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Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson played the magician at Forbury Park on Friday night when he returned his namesake Phil’s Gift to winning form after the 9-year-old trotter had been in the wilderness for three years. Stable reinsman Matthew Williamson took Phil’s Gift to the front at the 1500m after starting from 40m and  the Sundon –Ilona Del gelding lasted by a neck.   Phil’s  Gift was having his first start from the Williamson stable after transferring from Greg and Nina Hope two months ago.   “Greg told us he  couldn’t do any more with the horse and Phil agreed to have one last shot with him,’’ said Kim Tapper, who races Phil’s Gift with Peter Parker and Mike Hynes.   Phil’s Gift won two races from the Hope stable but five minor placings  in 19 starts had been his lot over the previous three years. He was away from racing for 18 months from October, 2014 with leg issues. Phil’s Gift  had earlier won nine races for Levels trainer Murray Tapper, including his first start at Forbury Park in August, 2011.   There was an element of Phil Williamson having the last laugh.   He traded Ilona Del, the dam of Phil’s Gift, to Michael House for a service to Tinted Cloud. “We didn’t have the land to run Ilona Del at the time. It was not the greatest deal I have done,’’ Williamson recalled. Ilona Del had not long left a filly by Sundon who as Jasmyn’s Gift would win 17 wins including the NZ Trotting Free-For-All for Phil and Bev Williamson. Clive and Rona McKay then bred two foals from Ilona Del. The Speedy Summit mare failed to leave a foal the next six years before House bred Phil’s Gift, whom he named and sold for $18,000 through the premier yearling sale.   Tony Stratford, who shifted his training operation to Gore a week earlier, produced Pantastic for an all the way win. “I thought the timing was right to go out on my own and shift to  the Gore track. The facilities are very good,’’ said Stratford. He was previously the trainer for Macca Lodge stud at Riversdale for two and a half years. He has 15 horses in work.   Pantastic is raced by the  Custom Made syndicate assembled by Caine McIntyre, of Macca Lodge. Several of the young members are first time owners.   Jack Harrington, who has won five races with the trotter Hey Yo, broke fresh ground with he won a race for pacers with Buffy Bay.   Atom Hanover who was racing out of his grade, prevailed in a close finish.   “I put him in the race to get it off the ground,’’ said trainer Geoff Knight of the C1 pacer racing against C2 horses.   Temuka trainer Brent White prepared his third winner in recent weeks for Christchurch owner, Peter McDermott when Franco Hamilton overcame a second line draw. Franco Hamilton was having his second start for White after being bought recently by McDermott. Culley Backy was a winner for White and McDermott at Oamaru five days earlier. Run To Hide, a winner for the duo at Rangiora has since been sold to Australia.   White and reinsman Stephen McNally  were also successful with Dark Ops, who led for most of the way in the c1 trot.   Oamaru trainer Eion Latimer had a good night. He landed the quinella in the final race with Spirit of Chronos and Chief Kapai and earlier won  the race  for junior drivers with Mickey Jay, driven by Ineka Lee.   The Forbury Park club could feel aggrieved with the TAB.  Only the first race was listed in  the form guide supplied to the local (Dunedin) newspaper, the Otago Daily Times. The same guide is run in three other newspapers. The TAB got it horribly wrong by downloading a page of form from the previous Friday, December 2, instead  of the remainder of the Forbury Park fields. It was a X on the editing procedure of the ODT that the mistake was not picked up.   Tayler Strong

Monbet might be out for potentially the rest of the season, but Greg and Nina Hope will tonight unleash another up and coming trotting star when Enghien makes his three-year-old debut. Reigning Horse of the Year, Monbet, underwent an operation on Tuesday to have a bone chip removed from a knee – a procedure that curtailed plans of an Australian raid late in the summer and also leaves his Rowe Cup defence up in the air. Quite A Moment, who ran a bold second to her stablemate in the Dominion last month is the natural replacement at the top of the trotting pile you would think, but then again, there’s a fair bit of x-factor about Enghien. A stand out at two, things got a little too much for him late in the season as he threw a Harness Jewels victory away with a couple of gallops – but there was always the belief from the Hope team that what he was doing then he was doing on raw ability with time set to be his best friend. A decent spell to strengthen up and a solid build up toward tonight has been undertaken and a quiet run in behind Marcoola last week at the Methven workouts should see the well-bred trotter ready to rock and roll when he steps out late in the night tonight at Addington. “He’s good, progressing along nice,” Greg Hope said. “It’s always an interesting one when they come back from being a two-year-old to see just where they measure up. “But we have always had a lot of time for him and he’s maturing into quite a nice horse.” Drawn out wide tonight with Ricky May in the bike, the task won’t be easy – especially with Donegal Bettorgretch, a Jewels winner herself, out for redemption after some poor manners last time out. Another young star is set to return to the Addington track tonight with Nathan Purdon back in Canterbury. The son of champion trainer, Mark, has been on an extended working trip to Australia during which time he enjoyed Group One success with Ohoka Punter as well as making quite the name for himself among the Australian circles. Purdon is set to team up with West Melton trainer, Cran Dalgety in the coming months and will take the reins on Donegal Bettorgretch tonight. He will also drive Bettor To Be Tricky for Grant Payne in the final event of the night. Super Selector  - By Matt Markham Race 1: Mekong Princess, Louis Moss, Shona Mary, Zsa Ziva Race 2: Eja Patron, Nui Toc Tien, Handlebar Hank, Bettor Backim Race 3: Franco Tai, Billy Badger, Ranfurly Rulz, Runaway Star Race 4: No More Change, Glenferrie Classic, Vai Star, Wozniacki Race 5: Bailey’s Rock, Aymar, Fire One, Illegal Immigrant Race 6: Blade, Cmeerock, Stop Means Stop, Missinmemate Race 7: Enghien, Donegal Bettorgretch, Idle Monkey, All Lit Up Race 8: Hilarious Magic, Kitura, Titanium, Bettor To Be Tricky Best Bet: No More Change (Race 4) Value: Franco Tai (Race 3)

