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New Zealand’s greatest trotter will try to emulate Australia’s champion galloper Winx. Which means you might see less of Monbet than you expect next season, but he will be around for a lot longer. Monbet hasn’t raced since setting a national record winning the Dominion at Addington in November, with an operation to remove bone chips soon after ruining his season. Remarkably those three starts alone will almost certainly see him win NZ Trotter of the Year again at the national awards come July, especially as two of his wins were at Group One level and the other at Group Three. Monbet’s record in the last two seasons is jaw-dropping, having won 14 of his last 15 starts, 12 of those at group level, with his sole defeat coming when he galloped in a race at Melton. The winner of $770,714 he only has to stay sound to become a rarity in this part of the world -- a trotting millionaire. And trainer Greg Hope has a plan how he is going to achieve that. Hope and wife Nina welcomed Monbet back into work last week and couldn’t be happier with the sleek son of French stallion Love You. “He looks great and all the vet reports are telling us the right things,” said Hope. “He ended up having two chips taken out of his knee but the joints are really healthy and we have had x-rays and a lot of tests on that area done. “He looks big and strong so it is back to work now.” But back to work won’t mean a huge workload as the Hopes are thinking quality, not quantity, with the rising six-year-old. “I’d like to think we could have him for another two, maybe three seasons at least,” he says of the gelding. “But I don’t want to over-race him and he doesn’t need to be in every dogfight. “So he might only have six or eight starts a season from now on. “You see that with a lot of the really good gallopers, like Winx, they are set for the best races and don’t have long campaigns. “And he is the sort of horse who could do that too because he comes to hand quite quickly. “So he might not even race until the Cup carnival at Addington, have two runs there and then head to Auckland at Christmas.” That would suggest four races, five at most, for Monbet this year all going well while the second half of next season could be restricted to focussing on the NZ Trot Champs, Anzac Cup and Rowe Cup. The question would be whether the Hopes wanted to add in a one-race Australian campaign aimed at the revamped Great Southern Star, which is now a one-off race at Melton. That would be a far easier work rate then the usual open class trotter, who are often the ironhorses of racing and can easily top 20 starts for the season. This season alone Monbet’s group one-winning stablemate Quite A Moment had 16 starts, while another group one winning mare Sunny Ruby had 22. And open class journeyman Valmagne has had 31 starts this term with more to come. The return of Monbet and his also injured arch rival Speeding Spur up against a talented four-year-old crop headed by Marcoola, Temporale, Lemond and Wilma’s Mate would see some real depth to the elite trotting ranks next season. Meanwhile, the Hopes are thrilled with how three-year-old Enghien has returned from his Northern Derby winning campaign and say he is thriving as he aims at four more major races this season. “The trip away has been great for him and he will go to the Sales Series at Addington next week before the Jewels. “And he will keep going for the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown in Australia.”   Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s greatest trotter will try to emulate Australia’s champion galloper Winx. Which means you might see less of Monbet than you expect next season, but he will be around for a lot longer. Monbet hasn’t raced since setting a national record winning the Dominion at Addington in November, with an operation to remove bone chips soon after ruining his season. Remarkably those three starts alone will almost certainly see him win NZ Trotter of the Year again at the national awards come July, especially as two of his wins were at group one level and the other at group three. Monbet’s record in the last two season is jaw-dropping, having won 14 of his last 15 starts, 12 of those at group level, with his sole defeat coming when he galloped in a race at Melton. The winner of $770,714 he only has to stay sound to become a rarity in this part of the world -- a trotting millionaire. And trainer Greg Hope has a plan how he is going to achieve that. Hope and wife Nina welcomed Monbet back into work last week and couldn’t be happier with the sleek son of French stallion Love You. “He looks great and all the vet reports are telling us the right things,” said Hope. “He ended up having two chips taken out of his knee but the joints are really healthy and we have had x-rays and a lot of tests on that area done. “He looks big and strong so it is back to work now.” But back to work won’t mean a huge workload as the Hopes are thinking quality, not quantity, with the rising six-year-old. “I’d like to think we could have him for another two, maybe three seasons at least,” he says of the gelding. “But I don’t want to over-race him and he doesn’t need to be in every dogfight. “So he might only have six or eight starts a season from now on. “You see that with a lot of the really good gallopers, like Winx, they are set for the best races and don’t have long campaigns. “And he is the sort of horse who could do that too because he comes to hand quite quickly. “So he might not even race until the Cup carnival at Addington, have two runs there and then head to Auckland at Christmas.” That would suggest four races, five at most, for Monbet this year all going well while the second half of next season could be restricted to focussing on the NZ Trot Champs, Anzac Cup and Rowe Cup. The question would be whether the Hopes wanted to add in a one-race Australian campaign aimed at the revamped Great Southern Star, which is now a one-off race at Melton. That would be a far easier work rate then the usual open class trotter, who are often the ironhorses of racing and can easily top 20 starts for the season. This season alone Monbet’s group one-winning stablemate Quite A Moment had 16 starts, while another group one winning mare Sunny Ruby had 22. And open class journeyman Valmagne has had 31 starts this term with more to come. The return of Monbet and his also injured arch rival Speeding Spur up against a talented four-year-old crop headed by Marcoola, Temporale, Lemond and Wilma’s Mate would see some real depth to the elite trotting ranks next season. Meanwhile, the Hopes are thrilled with how three-year-old Enghien has returned from his Northern Derby winning campaign and say he is thriving as he aims at four more major races this season. “The trip away has been great for him and he will go to the Sales Series at Addington next week before the Jewels. “And he will keep going for the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown in Australia". by Michael Guerin in NZ

