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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

Punters putting their faith in the most unusual of hands for Harness Jewels day end could end up praying for a recently changed rule to come to their aid. While the champion All Stars stable has four of the nine favourites at Saturday’s $1.2million meeting, the three hottest favourites of the day are set to be trotters. Once the bain of the harness racing punter and still responsible for the Jewels greatest upset when Charlemagne won paying $90.70 in 2012, the trotters are set to be the multi bettor’s darlings this week. Monbet is rated a $1.12 chance, Marcoola $1.15 to win the three-year-old trot and Enghien only $1.40 in the juvenile feature. Those figures are undoubtedly a record low for three trotters on the same programme in New Zealand racing, let alone all contesting group ones. And they could have been shorter but for the scare put into the Enghien camp by his gallop from behind the mobile at the Cambridge workouts on Saturday. Trainer Greg Hope was initially so concerned by the wild gallop he asked stewards if the exciting youngster could be placed on the unruly for Saturday but that request had to be made before Friday’s draws. “Otherwise, as they pointed out to me, Mark Purdon could ask to have Dream About Me put on the unruly rather than one on the second line in her race. So I see their point,” admits Hope. “I am going to put an undercheck on him to stop him throwing his head in the air and I am sure he will settle down but it did shake my confidence a bit.” Ironically, one of harness racing’s rarely-engaged rules could aid Enghien if he does get too stirred up and gallop behind the mobile. If, and it is one of the big ifs of the day, Enghien does gallop from barrier three in the score up then he only needs to check another rival for a false start to be declared, at which point driver Ricky May would be asked if he wanted to move to the outside of the front line. Any such request would be undoubtedly met with a “yes” because while it hardly sounds ideal, his last-start thrashing of his main race rivals at Addington suggest Enghien could give them a few lengths at the start and still win providing he goes away smoothly. So from the time the mobile gate starts rolling for race two could be among the most nerve-wracking 30 seconds of the day for punters. Hope has no such concerns with stable star Monbet, even though he has drawn the outside of the front line in the four-year-old trot. “He trotted beautifully on Saturday and I couldn’t be happier with him,” said Hope. “So even if he has to sit parked I’d be fine with that.”
 While Marcoola hasn’t raced since winning the Northern Derby on April 29 and finished last of two in his workout at Pukekohe, he may actually be the best winning chance of the three hot to trot favourites. He wasn’t asked for his best by driver Clint Ford when he finished alongside four-year-old Paramount Dream in his workout and trotted smoothly, looking spot on for Saturday. “I think he has got stronger and from our draw (four) I’ll be going forward and trying for the front,” says Ford. His task has been made easier by arch rival High Gait being shipped off to Australia while newcomers Lemond and Temporale’s chances have been badly dented by them drawing the second line, along with Sales Series winner Wilma’s Mate. Meanwhile, the juvenile male pace is down to 12 starters after Motu Meteor joined The Kaik as an early scratching, meaning it will comprise two lines of six. Michael Guerin

