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Young harness racing driver Ben Hope won his first Group race yesterday when Muscle Mountain was successful in the Gr3 "Majestic Son" NZ 2yo Trotting Stakes at Addington Raceway. Hope who is sitting third on the National Junior Drivers premiership table drove another calculating race with the unbeaten Muscle Mountain (Muscle Hill - Paramount Faith) when after finding the front shortly after the start he decided to hand up to second favourite Ultimate Stride with a lap to go.  Ultimate Stride was all done at the 400m and Muscle Mountain looked like being a chance of being carted back behind him, but Ben Hope managed to extract the speedy gelding out of a tight spot on the turn and from there he cruised home to win easily without being pushed. Muscle Mountain ran the 1980m mobile in 2-29.1 a mile rate of 2-01.1 with the winner coming home his last 800m in 58.6 with a closing 400m in 27.98 seconds. One Majic Kenny was brave in second for driver John Dunn and the Purdon/Rasmussen trained filly Tailored Elegance rattled home late for third. There were two false starts in the event with multiple offenders breaking stride in the runups to the start.   In the other 2yo (pacing) race on the day there was also sensation when raging hot favorite Smooth Deal galloped out of contention shortly after the start dashing his chance and also the hopes of punters many of whom had included the son of Bettor's Delight in multi bets during the day. Mark Purdon wasn’t sure what happened when Smooth Deal went out of his gear early in his Sires Stakes heat at Addington. “He’s done it before but there was no apparent reason for it this time. He might have touched a knee it is just hard to say” Mark said. Smooth Deal had already qualified for the Sires Stakes final during his Auckland campaign, so Saturday’s failure was not as crucial as it might have been if he had not qualified. All Stars Stables had better luck later in the day taking home wins with Princess Tiffany, Winterfell and Ashley Locaz. Star 3yo old filly Princess Tiffany looked to have come back to racing in great order, winning Heat 7 of the Nevele R Fillies Series with an easy all the way win. Driver Natalie Rasmussen gave nothing else a chance when shooting Princess Tiffanyto the lead from the start and then blazing home her last 800m in 55.2 to win untouched by more than 2 lengths. Winterfell also was back in winning form easily accounting for a tidy field of trotters in the Rating 70 and faster Trot. The son of Majestic Son settled back in the running for driver Mark Purdon and despite trotting a fraction roughly at the last bend he had too much speed for the opposition in the straight going straight past them and posting a quick 3-17.8 for the 2600m stand. Ashley Locaz gave Purdon a race to race double when gaining a deserved win in the R90 and faster pace. He too led for most of the way in his win holding off a good field with a sizzling last 800m in 54.9 seconds.   Harnesslink Media

Impressive Regent Car Court Nugget Final winner Mossdale Art looks to be the early favourite for the Southland Oaks in April. The Bettor’s Delight three year old has been impressive in both her wins at Winton in the last three weeks and her win today against a field of primarily three year old colts and geldings stamped her as a quality filly. “I think she’s a filly that should have a pretty good season. She’s had two starts for two wins and hopefully she’ll carry on learning,” said driver Ben Hope, son of Greg and Nina Hope who train the filly. In today’s final Vintage Rose showed early gate speed to lead before Zinny Mach took over. With 1300 metres to run Hope moved Mossdale Art out from three back on the inside to take up the parked positon for 200 metres before taking her to the front. In the last 50 metres she held out Zinny Mach which came up the inside to get within a neck of the winner with another half a neck back to a late charging Just Wondering for third. Mossdale Art (1) hanging on to beat Zinny Mach (2)                  - Photo Bruce Stewart. “I had the second and third horse well covered. I let her cruise to the line herself. As soon as Zinny Mac snuck up I had to nurse her across the line again. She had them well covered but just pulled up because of her inexperience.” Mossdale Art is owned by Mossburn breeder Archie Affleck and Hope thinks she can perform at a higher level. “It’s hard to know how far she’ll go but I’d say she’ll be able to keep up with most of the fillies.”  Affleck was one of Greg and Nina Hopes first clients. They have been training horses for the Mossburn based breeder for fifteen years with the first ‘Mossdale’ winner (Mossdale Cam) winning at Marlborough in January 2003. Winning connections       - photo Bruce Stewart Today’s win was the 31st ‘Mossdale’ the Hopes have trained for Affleck. The combination’s biggest winner so far has been Mossdale Conner which won thirteen races including the 2015 Taylor Mile. “It’s really great to get another win for Archie. He’s been with Mum and Dad for ages. He couldn’t make it last time when she won over a mile so it was great to have him here today.”   Bruce Stewart