Greg Hope made a scary confession in the wake of Enghien’s New Zealand Trotting Derby on Friday night. Not long after his rising star had dealt to his rivals in the $80,000 feature the Woodend Beach trainer, who trains with his wife Nina, was already pondering his next step with the dour son of Love You and that’s Auckland. A lot of trainers might feel hesitation about the prospect of heading North to race a new way around, but Hope was buoyant about the prospect. “He’s actually better trotting the Auckland way around,” Hope added. “So I’m looking forward to getting him up there, he’s going from strength to strength at the moment.” A second line draw and a sweeping move around the field weren’t enough to stop Enghien. He went to war with the pace-making Musculus and also northern raider, Heavyweight Hero from almost the 800 metre mark and although his winning margin wasn’t huge, it was authoritative. “I think he could have won by a lot more if I had asked him too,” driver Ricky May said. By winning, Enghien secured bragging rights over his high-class stable mate, Monbet. For all his subsequent success, Monbet was unable to win a Group One as a three-year-old, bowing to Speeding Spur on more than one occasion. Enghien is raced by Hope and long-time stable supporter, Richard Delleca. They purchased him as a yearling from the yearling sales from stock offered by the late Carl Middleton. Middleton’s wife, Heather, was on track to witness the success on Friday night and Hope said it was great for her to be there. “It’s a wonderful breed, Carl’s breed,” Hope said. “And Heather being here to see this horse is great, she’s actually taken a share in the yearling we purchased at the sales from Another Love which is great too.” While over the moon with his young trotting star, Hope was more than a little perplexed with the performances of his two open class trotters in the Fred Shaw Memorial New Zealand Trotting Championship. Everybody Knows finished second last in what was his worst performance of the season while Quite A Moment also disappointed despite doing mid-race work to get on the speed, finishing seventh. “Everybody Knows heads to the paddock now, he’s done a great job this time in and deserves a good break before bringing him back up for Cup time. “I’m not sure what to do about Quite A Moment, her work at home is fantastic but something isn’t quite right out on the track. “We will have a good hard think about whether we head to Auckland or not.” Meanwhile everything looks positive in regards to Monbet as he enjoys some leisure time in the paddock. “All the scans and everything are really good and he’s really bright in the paddock.” Hope plans to return the reigning Horse of the Year to work once he returns from the Rowe Cup Carnival.   Matt Markham    