Enghien's​ tardy effort at Saturday's Harness Jewels workouts has the warning bells ringing with a deafening tone for favourite punters. The dominant two-year-old Ruby favourite was never comfortable behind the mobile and galloped away from the gate at Cambridge Raceway. His fractious performance was enough for co-trainer Greg Hope to admit he now has some serious concerns around the son of Love You's manners heading in to the $100,000 Group I next Saturday. So much so, Hope made a plea to move Enghien to the unruly because he thought he was a better chance of stepping away and was probably still good enough to win from there. But his request to give away his handy draw of barrier three was declined because punters had already bet into the post-draw market. Hope said he cannot give punters any guarantees and Enghien's post-barrier draw quote of $1.18 seems sure to drift when the Jewels markets re-open on Sunday. "I'm not overly confident with him now, more hopeful. "We've got some work to do with him during the week," Hope said. Hope officially trains in partnership with wife Nina but their son Ben, an integral part of their Woodend Beach operation, will also be working triple overtime in the next seven days. Enghien was still good enough to beat home Mortician, the only other runner in the heat, but he will not be winning the Jewels if he gives away 50m like he did at the workouts. "He trotted lovely afterwards, he finished it off really well but the start is a concern," Hope said. Everything centres around the start for Enghien – if he gets away safely it is most likely game over for his rivals. Enghien only arrived in the north on Thursday and Hope said it is a possibility the trip may have taken something out of the talented trotter and he may settle in this week. It was a morning of rocks and diamonds for the Hope team with four-year-old Ruby favourite Monbet looking every bit the champion he is with a leisurely jog in 2:00.6 for the mile on an easy-rated track. Hope cannot fault Monbet, a winner of six Group I races already this season, and was "really happy" with his hit-out. Meanwhile, any doubts around the health of Field Marshal have been put to bed. An impressive workout win has confirmed to punters what trainer Tim Butt already knew – a minor bout of colic on May 17 has done nothing to decrease his chances in the four-year-old Emerald. Field Marshal did a bit of work off the gate to lead all the way. He cut out the 2200m trip in 2:44.5 with a mile rate of 2:00.3 and closing sectionals of 58.1 and 26.6 to beat home Bettor Spirits by one-and-a-quarter lengths with a further two-and-a-quarter back to Chase The Dream. "It was probably the perfect trial for him," Butt said. A dual Group I winner in his last two starts when winning the Taylor Mile and Messenger, Field Marshal's chances of a third win on the trot at the elite level have only been helped by drawing the ace. Field Marshal can burn the gate and in the hands of Dexter Dunn will be going straight to the front and Butt is not cornered about leading all the way. "People have him as a speed horse, which he is, but he's put in some really tough runs too. "I'll leave it up to Dexter but when you draw there over a mile your hand is forced to try and lead all the way really," Butt said. Field Marshal's favouritism is likely to firm off the workout win, especially with main rival Titan Banner starting from the outside of the front-line. Mat Kermeen

Mark Purdon​ and Natalie Rasmussen's all-conquering All Stars stable has  been smacked with a significant blow eight days out from the Harness Jewels. The All Stars stable has been unstoppable in premier meetings at Addington Raceway over the last couple of weeks, but with three of their best chances striking shocking draws for the Jewels at Cambridge on June 4, that could change. Dream About Me, Spanish Armada and Titan Banner are three of the biggest losers from Friday's barrier draws. Dream About Me, who was a $1.35 favourite pre-barrier draw for the three-year-old Diamond following her brilliant win in the Group I New Zealand Oaks on Saturday, has come up with the worst possible draw. The star filly will start from the inside of the second line but will follow out Killer Queen, who has gate speed. Dream About Me, now $1.95, has held on to favouritism but only just over stablemate Golden Goddess ($2.30). Nek Time has a reasonable draw of barrier four but will need to cross All Stars runners Piccadilly Princess (two) and Golden Goddess (three) to find the lead. Spanish Armada is short at $1.45 for the two-year-old Diamond from her second line draw but with main rival and second favourite Delightful Memphis ($4.50) drawing wide on the front line, she still holds the upper hand. All Stars runner More The Better is a $1.60 favourite from his second line draw in the two-year-old Emerald but he could get a nice drag through behind stablemate Ultimate Machete.   Pacing Major is second favourite at $2.30 but his chances seem much more remote than his price suggests from the inside of the second line. Purdon and Rasmussen's runner in the four-year-old Emerald, Titan Banner ($2.70), has drawn the outside of the front line and to make matters worse, main rival Field Marshal ($1.70) will start from the ace. The All Stars stable looks a big chance in the three-year-old Emerald with favourite Heaven Rocks ($1.95) drawing barrier five and the forgotten runner in the race, Chase The Dream ($2.80), leaving the mobile arm from barrier seven. Marcoola looks to have the three-year-old Ruby at his mercy with a handy draw.  The Ken Ford-trained runner has barrier five but will likely move into barrier four when emergency Sea Eyre comes out. Unbeaten his his last seven starts and already a dual Group I winner this season, the $1.16 favourite should cross to the front easy enough and will be tough to beat in the hands of Clint Ford. Rocker Band's chances in the four-year-old Diamond has taken a massive hit with drawing the inside of the second line. The big winner from the draw is Democrat Party, who will move into barrier four presuming emergency A Damn Good Excuse comes out. Now back in the care of Barry Purdon​, Democrat Party has been made a $2.30 favourite with main dangers Expressive Victor ($11), Better B Amazed ($6) and On The Town ($7) starting outside Rocker Band ($10) on the second line. Monbet​ ($1.10), who was so dominant he was left out of the pre-barrier market for the four-year-old Ruby, has drawn the outside of the front line but driver Ricky May told Trackside Radio he did not think it would stop the Greg and Nina Hope-trained trotter from winning. Harriet Of Mot's ($26) chances appear all but gone after she drew the inside of the second line but second favourite Sunny Ruby ($4) and driver Gavin Smith with have plenty of options from barrier two. The Hope's other big show, Enghien, has been shortened to $1.18 on the back of coming up with barrier three in the two-year-old Ruby. Mat Kermeen

