's White Socks beat key rivals Eamon Maguire and Star Galleria in the Taylor Mile six weeks ago.

But their week has hardly gone to plan after their Cook Strait ferry crossing was cancelled on Sunday and they had to spend three unexpected nights in Marlborough until they crossed on Wednesday, getting to Cambridge that night.

"The first day we just jogged them around the grape vines at my sister's farm in Seddon, where we stayed," says Hope. "It was a bit different but I kinda think they enjoyed it.

"And then we worked them properly at the Waterlea track on Tuesday so they haven't actually missed any major work."

Hope's main concern was whether the extended trip would tire or tie up the talented pair but blood tests taken on Thursday allayed those fears.

"Their blood came back perfect and they worked really well on the Cambridge track on Thursday so I am very happy.

"Enghien is spot on but of course he might have to sit parked to win whereas A G's White Sock has had a long season like plenty of these horses at the Jewels. But he is very well."

Hope isn't the only trainer thinking an unusual preparation could lead to the winner's circle today, with champion trainer Mark Purdon adamant Princess Tiffany (race one) is better now than before she drove a nail through her hoof on race night at Alexandra Park six weeks ago

"She is well over that and has really gone ahead in the last few weeks," says Purdon.

"Even from her barrier draw she is the best chance of our three in that race and I can see her following Kayla Marie into the race. But she still might have to sit parked to win."

After a bizarre week, Purdon says he is happy with all 21 charges he and Natalie Rasmussen will take to Cambridge today, with the draw seeing him lean toward Shez All Rock in the three-year-old Diamond.

"She took a few days to settle in up here but is spot on now."

He is happy with their huge team and in the other races where they have multiple starters he rates Enhance Your Calm (race two), Winterfell (race eight) and Sicario (race nine) their best hopes.

"But I don't think there is anything between Another Masterpiece and Jesse Duke in the juvenile pace. It could just come down to who gets the better run."

Horses in drugs scare get the all-clear

The 10 harness horses at the centre of a drug contamination scare this week have all been cleared to start at today's Jewels meeting.

Precautionary tests requested by trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (nine horses) and Terry and Glenys Chmiel (Dibaba) and conducted by the Racing Integrity Unit showed no presence of drugs in any horse.

The unusual concerns were raised when two, now former, staff members of the All Stars stables were believed to have used recreational drugs in the last week and had been in contact with all 10 of the horses tested as they were transported from Canterbury to Waikato.

One of the staff members provided a sample to a professional drug tester called in by Purdon and returned a positive while the other refused a test and both were subsequently dismissed.

Purdon and Rasmussen contacted the RIU on Wednesday and asked for all nine of their horses who had been in contact with the two employees be tested to ensure they were drug-free heading into today's $1,275,000 meeting, while Dibaba as also tested as it has come north on the same transporter.

All 10 horses will take their places at today's meeting, which boasts nine group one races.

The TAB, which had been asked by the RIU on Wednesday to suspend betting on six of the Jewels races, re-opened those at 4.30pm yesterday.

"The RIU is very pleased with the result. The integrity system worked as it should," said RIU general manager Mike Godber.

"The trainers were proactive in advising the RIU of the potential contamination."


Michael Guerin

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