Greg Hope isn’t letting the might of a pacer like Locharburn stop him from thinking that Usain Colt can be a force to be reckoned with in tonight’s feature pace at Addington. The Woodend Beach horseman, who trains alongside his wife Nina, will line the Harness Jewels runner-up in the Rating 80 and faster handicap pace, against five other runners. “It looks a nice race for him to be competitive in,” Hope said last night. “Because he’s still a wee bit one dimensional in the way he races we might need a few things to go our way but I’ve been really happy with him this week.” Locharburn will be the undoubted favourite for the race, despite having not won in his last eight starts. The Kevin Chapman trained runner was installed a $2.30 favourite last night by TAB Bookmakers. Usain Colt opened at $4.80 on the second line of betting with Alta Orlando the next in line at $5.00. The Hopes will also have a strong hand in the feature trot of the night with Quite A Moment and Gershwin. The latter is on the path to next week’s Four and Five-Year-Old Trotting Championship but showed he’s not far away with an impressive trial performance behind Marcoola last week at Rangiora. “He was pretty good judging by the clock, but was still wanting to do the odd thing wrong along the way. “This week will really tidy him up for next week though.” Quite A Moment has come through her first run back from Australia in fine fettle and Hope is confident of a big showing from the Group One winner when she steps out tonight. “She’s come on quite a bit with that run and I’ve been really happy with her so she will run another good race.” Quite A Moment will have to though with a strong pair from the Paul Nairn barn lining up to try and take the prize. Wilma’s Mate, who dominated in Australia in the latter stages of last season is back on the track and there will be plenty of interest in how she comes back to it with a bit more age on her side. Nairn also have Habibti Ivy in the race who is looking to make it three from three this time in. Wilma’s Mate was $2.70 last night with Habibti Ivy at $4.00. Despite sitting second on the trainers’ premiership with a healthy 64 wins next to their name, the Hope pair are refusing to buy into the conversation that they could be premiership contenders this season. They sit two wins behind Robert Dunn currently with another win back from them being held by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. “We aren’t going to have the horsepower over the Winter I don’t think so we aren’t letting it worry us too much. With a best season tally of 71, the pair do look well on track to usurp that total before August rolls around. In that time they should also notch up a notable milestone in their career with 500 wins just around the corner. Greg already has 500 next to his name, but the next one is he and Nina combined. “It will be nice to achieve when we get there, it’s been a great run.” The stable also has chances tonight from Burn Off, Unico Legend, Bella Jones and Daiquiri.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Majestic Hurricane, Castlereagh, Well Defined, BJ Lindenny Race 2: Forgotten Highway, Unico Legend, Bettor To  Be Tricky, The Honey Badger Race 3: Lavros Jack, Arnold, Chevron Express, Needle Race 4: Articulight, Shineonyoucrazydiamond, The Bachelor, Sans Le Sou Race 5: Selena Franco, Bella Jones, Midfrew Tarpediem, Late Mail Race 6: Locharburn, Usain Colt, Benicio, Alta Orlando Race 7: Quite A Moment, Wilma’s Mate, Habibti Ivy, Belle’s Son Race 8: Let It Ride, Riccardo, Young Conqueror, Queen Bee Bardon Race 9: Sugar Cane, Rum In The Sun, Beg Hall, Muscles Galore Race 10: The Bus, Debnita Rose, Supreme Banner, Sharknado Best Bet: The Bus (Race 10) Value: Sugar Cane (Race 9)

He’s ticking things off the bucket list left, right and centre and this weekend Greg Hope has a chance to cross another milestone off when he heads to the top of the South Island and to Richmond Park in Nelson. Hope heads to the meeting having trained 48 winners at Richmond Park during his career, five of them coming while training on his own account and a further 43 coming since he joined in partnership with his wife Nina. And with a particularly ominous looking line up of horses from the stable in action this weekend, there’s every chance that he will achieve the required two wins before the weekend is out. The stable has dominated Nelson over the past few years with a number of winners coming from their trips up the Coast from Woodend Beach including a six win haul up at the same two-day meeting last season. Today’s team of runners totals eight with the little known pacer, A G’s White Socks the stable’s leading chance for the day. He finished a strong second behind Usain Colt, who contests the Nelson Summer Cup Prelude earlier in the day, at the Mt Hutt Workouts at Methven last Saturday - showing his readiness for this week’s assignment. “He’s a pretty nice horse, we’ve got a fair bit of time for him,” Greg Hope said. “He won first up at Oamaru, after being unbeaten off the place. That workout is the only time he’s actually been beaten in public.” A Rock N Roll Heaven three-year-old gelding, A G’s White Socks is a half-brother to former open class pacer, Power Of Tara. “I don’t know what to expect from him this season, but we will see what happens at Nelson and then go from there. “I’d like to think he’s got a decent future in front of him.” The Hope’s took a large team to Methven last weekend to have their final hit out before today’s meeting and A G’s White Socks was just one of a number of impressive performers. Usain Colt showed a very good turn of foot to win the feature heat of the day with young Ben Hope in the sulky. “He’s going really good against good fields, he’d be a chance this week with a bit of luck.” Mares Bella Jones and Emily Blunt won’t get many better chances to get another win than their respective races while there are also big chances from Unico Legend, Gold Sovereign and Franco Lamar. The entire team with be driven today by regular stable driver, Ricky May. Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Hayden’s Meddle, Calendar Girls, Mac Toddy, Black Art Race 2: BD Khaosan, Gold Sovereign, Muscles Galore, Fira Sunset Race 3: Jimmy Nga, Kotare Mist, Wall Street Wolf, The New Man Race 4: JJ’S Delight, Spooky, Out Of Aces, Johnny White Race 5: Unico Legend, Returntorocknroll, Smooth N Easy, One Off Race 6: The Govenor, Mighty Empire, Franco Lamar, Go Davey Race 7: Prestine, Alvia Hest, Little Mo, Lady Beatrix Bourbon Race 8: Usain Colt, Franco Texas, Linton Shard, Miss Daisy Race 9: Bella Jones, Living Legend, Rum Delight, Nova Time Race 10: A G’s White Socks, Waimac Attack, Mrs Browns Boys, Gunpowder Race 11: Billy Badger, Franco Saxon, Emily Blunt, Torrid Bromac Best Bet: Bella Jones (Race 9) Value: JJ’s Delight (Race 4)  

Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope had a memorable first time racing horses at Roxburgh on Wednesday when Mossdale Conner won the Roxburgh Cup  and Cindy Bromac was successful. The wins continued a great holiday innings for the Hope stable after the group one National Trot in Auckland with Quite A Moment; six wins at the Westport and Reefton meetings and another at Omakau on Monday with Mossdale Rose, a sister to Mossdale Conner. Ricky May has been the winning driver. Mossdale Conner overcame a 40m handicap and powered down the outer to win by half a length from Better Enforce. Mossdale Conner and Mossdale Rose are both raced by their Riversdale (Southland) breeder Archie Affleck. Mossdale Rose chased home the up and coming Royal Bengal at Roxburgh. The weather was fine for the Cup but conditions were marginal for reinsmen in races four and five when heavy showers and wind lashed the course and turned the track to slush. Reinsmen were almost driving blind. “I was struggling to see,’’ said Ricky May, who drove Gracey Lacey in race 5. Murray Brown, the trainer of Ben Washington (race 4) said his driver Brent Barclay told him he was unable to see properly and also that the horse did not handle the conditions. Mitchell Kerr, who drove Supreme Banner in that race said  the conditions were “shocking”. “It is pretty bad,” said Dexter Dunn, who has driven in races throughout the world. Doug Gordon, a Roxburgh horseman who has been attending race meetings on the course since he was a three-year-old in 1935, said it  was the “worst it has been here, apart from  the first meeting of the Tuapeka Trotting Club when it snowed.” Graeme Rowland, the judge for the club, said the conditions for race 4 were the third worst he had experienced in 39 years in the role. “The only worse conditions were snow one day at Oamaru and heavy fog at Timaru,’’ he said. The stipendiary stewards ordered mudguards be worn on the sulkies of horses after race 3. The use of the mobile gate was abandoned for race 4 after the motor vehicle was unable to get traction to accelerate clear of horses. The race and subsequent  mobile start listed races were dispatched from a moving start with the clerk of the course, Graeme Mee assembling horses. Abandonment of the meeting was not considered. “We downgraded the track to slushy after race 4 but no safety concerns were expressed by the drivers,” said Liam Tidmarsh, the chairman of stewards. Some races turned into processions, a reflection of horses not suited by the track condition. The last horse was 149 lengths from the winner in the Cup. Madison Jane justified her hot favouritism for the C0 trot with a seven and a half length win when the weather was fine. “She is only a wee thing but she has a great attitude,’’ said Phil Williamson, the trainer of the 3yr-old filly who was having her first race since July. She led over the last 1200m. Spotlight The Valley won the other trot by four lengths after starting from 20m and leading for the last 1500m. Gavin Cook repeated his win of two years in the race for amateur drivers. He drove the longshot Redmaro, owned by his wife, Marie Keith and Robyn Gibson, of Upper Hutt and Wanaka were on hand to see their 4yr-old Late Mail regain winning form. “He (Late Mail) showed a lot early but was no good at three and Chris McDowell has done a good job getting him back on track,’’ said Keith.   Tayler Strong