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

Greg Hope paid tribute to an often unheard of factor in the success of many of New Zealand’s best horses after the win of Enghien today. Kerry Estreich isn’t a name that many people would instantly recognise, but the Mid Canterbury horseman is an integral part of many stables around the Canterbury region. Estreich is the farrier for the Greg and Nina Hope stable, and also does the shoeing work for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen as well as a number of others and plenty of trainers speak highly of his talents. “Kerry does a fantastic job, and he’s constantly looking at ways to improve horses through shoeing. “The work he’s done with Enghien has been a massive part of the reason he’s been going so well, his gait wasn’t perfect but Kerry’s worked on him and got him trotting great at the moment. “He still reckons he can get more speed out of him too, but we won’t be changing the way he’s been shod at the moment.” The son of Love You announced himself as the best trotter in the land with his victory in the Lone Star Riccarton Sires’ Stakes 2YO Trot. He overcame a tricky inside of the second line barrier draw which left him spotting rival, and race favourite, Habibi Inta up to 15 lengths at the one mile, but Ricky May never panicked and cautiously moved forward to find parked heading into the back straight the last time. “He trotted a lot better once I got him out and rolling,” May said. “It’s pretty tough going out there with the wind so it was a good effort to get around them and still win like he did.” After drawing level with Habibi Inta at the 400 metre mark, Enghien cleared out at the top of the straight and waltzed his way to victory by three and a half lengths. “His staying ability is quite impressive,” Hope said. “He just loves to keep on rolling, Ricky summed him up perfectly.” In winning, the Hope and Richard Dellaca, who own the gelding, not only picked up the $29,000 winning prize but also claimed the right to wear the Harness Jewels colours at Cambridge on June 4 – giving the stable their second Jewels leader with Monbet also donning the canary yellow. Custodian, who will join the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen after being sold, was the best of the beaten brigade in second while Heavyweight Hero continued his turnaround in form with a strong third. Habibi Inta faded late to finish in fourth position. Enghien Matt Markham