The long wait for New Zealand's best trotter is almost at an end. But punters should be wary of backing comeback champ Monbet to win the $300,000 Dominion even though he will make his first public appearance in 22 months next week. The one-time Horse of The Year will finally make it back to the trials next Wednesday after having not raced, or even been to the workouts, since winning the Dominion at Addington in 2016. Monbet has struggled with leg problems since and had stem cell surgery which has resulted in a so far, so good prognosis. "He had his latest scan last Saturday and the vets said he was good to go to the next stage," said Ben Hope, whose parents Greg and Nina train Monbet. Monbet may head to the Flying Mile at Ashburton, a race he won fresh up two years ago, on October 22 before the Cup carnival. But while he is the $3.90 for the Dominion on November 16, Hope says Monbet is no certainty to start in New Zealand's richest trot even if he remains sound. "It could be a case where he goes to the Mile at Ashburton and the Free-For-All on Cup day but the Dominion is unsure at this stage," explains Hope. Even more unlikely is the Inter Dominion in Victoria. "That isn't something he is being aimed for at this stage and he is more likely, all going well, to head to Auckland with Enghien to campaign up there." Enghien will miss the Cup carnival as he has only started fast work and is being given plenty of time to find his feet as a five-year-old. The Hope stable, of which junior driver Ben is basically a third partner in the family training business, have been pleased with the two outings this season of New Zealand Cup contender AG's White Socks. He was caught late by Dream About Me after leading in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru last Sunday and while they believe he is probably a better horse following, they wanted to stay in front last Sunday to earn some respect. The road to the New Zealand Cup gets busier over the next week, with favourite Ultimate Machete having his third trial this campaign at Rangiora yesterday while Harness Jewels winners Eamon Maguire returned for his first. Both pleased trainer Mark Purdon enough although Ultimate Machete did miss getting away properly, not as badly as he did in his first trial two weeks ago, but enough to make punters nervous as he is the favourite for the Cup. Star Galleria headlines the next Cup lead-up race at Alexandra Park tomorrow night.   Michael Guerin

The final stage of the 2018 Airpark Canterbury Cadet of the Year competition is upon us with the four finalists excelling in all of their regional challenges.   Representing Canterbury is the regional winner Ben Hope. Ben, a finalist last year, was a convincing winner who scored highly in all three components of the regional competition.   Travelling up from the Deep South to contest the title this year will be Ellie Barron, the Southern regional winner and the Northern regional winner Luke Whittaker will also make the trip down.   This year along with the three regional winners, the next highest score from all of the competitors would advance through to the final. Olivia Thornley, also from Canterbury, took these honours and will be joining her four counterparts.   All four finalists have displayed a comprehensive range of skills in their horsemanship, driving and all-round general knowledge to set the stage for an exciting and competitive final.   They will now battle it out for the right to call themselves the Airpark Canterbury Cadet of the Year.   The final competition has been designed to call on not only the contestant’s equine knowledge but to also challenge the finalists in a diverse range of practical, theoretical and technical tasks.   Each phase of the competition will be evaluated and marked and the Cadets will earn points for each task based on performance, accuracy and speed. The final will be held throughout Christchurch on Wednesday the 25th of July.   The winner will be announced at the 2018 Annual Harness Racing Awards Function on Saturday the 29th of September this year to be held at Alexandra Park.   For any further information please contact Natalie Gameson on 03) 964 1193 or natalie@hrnz.co.nz   Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc      