Whether or not  last season’s Horse of the Year, Monbet, makes it back onto the track this season is sitting in limbo. The Dominion Handicap winner of last month will undergo a minor operation on Tuesday to have a bone chip removed from a knee after it was discovered following his Group One double during Cup Week. Co-trainer Greg Hope, who trains with his wife Nina, said the bone chip was only a minor issue, but it was something he felt needed to be sorted out. “It’s nothing too serious, but it’s there and we are better off getting on top of it,” Hope said. “We had him x-rayed after Cup Week and it came up there. He’ll have it removed on Tuesday.” After the operation, Monbet will be required to be boxed for up to six weeks which leaves the rest of his season in doubt according to Hope. That means no Australia for the Great Southern Star and even races like the Rowe Cup, which he won last year, are also in doubt. “We obviously won’t be rushing him, there’s no need too. “We will give him the time he needs and then bring him up and see where we are at before making any decisions.” The loss of Monbet is another blow for the open class trotting ranks who continue to be depleted by injuries. Speeding Spur is still on the sidelines and the news from the Stent camp isn’t encouraging. His co-trainer, Colin DeFilippi confirmed last night that there had been another setback on the comeback trail. “His leg has blown up again, so I’m not really sure where we are at. “We won’t be doing anything for at least couple of weeks.” Master Lavros is on the right path to make it to Auckland which is encouraging but the ball is firmly in the court of Marcoola who will head to Methven on Sunday and then to Auckland. While it was a tough week for the Hopes, they did gain some small consolation when Everybody Knows continued his march towards open class with another strong victory last night at Addington. The diminutive trotter worked hard during the final lap of the race but was too good for his opposition, picking up his third win in his last five starts. HRNZ News

Monbet has just completed one of the great weeks in New Zealand trotting history and did it without being anywhere near his best. And if you think that assessment from owner and trainer Greg Hope may be just a little post-race drama, the Canterbury horseman is putting his money where his mouth is. Because the champion trotter, who smashed yet another national record winning the $260,000 Dominion at Addington on Friday  may not race again this summer, so concerned is Hope with some issues troubling the magnificent five-year-old. “I am putting him in the paddock and he will definitely miss the major races up north over Christmas,” said Hope. “We bought him up to win this race so he had all the big trots in the country next to his name in the space of a year. “But to be honest we have been nursing him through. He has some little issues which are bugging him and with a break I think they will settle down. “So we have been cautious with those. I don’t want to say too much but they are wear and tear issues with a leg so we want to give him a break now. “I think long-term he will be fine but we are willing to forgo the northern races and if he comes back at all this summer it might be for the Great Southern Star in Melbourne as a hit and run mission. “We are so proud of what he has done we aren’t going to take any chances with him.” Hope and his wife Nina have plenty to be proud of as Monbet tore almost two seconds off the national 3200m record holding out stablemate Quite A Moment in the great trot, courtesy of a patiently perfect Ricky May drive. He has won two group ones in three days, both in record time, without quite dominating as he did last season, suggesting something wasn’t quite right. But the reality is, with the other three big established stars in open class trotting sidelined, even a 90 per cent Monbet is too good for the remainder. The good news is Hope is confident the issues troubling his stable star will not threaten his career long-term, especially if he is looked after now. In almost any other Cup week Monbet would be the King but that title had already been bestowed on Lazarus in Tuesday’s New Zealand Cup and he wore the crown with brutal majesty in the Pacing Free-For-All yesterday. His rivals were in no mood for reputations as Christen Me burned to the lead early and driver Dexter Dunn kept up a pulsating speed, making Lazarus work for very centremetre of the 1950m. For a few seconds at the 400m mark when Christen Me stole a length break Lzarus looked in trouble but once he got balanced up in the straight he simply had too much strength for his $2.4million earning rival. It was a performance every bit as special as his New Zealand Cup win and in some ways more impressive because nothing went this way and it is hard to think of another New Zealand pacer this millennium who could have done with Lazarus did yesterday. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will now plot his summer path but the Auckland Cup is no certainty, with Australian riches beckoning in February and March. The pair’s double-double, both in group ones and both in national record time, made for one of the greatest Cup weeks Addington has ever hosted.   Michael Guerin