Greg Hope knows there is only one Monbet​ but the 12-1/2 length victory of Enghien​ on Saturday is enough to suggest he can be a more than handy second stringer. Two years ago it was Monbet who ran the field off their feet to win the 2-year-old Ruby at the Harness Jewels in Cambridge and the Hopes will take a similar game plan with Enghien in the same race next month. Another son of emerging super sire Love You, Enghien was a class above in leading most of the way in Saturday's Listed $65,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales trot for the 2-year-olds at Addington. Greg Hope believes Enghien can be as good as any other 2-year-old in the country this season. "Ricky (May) said he jogged it, he won with a leg in the air really," Hope said. "He's got a big motor, he's one of those horses that love running hard all the way," Hope said. Hope, who trains in partnership with wife Nina at Woodend Beach, confirmed Enghien will return to Addington on Saturday for the $60,000 Group II Sires Stakes championship before heading north for the Jewels. Monbet looks almost certain to give the Hopes one victory in the 4-year-Ruby but with Enghien ($2.80) second favourite behind Habibi Inta ($1.80) for the 2-year-old Ruby, it is only natural the Monbet comparisons will come. "They've probably got the same sort of motor, but Monbet, well there's only one Monbet," Hope said. The Hopes firmly believe Enghien is at his best in a tough staying test where he can grind the opposition down and take the speed out of them. "He comes into his own the harder the go," Hope said. "He can run even sectionals but at this stage his gait probably lets him down a wee bit. "If he stays on his feet I think he is as good as any of the 2-year-olds going around this year." But the Hopes are confident the best of Enghien will not be seen until later in his career when his gait is improved and there is more pace in his races. "He'll be a lot better suited up in the grades as an older horse because obviously they do go harder then and he won't have to go out and do it himself." Saturday's race will be harder for Enghien when he clashes with Habibi Inta. The Paul Nairn-trained colt is a full brother to Habibti, Habibti Ivy and Lothario. He has two wins over Enghien but one was by a nose on the grass at Methven and the other was when the Hope runner galloped. "He's working really well and we are happy with him," Nairn said of Habibi Inta leading into Saturday's race. Enghien Meanwhile, Monbet is a chance to go into the Jewels without a trial. Hope said no final decision had been made but at this stage the unbackable favourite would start fresh. Such is the dominance of Monbet, the TAB bookmakers have opened the market without him. Hope said the winner of 13 from his last 15 starts has come back in perfect order from a short break following his Rowe Cup winning heroics. "We're really rapt with him, he seems to be have come back better than ever." Usain Colt gave the Hopes and May a race-to-race double when he upset the field in a super series pace. Going into Saturday's meeting, Usain Colt was 37th in the pecking order for the 4-year-old Emerald but his third win of the season has seen him jump to 13th. Hope said he would return to Addington on Saturday in a bid to confirm his trip to Cambridge. Usain Colt Nairn also struck success when Le Reveur​ was a one length winner in the $40,000 Listed Sires Stakes Aged Trotters Classic. Favourite Great Things Happen hit the line nicely in second but left his run too late. Second favourite Harriet Of Mot lost her chance early when she and Zachary Binx were cleaned up by a galloping All Lit Up. Le Reveur Mat Kermeen

A busy month lays in wait for promising juvenile trotter, Enghien. And because of that busy schedule, the gelding’s co-trainer Greg Hope is quite happy to take every easy win he can get. Easy is probably the best word to describe the manner in which the son of Love You dealt to his rivals is today’s PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series No.25 2YO Trot – winning by 12 and a half lengths, going close to breaking Sheemon’s national record in the process. “He just keeps getting better,” Hope, who trains with his wife, Nina, said. “His gait is improving all the time and he’s developing into quite a rounded tidy racehorse.” Driven confidently by Ricky May, Enghien worked to find the lead early but looked comfortable once he got there and when asked the question at the 500 metre mark he snuck away and put the race beyond doubt. “He really seems to enjoy that rolling type of race, he just keeps on going that one speed. “It’s a little bit like what Monbet could do at the same age really because only a few can do that at this age.” Enghien will return to Addington next week to tackle the Sires’ Stakes final, meaning a clash with rival Habibi Inta. Safely through that assignment it’s on to the Harness Jewels and a workout the week before at Cambridge. “It’s a lot of work for a horse in one month, especially with the travelling he’s got to do to get up North. “But he had that pretty easy today so hopefully it shouldn’t take too much out of him and we can keep him quite fresh.” On what has been seen so far it will be Enghien and Habibi Inta who fight for favouritism in the 2YO Ruby. The pair have looked head and shoulders above the rest of the crop since early on in proceedings. Raced by Hope and Richard Dellaca, Enghien is another product of the wonderful maternal line of Another Starlet. Bred by the late Carl Middleton and his wife, Heather, the gelding has a long family line of performers before him and even at this early stage he looks to have the credentials to go on and be the best of them. The Hopes and May combination were back in business in the very next race when Usain Colt made the most of a dream run in the trail to sneak up the passing lane and win his Super Series Final impressively. The early double took the Hopes to 49 winners for the season and into a firm third on the trainers’ premiership while May moved into fourth position on the drivers’ title race with 76 wins. Enghien HRNZ MEDIA