Junior driver Ben Hope saw first hand how rough the weather can get in the deep south when he drove at Ascot Park for the first time today. The day was probably at it's best when he reined Kingslayer to win the Watts Backflow Junior Drivers Mobile Pace. Trained by his parents Greg and Nina Hope, the Christian Cullen gelding at only it's third start is still green and showed a few wayward tendencies in his preliminary.  "In the warm up he was keen and galloping and wasn't really on the job. When we got up on the gate he was very keen to go and had that wee gallop but to his credit he came back down quite quickly," said Hope. Three lengths off the gate at dispatch, Hope didn't panic and settled the favourite in last place with Ellie Barron taking second favourite Black Ops to the front.  "With a lap to go he was really pulling hard. I felt he probably would have choked down if I'd stayed there much longer." So Hope sent Kingslayer forward three wide with a lap to run.   "I saw Ellie batting her one (horse) up a bit so I thought I might be able to go round quickly enough to get in front of her which I did. It took a bit of work to get there and lucky enough the horse kept going for me."  Hope didn't get to the lead until the 500 metre mark and with 400 metres to run pulled the ear plugs and started to tap the gelding up to keep him rolling. Under a hard drive Kingslayer held on to beat a late charging Shelby Bromac by three quarters of a length with a nose back to a game Black Ops, and Machs Mareta another nose back in fourth.   Kingslayer (6) and Ben Hope beating Shelby Bromac (8) -Photo Bruce Stewart. "He's got the ability but he's a green horse and likes to run around. He has two prickers on and a jaw breaker to help his steering. He's got a big motor and we came down to try and win a junior drivers race with him and get points for the junior drivers championship. I'm currently in the top six. That was the goal and he duly delivered. It's my tenth win of the season."  Kingslayer is out of the Bettor's Delight mare Millwood Manhattan and was bred by Katie Carville. Millwood Manhattan won three races for Auckland trainer Tony Herlihy including her first start as a two year old. Kingslayer is her first foal. He's closely related to big winners; Ohoka Arizona (8 New Zealand wins), Ohoka Samson (3 NZ wins and 12 Australian) and Ohoka Colorado (3 NZ wins and 20 Australian wins).   "I'd say he should be able to win four or five at least. He just needs a bit more racing. He'll probably go out for a break now."   Although it was cold for his first drive on Kingslayer, the weather turned later in the afternoon and was at it's worst when Hope drove Rockntommy Rulz in Race Six. The first start two year old settled last early and lost his way in the doom and gloom finishing twenty two lengths from the winner - the aptly named Fun In The Dark.  Fun In The Dark is trained and was driven by Matt Purvis. Purvis's sister Charlotte won earlier in the day on the Phil Williamson trained Madison Jane. It was the Monarchy mare's third win in four starts. She's now won five races in total and was up against a field made up primarily of one win horses.  Meanwhile it was a super day for Ascot Park trainers Mark and Debbie Shirley. They brought two horses to the races; Cullens Avenue and Mighty Conqueror and they both won. Mark shares in the ownership of both with good friend Malcolm Dewe. Mighty Conqueror's half-brother Young Conqueror ran second to his younger sibling.  Shane Walkinshaw drove both.  Mark is the President of the Invercargill Harness Racing Club   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Young harness racing driver Ben Hope drove his first winner, when speedy three year old Benhope Rulz won at Oamaru yesterday. Trained by Greg and Nina Hope at Woodend Beach, Benhope Rulz (Courage Under Fire - Victoria Rulz) had to be good to win. He trailed for most of the race, but got carted back by the tiring leader Megawatt on the turn and was blocked by a wall of horses in the straight. Driver Ben managed to angle to the outside of the track in the last 75m and he stormed home to win going away from the John Hay trained first starter Norman Richard. Classie Cullect gained an overdue win when he won for trainer Warren Stapleton and driver John Morrison at odds of $14.10 and $3.80 on the tote. Part owner Dean Stapleton said "we like the horse and we have been backing him, but he has had no luck in his previous starts"  That bad luck changed to good yesterday, when Classie Cullect (Gotta Go Cullect - Classie Emma) had a cozy run on the fence. When the horse saw daylight on the passing lane, he zipped home to win narrowly but well from the rank outsider Rostriever Victory and driver Kim Butt. Mitchell Kerr had another day to remember when his two runners, The Dorchester and Run Boy Run both won their respective races on the Oamaru track.  The Dorchester (Mach Three - Meet Me In Mayfair) was impressive sitting parked and winning as he liked for driver Blair Orange. The smart three year old pacer has now won his first two starts and is headed for the feature 3yo races later in the year. Run Boy Run was also impressive, winning his second race in a row for driver Matt Anderson. He had to be good to win, sitting parked and then staving off all the challenges in the run home. With the two wins he got yesterday, Kerr has regained the outright lead in this years trainers premiership. He has an impressive UDR of 0.7937 and has started seven runners this season with five of them winners. Bite The Bullet led all the way to win this years Kurow Cup for trainer Robert Dunn. Driven by John Dunn, Bite The Bullet (Mach Three - Pistol Packing Mama) was in front early and then ran quick final sectionals to hold off a fast finishing New Years Jay by a head at the line.  His overall time for the 2600m stand was a sedate 3-23.4 for that class, but they zipped home over the last 800m in 56.4 with the closing 400m in slick 26.5 seconds. Ben hope getting his first win.   Bite The Bullet winning the 2017 Kurow Cup   Harnesslink Media  