Greg Hope is confident he knows the answer to the only question surrounding Monbet in today’s $260,000 Dominion at Addington today. The champion trotter sets up a red-hot group one double with Lazarus in the New Zealand Free-For-All as the two glamour boys of harness racing look to extend their Cup week domination. While Lazarus’s jaw-dropper in the New Zealand Cup on Tuesday was all anybody was talking about, Monbet racked up another national record when he overcame a second line draw to win the Free-For-All Trot just two hours earlier. In doing so he down Marcoola, who isn’t in today’s Dominion so it is hard to see how Monbet gets beaten unless Tuesday’s run exposed his sole Achilles Heal --- backing up from a hard run. The only time Monbet has been beaten in the last 12 months was in the Grand Prix in Melbourne when he looked badly out of sorts after two hard runs the previous two Saturdays. He has blazing speed and French-bred stamina but he is still quite a light horse who seems to take a lot out of himself when he races, with Tuesday’s national record win no walk in the park. But trainer Hope says the signs heading into today are perfect. “He pulled up perfectly sound after his win, which was the first thing,” says Hope. “And he has spent a couple of days on the lead rope jogging behind other horses and seems very happy. “There are no signs of him being tired or knocked around so I think we are going into this as good as we can be.” Hope is also happy with the wide draw on the front line and his greatest concern is the free-going Bordeaux may be determined to keep the front and therefore luck with could come into play. Because if Monbet is able to work forward and wrest the lead, the race should be over. Bordeaux has been a big improver this spring and could take some catching while newcomers who didn’t contest the Free-For-All on Tuesday who have some hope include the mares Sunny Ruby and Harriet Of Mot. But as they both showed at Kaikoura they are hardly foolproof and would need the favourite to have some bad luck to beat him. So the best place value for those not keen on Monbet’s skinny win odds might be Australian visitor Kyvalley Blur, a hardened old warrior who will keep trucking over the 3200m. Skinny odds are again the problem for punters in the Pacing Free-For-All because after his demolition job on Tuesday, Lazarus could start around $1.20. His draw is potentially tricky on paper as he has plenty of speedsters drawn around him but the respect he has earned this spring is likely to see him work to the front as not many drivers will want a relentless Lazarus sitting outside them, especially when the money for second is so good. So he should simply win again, but that doesn’t solve our problem of how to make money out of the race. Tiger Tara won this race last year and was a very brave second in the Cup so if he can hold up from the ace draw he could be the best place bet, although Field Marshall must be a chance of crossing him early. The latter was slightly disappointing when third to Dream About Me in the junior free-for-all on Tuesday but if he was to sit behind Lazarus, should the favourite lead, then he becomes the obvious quinella or place hope. Dream About Me has been so magnificent her entire career it is hard to believe she could be $7 or $8 today but it is hard to see a pathway to the winner’s circle for her, with her best chance being a war early and the chance to swoop late. Today she finds herself not only racing Lazarus for the first time but also her older half-brother Christen Me, an incredible rarity in pacing at this level.   Michael Guerin

As far as racing resumptions go, they couldn’t have come much more perfect than that of Monbet’s on Monday. The reigning Horse of the Year made light work of his first run since the Harness Jewels back in June when he claimed the Ashburton Trotters’ Flying Mile in a very slick 1.55.2 for the one mile distance. Off the back of just one solitary workout, many expected the Group One winning machine to be in need of a run and even saw him as vulnerable first up. But when Ricky May asked for an effort of the son of Love You with 200 metres to run and he strode up to a valiant Harriet Of Mot any preconceived ideas that he would be beaten went quickly out the window. “He did it pretty easy,” May said. “Apart from knocking off when he got to the front he was perfect, he’s come a long way off the back of that workout last week, even just to look at - he looks magnificent.” May managed to pull all the right strings with the five-year-old gelding and was in turn given a little luck on the home bend when he was able to slot onto the back of Marcoola after Jag’s Invasion galloped. That was the difference between being trapped three wide without cover for the final 600 metres and getting a decent breather in before they straightened for home. “I don’t think it would have changed the result with the way he felt, but it certainly helped the cause,” May added. A rampant favourite for the Dominion Handicap in just over two weeks time, Monbet will head to the trials at Addington next Wednesday as opposed to Kaikoura on Monbet where he was touted as being headed. “We will miss Kaikoura now that I’ve seen that,” co-trainer Greg Hope said. “He can head to the Cup trials and that should have him ready for the Dominion, that workout last week has clearly worked wonders for him, you could see him late last week really lift. “I still think he’s only 85 per cent, so we have some room to work with which is good. “But it’s a perfect start really. We couldn’t ask for much more from him and it’s a bit of a relief to have that one out of the way.” While Monbet was superb there were meritorious performances in behind him too. Harriet Of Mot showed that, if given the opportunity, she will snare a big race in her career. She set the hot speed after burning from behind the gate and went down fighting to a potential champion of trotting. Marcoola, in his first run against the open class horses was far from disgraced in third after burning around to get outside the leader at the 800 metre mark. Both will now become key players in the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All on Cup Day - a race without Monbet. But on what was offered up on Monday at Ashburton, it’s going to take something exceptional to beat him on the Friday in the Dominion Handicap.   Matt Markham