If Marcoola becomes New Zealand's latest dual Trotting Derby winner tonight driver Clint Ford will have an unusual mentor to thank --- champion rugby coach Robbie Deans. After clearly outstaying the same rivals in the Sires' Stakes last Friday, Marcoola looks perfectly suited by tonight's 2700m mobile and may have gained enough respect to earn himself the lead. If he does that it would seem only High Gait, who was a brave fourth after galloping last Friday, should test him, especially if she trailed from the ace draw. But as so often happens with three-year-old trotters, Marcoola looks to be holding his peak form and it will take a very good horse to run him down. Which puts Ford in a group one hot seat, a place he is starting to feel more comfortable even against driving superstars like Herlihy, McKendry, May and Rasmussen. Ford does the driving of Marcoola in a family training set-up which sees his father Ken officially train the three-year-old, while sister Amanda Tomlinson also works horses from the same Canterbury property. "It is a real family affair but I do all the work with this horse," says Clint. "He trotted great last week but it almost wasn't until about half an hour after the win last week it sunk in what we are achieving. "When you are out there driving it is just like a maiden race, its the same type of stuff but its after you win a race like the Derby you realise it is quite a big deal."
 Ford says while driving in the big time initially took him out of his comfort zone, that was the same when he played rugby, in which he made it all the way to the verges of the Canterbury NPC squad. "Back then my coach at Canterbury Country was Robbie Deans and he always said if you want to get anywhere near the top, you have to be able to push through your comfort zone. "I have never forgotten that, it has always stuck with me. So when I started getting out here driving in these big races, I tried to enjoy in, even though I wasn't comfortable to start with. "And now I am a lot more relaxed." So too is Marcoola, who even after a hard run last Friday has thrived this week. As good as High Gait is, she is probably going to need the perfect trail and one passing lane shot to get past the southerner tonight. While Ford is still coming to grips with the big time, one of the most relaxed men in harness racing will dominate tonight's other group one trot. Ricky May should only have to keep superstar trotter Monbet out of trouble to win the $150,000 Rowe Cup, even though it is his first start over 3200m. The four-year-old has been sensational all season and with the three other best trotters in the country sidelined, tonight's race is his to lose. His draw of one on the second line is hardly ideal but it also allows May to drive conservatively before moving mid-race, not the worst scenario for a young horse against the hardened pros over the extreme distance. Of those rivals only Sheemon is a serious group one winner so looks the obvious threat in a race that suits him. Courtesy of Michael Guerin