Winner: Monbet - Driver: Ricky May - Trainers: Greg and Nina Hope - Owners: Greg & Nina Hope & Morrie Molloy - Breeder: Greg and Nina Hope. Time: 1:56.6 - Margin 1 and 1/4 lengths - 800m: 57.2 - 400m: 28.8 - 2nd: Le Reveur - 3rd: Reine Des Gitans Greg Hope isn’t sure if Monbet can come back a better horse next season, but he’s pretty sure he doesn’t have too. The standout trotter signed off on his stellar four-year-old season with his second Harness Jewels victory in the exact same time he ran when he won the 2YO Ruby two years ago. And while the great season is now over, Hope, who trains with his wife Nina, is already looking forward to the next one. “I’m not sure he can come back better next season, but I don’t think he probably has too,” he said. “He takes everything in his stride and just does what he needs to do.” The Ruby ran pretty much to script with Sunny Ruby leading them a merry chase while Monbet settled early before launching inside the final lap – Ricky May never really looked panicked and when he asked for effort at the top of the straight, Monbet strode clear. “Then he knocked off,” May said. “You’ve got to keep him up to the task, he’s one of those horses who doesn’t stretch himself any more than he has too.” Just before May moved there was a heart-in-the-mouth moment when Paramount Dream, who was in front of Monbet, galloped. “It got pretty close and I thought we might have been in trouble there for a moment.” Monbet will head to the paddock now, but he’s got the chance to win one more big title before the season is over. On July 30 he will be awarded Four-Year-Old Trotter of the Year, Trotter of the Year and there is a real possibility he could take home the major prize of Horse of the Year. “He deserves it, I know I’m biased, but not many horses do what he’s done this season.” Le Reveur was the best of the beaten brigade, sprinting up strongly from the trail to finish second for Bob Butt. Reine Des Gitans emerged out of the pack to finish third at massive money. Royal Shine finished fourth but was disqualified in the room after the race for galloping too far at the start. Matt Markham

It is not uncommon for children of harness racing trainers to try to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Around the industry throughout their life, they try to carve out a career in harness racing in their own right. One who is about to head down that path is Ben Hope. His parents Greg and Nina Hope are at the elite level of the industry in New Zealand and are having a stellar season through the performances of both Monbet and Mossdale Conner. Ben has been enthralled with harness racing from an early age. " I can remember riding in the cart with dad when I was really young." " From there I progressed to Kids Kartz where I had a bit of success with a couple of ponies called Pepper and Bonnie." "I had my first drive on a horse when I was eleven when I drove Jason Rulz which was a big thrill," Ben told Harnesslink this afternoon. Now aged sixteen, Ben has had a few drives at workouts to date for his parents . " So far I have had seven drives for three wins and a second so so far so good." "In the next eighteen months I plan to have plenty more drives at the workouts and to get better with the stopwatch with a view to becoming a junior driver when I turn eighteen." " At this stage I want to focus more on the driving side of the industry." "I have one more year at school and then I will go to work for mum and dad," Ben said. As you would expect, Ben rates his parents as the best trainers he has had contact with while Ricky May is the the top of the driving ranks in Ben's opinion. Ben has already dabbled in the ownership side of the industry, buying the Love You mare Unyielding Spirit for $5,000 " She has won a couple to date and over $20,000 in stakes and been placed in 2:00.1  " She hasn't got much longer on the track as she is in foal to Peak," Ben said. Of all the horses coming through the ranks at the Hopes barn, Ben has a lot of time for a two year old. " He is a two year old called Kingslayer who is a three quarter brother to the former outstanding two year old, Ohoka Arizona." " He may not race at two, but I know dad thinks a lot of him," Ben said. Ben is already quite well known to Trackside viewers as he frequently fronts the interviews for the Hope barn. " I was quite nervous the first time but now I have got use to it I really enjoy it." It is something I would like to do a bit more of in the future,"Ben said.  With his grounding in the industry and his level headed approach to things, Ben Hope is a name to post in your notebook for the future. Harnesslink Media  

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