Champion trotter Monbet is back but not to his best. So while trainer Greg Hope was thrilled with the Horse of the Year’s return at the Ashburton workouts today, he says the superstar could be vulnerable in the Flying Mile on the same track next Monday. Monbet wasn’t asked to fully stretch himself when he came from a 40m backmark to finish second to All Lit Up in today’s trot workout, finishing with the removable hood still in place. But Hope was smiling as the five-year-old trotted the 2400m in 3:4, his last 800m in 57 and the final 400 in 26.7 seconds. “It was ideal for what we needed and Ricky (May, driver) was happy, which is the main thing.”
 Hope says Monbet is showing no ill effects from banging his leg two weeks ago and has no soundness issues going into his first race of the season. “But he can still be vulnerable on Monday,” he warns. “I am glad his first race back is a mile but if he draws badly then he is beatable. “If he draws wide he may not be ready to make his own luck and then it becomes hard to win over a mile when you really have to be up in the speed.”
 So the draws, which come out around lunchtime on Wednesday, will be crucial. Hope is also likely to deviate from his original early campaign plan and take Monbet to Kaikoura for their feature trot on October 31 even though he doesn’t want to. “If he came out and went super on Monday then we might be able to get away with only going to the Cup trials a week later. “But the whole aim is to have him fit enough to win the Dominion (November 11) and  to do that he might need another race so at this stage he is likely to head to Kaikoura, even though I’d prefer to miss it.”
 Monbet got as long as $1.90 to win the Dominion, from which fellow stars Speeding Spur, Stent and Master Lavros are missing, but is back into $1.70 after today’s reappearance. There has been movement in the New Zealand Cup market too, with Smolda into $5 after winning the Methven Cup and long-time favourite Have Faith In Me out to $4 because of his manners concerns. Those three and many of the other main NZ Cup chances will clash in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on Monday.  Michael Guerin

When it comes to Monbet even the smallest setback has a significant ripple effect. The champion trotter missed a trial at Ashburton today after banging a leg the night before but trainer Greg Hope says it will only delay his campaign a week. But so dominant is Monbet in the market for his first major aim for the season, the Dominion on November 11, some bookies suspended markets as soon as the rumours started. “It really isn’t anything serious,” says Hope. “He looks like he has banged his leg, just above the knee, maybe on a fence or even his feed bin. “Because of who he is we had some x-rays taken and even some fluid from the area analyzed and he is fine. “ It means he will have three easy days and then back to work so I don’t in any way see it costing him any fitness for the Dominion. “He is that big and strong this time in I would say he will definitely be better than last year if it wasn’t for the fact people would think I was crazy for saying that.” Hope says the plan is to race Monbet just once before the Dominion, in the Flying Mile at Ashburton on October 24 but he would not be hugely concerned if he missed that race. “We can work at home with horses like Harrysul and Quite A Moment so we get a good gauge on him and even if he went into the Dominion with only the Cup trial trot the week before I think he would be fine.” Hope has also ruled out any chance of Monbet starting in both the NZ Free-For-All, on Cup day November 8. “Definitely not. If the Dominion was Cup Day and the Free-For-All three days later we would, but not the way it is presently.” That will be music to the ears of rival trainers as they queue for the crumbs from Monbet’s table, especially with New Zealand’s three best other trotters --- Master Lavros, Stent and Speeding Spur --- set to miss that carnival. Monbet would be a dominant Dominion favourite anyway but with his only serious rivals sidelined, horses who wouldn’t normally be in the Dominion conversation are edging up the market. The most surprising of them is Australian veteran Kyvalley Blur, who makes his New Zealand debut at Alexandra Park on Friday. A perennial group race placegetter, Kyvalley Blur is trained by former Kiwi horseman Brent Lilley, with two big recent wins at Melton sealing his trip. “He has got a lot little stronger and is racing well but the reality of this trip is, the big trot races over there are looking a bit light behind Monbet,” sats Lilley. “I am going to the Cup meeting anyway because we have Messini for the Cup and this horse has earned his trip. “And Monbet not likely to start in all the biggest races so he could even pick up a race like the Trotting Free-For-All.” But Lilley’s stable star and Autstralia’s best trotter Keystone Del is almost certain not to make the trip back his homeland. Good enough to beat both Monbet, when he galloped, and Speeding Spur in the Grand Prix last season, Keystone Del has little form from a standing start (Dominion) so Lilley is likely to keep him in Australia. “There is a A$50,000 race at home the day after the Dominion that probably suits him better so I doubt he will come, unless something happens to Monbet between now and then. Kyvalley Blur starts from the outside of the front line against moderate opposition on Friday night. “He is a lovely gaited horse so I am sure he will handle Alexandra Park then he will head down south.”   Michael Guerin