The feature race at tomorrow's harness racing meeting at Ascot Park is the $40,000 Northern Southern Cup and Southlander Archie Affleck is hoping his pride and joy Mossdale Conner can break his duck for the season and win one for the locals. With the great stakemoney on offer tomorrow, the leading Canterbury stables have come south in their droves and on paper thay look to have a strangle hold on most of the better races. Although trained in Canterbury by Greg and Nina Hope, Mossdale Conner was bred and is owned in Southland and locals would love nothing more than to see him chalk a win up for Southland tomorrow. Even though he hasn't won a race this season in 13 starts, he has recorded 3 seconds and four thirds and all those placings were at the highest level as his stake earnings of $180,855 would testify to. Due to his lack of a win this season, Mossdale Conner has actually dropped back one grade from C7 to C6 which means even though he is the only horse in the field who has run on the Grand Circuit all season, he is actually going to receive a 10 metre start tomorrow from both Titan Banner and Quick As A Trick. All that points to Mossdale Conner looking a class above them from his 20 metre handicap and driver Ricky May was confident of a big run when spoken to earlier in the week. " He has gone super all year in the big races like the New Zealand Cup, NZ FFA, Auckland Cup and the Victoria Cup to mention just a few and does look a class above most here." " Greg is very happy with him so he has to be hard to beat on Saturday," Ricky said. Trainer Greg Hope won't be at Ascot Park tomorrow as he has Quite A Moment lining up in the Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton but is very confident that Mossdale Conner is close to his peak for tomorrow's race. " He has come back from Australia in great condition and his recent trial at Rangiora was very good." " His work since has been right up there with his best and I think he will be awfully hard to beat back with horses of his own grade on Saturday," Greg said. Mossdale Conner may not have won a race all season but it would be fitting if the Southland owned gelding could break his duck in the Northern Southland Cup on Saturday. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing trainer Greg Hope knew in his heart this week that his star young trotter Monbet would face a much stiffer challenge in the final of the Australasian Trotting Championship Final at Tabcorp Park Melton than he had in his heat win at Ballarat a week ago. With all of his competition having a 20 metre start over Monbet, you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to deduce that the front markers would try to make his task as hard as possible by keeping the pace as hot as possible throughout the contest. Which is exactly what they did with no let up at any stage of the $50,575 Final as the lead changed a couple of times during the running. Monbet and driver Ricky May were slow but safely away from their 20 metres handicap but seem to take an eternity to latch on to the back of the bunch with just over two laps to go. Habibti and Gavin Lang had found the front by then and the tempo was hot but when One Over Da Moon was sent forward three wide by Chris Alford, Monbet followed him around and worked to the death seat with just over a round to go. Habibti looked to have Monbet in some trouble passing the 400 metres mark but as they straightened for home Ricky asked for a supreme effort and like the champion he is Monbet lifted and mastered Habibti. Having done all that work throughout the race,Monbet was a sitting duck for the swoopers and they were lead by the outstanding mare Claudys Princess who looked a chance half way up the straight to roll the favourite but Monbet held too many guns in the final 100 metres to record an absolutely sensational win. Claudys Princess was game in running second not far in front of another solid finisher in El Paco. But all the honours lay with Monbet. To give all your competition a 20 metre start, be wide and parked for a greater part of the journey and still win the race like Monbet did is as dominant a performace as you will see. When you add in the fact that Monbet smashed the track record in the process, you start to realise the enormity of tonights win by Monbet. The big question post race tonight was would Monbet be back for The Great Southern Star and trainer Greg Hope was still to confirm one way or the other after tonights race. Harnesslink Media

North Canterbury harness racing trainer Greg Hope has never been slow to point out to journalists his opinion of his outstanding trotter Monbet. Right through his three year old campaign when due to a variety of issues he was playing second fiddle to another outstanding young trotter in Speeding Spur, Greg never let a chance go by without taking the opportunity to tell you that the best was yet to come. That the big son of Love You would continue to improve as he matured into his large frame and if Greg was patient now, he would reap the rewards further down the track. It is a philosophy that Greg and wife Nina, who train the four year old gelding have stuck to again this season with the four year old gelding as they have structured his programme for his long term benefit regardless of the money involved. Even though he dominated the New Zealand FFA on Cup Day this year, he was at home in his box when the $250,000 Dominion Handicap was run three days later.  Now as we approach the $300,000 Southern Star series, Greg is in Australia with his star trotter but not for the big dance. Instead he has targeted the Australasian Trotting Championship and after a brilliant heat win at Ballarat last night appears in a different league to the opposition he will face next week in the $50,000 final. Away slowly as the lone back marker on 20 metres, Monbet tagged on to bunch after 500 metres but when regular driver Ricky May pushed the go button, he quickly looped the field and grabbed the lead and proceeded to run away and hide from a smart field of FFA trotters. At the line he had 19 metres to spare from runner up Super Zeck as Ricky let him coast down to the line. The quality of the win was there for all to see and Monbet carved nearly two seconds off the track record to boot. Ricky May was thrilled with the the first up effort in Australia. "We gave them 20 metres start and still won with a lot in hand so I am rapt with the run." "He was really fresh tonight so I was a bit careful with him early but that run will tidy him nicely for next week and he should strip a better horse again." "I have always said that Monbet was a freakish trotter who has pacer like speed and he looks to have a huge future," Ricky said. Ricky was just as upbeat when talking about his Ballarat Pacing Cup drive Mossdale Conner who ran a creditable fourth in his Australian debut. "I have never known him to get that keen in a race." "Greg had him pretty fresh going into it as he has a big few weeks in front of him but as a result he half pulled himself into the ground." "The way he felt, I didn't think he would have been too far away from the first two if he had settled." "He will be really tight next week so that won't be a problem and I give him a chance of getting amongst it." "The race that will really suit him will be the Hunter Cup where his great standing start manners will make him a huge chance," Ricky said. Harnesslink Media

Monbet might have the draw but Greg Hope says the advantage is with star trotter Stent. The exciting four-year-old will clash with last season's all-conquering square gaiter for the first time in the Trotters Green Mile at Methven on Sunday. In a small field of just seven runners, Monbet will leave the mobile from barrier two with Stent starting from six under the preferential barrier draw system. Hope, who trains in partnership with wife Nina, said Monbet is the baby of the trotting ranks with Stent still being the benchmark. "We're very happy with him but we are not taking anything for granted. Stent's definitely still the horse to beat, he's the established one so it will be very tough. "Stent's a very good horse and is still the benchmark along with Master Lavros." Monbet has thrived since winning the Group I free-for-all on cup day as Stent and Master Lavros skipped the race to head straight to the Dominion. But Stent has had a couple of setbacks with more corn issues since running fifth in the Dominion and Julie DeFilippi, who trains in partnership with husband Colin, said they are not 100 per cent on where his fitness will be at. "Methven will give us an indicator of where he is really at. "He did work off the property yesterday and Colin was very happy with him," DeFilippi said in what is an encouraging sign for the popular trotter." The Hopes, who race Monbet with Morrie Molloy, will not be losing too much sleep if the winner of 10 races from 20 starts does not beat the likes of Stent and Alley Way, given it will be his first start on the grass. Hope said they are looking towards the race with anticipation rather than expectation. "The grass can be a great leveller and it can take some of the speed away from the quicker ones." Monbet got a look at the Mt Harding Racecourse when beating home stablemate Quite A Moment over 2400m at the Methven workouts on Sunday in 3-27.9 with a 2-19.3 mile rate. "He trotted really nicely up there," Hope said. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

The open class trotting ranks are already brimming with talent and they were strengthened further today when Monbet announced his arrival at the elite level with an emphatic harness racing victory in the $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Free For All at Addington on Cup Day. The four year old son of Monarchy had always looked well above average at three and at four he has come back bigger and better.   Settling three back in the running line, driver Ricky May pressed the go button at the 400 metres mark and he looped the field and shot clear for an easy win.   Trainer Greg Hope was full of praise for Monbet, post-race.   "He showed today that he can compete with the very best and I'm thrilled with the run."   "I know Stent and Master Lavros weren't there today but they have their grand final on Friday and Monbet's grand final was today."   "I am 99.9% confident that Monbet won't be lining up in the Dominion on Friday."   "From here we will head to Auckland," Greg said.   Ricky May was happy things had worked out as planned.   "We thought there was plenty of speed on the front line so we decided to stay out of the early burn and settle handy.   "When I asked him to go he looped them pretty easily actually."   "He has pacer like speed if you can save him for one run but he is a great stayer as well so he is the complete package," Ricky said.   Greg and Nina Hope have been very patient with Monbet and are now starting to reap the rewards.     Harnesslink Media