Promising 6yo gelding Bettor Buy It won his fourth race in impressive fashion at the Kurow harness racing meeting on Sunday. By boom sire Bettor’s Delight and a half brother to good horses Sweet Talking Man and Stylish Sweetheart, Bettor Buy It had looked the best horse in the race on paper and started a logical favorite. He was given a perfect run in the one by one by talented junior driver Rory Mcllwrick and was not pushed to beat home last start winner Mr Handleman while pacing a quick 56.2 seconds for his closing 800m. The win gave trainers Greg and Nina Hope a trifecta of wins for the day after first starter A G’s White Socks shot clear and held on earlier in the day and then later on My Amour just lasted to salute the judge in the C1 trot. Greg and Nina currently lead the 2016/2017 trainers premiership with three wins from six starters. The Kurow Cup was won by Stunin Dude after a good drive by Blair Orange. He began well from his 10m handicap and was quickly away from the fence and up challenging for the lead after 600m. After trailing Provocative Prince for the rest of the race Stunin Dude scooted up the passing lane and beat a handy field, most of whom struggled to make ground on a quick overall time of 3:17.5 for the standing start 2600m. Blair Orange currently shares the lead with Andre Poutama in the 2016/2017 drivers premiership with three wins. Bettor Buy It video   Stunin Dude video   Harnesslink Media

Freak Harness Racing Trainer Paul Nairn will take two runners to Addington Raceway tomorrow. But don't bother jumping in the car and heading to the local Tab to back them, because his runners Conon Bridge and Wilma's Mate are only there to contest heats of the non tote Australasian Breeders Crown. 3yo Raffaello Ambrosio colt Conon Bridge is up against Blood n Whiskey (Robert Dunn) and My Amour (Greg & Nina Hope) in the first of the non tote events. If the Tab opened up a market you would expect to see Conon Bridge a short priced favourite on the back of his jewels placing. His stable man, Wilma's Mate, a 3yo Pegasus Spur filly owned by Richard Cornelius only has to compete against the Gavin Smith trained Oona. Again she should be winning after her jewels placing. Both runners are to be driven by Bob Butt who looks to have a massive show of picking up a treble when he lines up his own runner Matatoki in race four. A talented 3yo by Swedish stallion Revenue, Matatoki is on the look out for a penalty free win before the end of the season. While his last start was in January a handy recent trial at Ashburton has him well in commission for a winning resumption. With those three races out of the way, Butt will drive Gee Up Neddy in race eight for Yaldhurst trainer Leonne Jones. His recent form has been in top class races and before that the 5yo gelding was a super winner at Rangiora. Butt will also drive Race 1 - Aunty Jan - Phil Burrows Race 10 - Junior - David & Catherine Butt Andrew Fitzgerald

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

Greg Hope will arrive at Cambridge Raceway tomorrow a lot more confident than when he left it last Saturday.   Because the Canterbury trainer now believes juvenile trot favourite Enghien is set to do things right in his $100,000 division of Jewels Day.   Enghien has been the red hot favourite since destroying almost all of his opponents tomorrow in the Sires’ Stakes Trot at Addington two weeks ago, giving the likes of Custodian and Habibi Inta a huge start and thrashing them.   That suggested he only has to bring that form and manners to race two tomorrow to win but the manners component looked far from a done deal when he galloped away wildly from behind the mobile in a simple two-horse workout at Cambridge last Saturday.   That sent a shiver down Hope’s spine but he has rested easier since Enghien was far more professional during private use of the mobile starting gate at Cambridge on Wednesday.   “We have worked on a few things and he was great,” says Hope, who trains in partnership with wife Nina.    “He was far more relaxed and now I am too because I am more confident he will go away safely.”   For all the genius of Custodian’s new trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and the freakish ability of Habibi Inta’s mentor Paul Nairn, a well-behaved Enghien looks the first good thing of the day tomorrow.   Even hotter will be his stablemate Monbet who looks certain to complete his stunning season by overcoming a wide draw in the four-year-old trot, with Hope thrilled with New Zealand’s best trotter. Michael Guerin

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