When leading harness racing trainer Greg Hope was looking for a close relative of his star trotter Monbet to purchase as a broodmare, he never for one moment envisaged that she would win back her purchase price before going to stud. But that is exactly what happened when Greg purchased the talented Monarchy mare The Earth Moved for $12,000. " I had a serious look at another mare from the family but she had suffered a broken knee earlier in her life and I was worried about how that may play out down the line." "When I sent her home, they offered me The Earth Moved who had just been sent back by the people who had her on lease."  " I really liked her straight away and brought her soon after," Greg told Harnesslink this week. Not that the decision to buy The Earth Moved was unanimous in the Hope household. " Nina wasn't exactly that keen initially but I think she has come round now," Greg said. Greg purchased The Earth Moved near the end of August and in four starts since she has won three on the grit plus a fourth on the grass at Methven where she wasn't entirely happy on the puggy wet track. Since her purchase The Earth Moved has put $16,271 into the kitty and her latest win at Addington on Friday night was undoubtedly her best. Several lengths off the leader going past the 400 metres mark, The Earth Moved swooped down the outside for an emphatic victory in the hands of Ricky May. " She was always going to pick Young Stranger up in the straight before he had a late gallop, so I just eased her down the last bit ." " She has really high speed when saved for one run," Ricky said. Greg was rapt that The Earth Moved had grabbed that elusive sub two minute mile rate with her 1:59.3 rating in Friday nights win over 1950 metres. " It certainly doesn't hurt if you are selling them at the sales to have a bit of black print beside their name,  Greg said. And that is where the future of The Earth Moved lies, in the broodmare paddock. " I have booked her in to Love You" "Love You is available here this year through Dave Sanders which is great after he has missed the last two years." "The resulting foal will be a 3/4 brother or sister in blood to Monbet," Greg pointed out. With this years Australasian Breeders Crown two year old colts/geldings winner Conon Bridge being another close relative excelling on the track and Monbet looking to have come back even better at four, The Earth Moved is certainly looking one very valuable broodmare. Harnesslink Media 

One of the feature harness racing meetings of the season away from Addington and Alexandra Park comes up on Saturday when the age group pacers and trotters strut their stuff at Ashburton. The pacers have the time honoured Sapling Stakes for two year olds which was first run in 1919 while the three year old trotters have their first group race of the season with the Hambletonian Classic. Only established in 1986, the Hambletonian Classic is always a sought after race and it is no different this year with a field of real quality. The All Star barn have three of the favoured runners with the best of them Prince Fearless drawing nicely at one and looking hard to roll while Speeding Star, the winner of his last four from the Dickie barn gives the North Island a strong hand. However we think the one they all have to beat this weekend is last seasons two year of the year in Monbet. Monbet was so dominant on Harness Jewels day at Cambridge and looks to have come back even better at three barring a last start hiccup. Bred by Greg and Nina Hope and raced by them with long time stable client Michael Molloy, Monbet was on track until his recent run at Marlborough. " The track at Marlborough is really quite hard and he just didn't handle it at all" "He is not the first horse I have taken there who didn't handle the track so just turn the page and move on," Greg told Harnesslink today. Taken back to their Woodend base by the Hopes, Monbet was produced at the workouts last Wednesday just to give him a run after Marlborough. " We were thrilled with the run at Rangiora as we weren't there for a serious hitout." We ran second by half a length to Prince Fearless in a 1:59.8 mile rate without  knocking him about."  "He has trained on good since then so we are on track for Saturday," Greg said. The wide draw of seven is not the best but Greg thinks it could work out in their favour in the long run. " There is a lot of speed inside of us with Sunny Ruby, Prince Fearless and Speeding Star so I think there could be real fireworks early." "Monbet has got high speed so he can get over them late if they go hard early," Greg said. Greg is quite taken by the stock of Love You. " A lot of people reckon they are as tough as but lack a bit of high speed but Monbet has speed to burn" " I have a two year old in the non tote on Saturday as well by Love You and he has got plenty of speed as well," Greg said. If the Monbet that won the Harness Jewels turns up on Saturday, then he is going to be mighty hard to beat. Harnesslink Media  

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