There is a tight battle going on at the top of the New Zealand harness racing training premiership. Last years premiership winners Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen on 25 wins currently hold a narrow lead of just one over Greg and Nina Hope on 24 wins. Mark and Natalie headed into cup week fourth on the premiership and 5 wins behind, but a 10 horse winning spree last week saw them surge past Greg and Nina and they now lead by one heading into this week.  Barry Purdon is currently sitting in third place on 21 wins and Robert Dunn is fourth on 18 wins. The drivers premiership is equally as close with Dexter Dunn on 43 wins holding a slim one win lead over Blair Orange on 42 wins with a gap back to Ricky May in third on 24 wins. Trainers Premiership Leaderboard Name Starts Wins  2nds 3rds Stakes UDR Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen 79 25 12 10 1,061,862 0.4430 Greg & Nina Hope 109 24 11 7 434,055 0.2977 Barry Purdon 69 21 15 11 205,477 0.4783 Robert Dunn 139 18 9 18 247,285 0.2086 Mark Jones 73 13 7 5 93,336 0.2542 Cran Dalgety 84 12 13 8 206,379 0.2606   Drivers Premiership Leaderboard Name Starts Wins  2nds 3rds Stakes UDR Dexter Dunn 226 43 35 31 451,471 0.3220 Blair Orange 249 42 32 29 407,678 0.2789 Ricky May 163 24 15 14 421,126 0.2270 Zac Butcher 77 20 12 15 185,771 0.4113 David Butcher 99 19 18 14 166,670 0.3401 John Dunn 132 17 9 15 247,359 0.2045   Harnesslink Media Statistics courtesy of HRNZ  

When there’s hope, there’s a way. And then there’s Monbet. The champion trotter capped a memorable week when landing the Gr.1 $260,000 Haras Des Trotteurs Dominion Handicap at Addington today (Friday) defeating stablemate Quite A Moment and the Australian trained Kyvalley Blur in the 3200m stand-start harness racing feature. Backing up from Tuesday when successful in the Gr.1 NZ Trotting FFA, the reigning New Zealand Horse of the Year completely obliterated the race record in the process. Prepared by Greg and Nina Hope and partnered by Ricky May, the giant five-year-old rated 4:00.7 – smashing the previous mark of Stylish Monarch at 4:02.9 when successful back in 2010. Sent out at unbackable odds, Monbet stepped safely and was allowed plenty of time early to balance himself while the in-form Bordeaux and Alley Way battled for the early lead. Bordeaux soon took the lead from Alley Way. The lead time was covered in 2:03.7. With a solid tempo being set from Bordeaux, May sat patiently in the second-half of the field with the punter’s choice before edging to the outside nearing the 1400m marker. But the moves came in front of him with Harriet Of Mot the first to angle wider before Amaretto Sun went in front of both trotters. As the big field bunched as they entered the back straight, Monbet was positioned perfectly on the back of Harriet Of Mot gaining great cover. The first half of the last mile was covered in 29.5 and 29.4 seconds. With Bordeaux still rolling along in front, May soon allowed Monbet to stride and the Love You gelding quickly raced to the lead approaching the home turn. Soon after straightening, Monbet put the race beyond reach of his rivals and raced clear while Quite A Moment and Kyvalley Blur chased valiantly. With May kind to Monbet, he scored officially by 3/4L with a further 5L back to Kyvalley Blur. The winning mile rate was 2:01.0 while the final half covered in 29.6 and 28.4 seconds. The final mile was trotted in 1:56.9. Monbet has now won his last eight races on end with six of those coming at Gr.1 level, he has clearly established himself as the best trotter in the southern hemisphere. Last season, he won a total of 7 Gr.1 features; he already has two this season following his double this week. Monbet has now claimed all major trotting features in his homeland while he becomes the first trotter since I Can Doosit in 2012 to win both Gr.1 features during Cup week. “It’s a remarkable effort and it’s been a dream week, we’re so excited and a little relieved at the same time.” Greg Hope said. Monbet is raced by Greg and Nina Hope along with Morrie Molloy. With 23 victories from just 34 starts to date, Monbet has banked more than $770,000 in prizemoney. Beaten narrowly in the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters by North Island star Speeding Spur last season, Monbet sits firmly in the driver’s seat for the current term. The next leg of the APG Trotting Masters is the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotters Grand Prix at Melton on January 28. Chris Barsby

As reported by Stuff website, even as he took a tipple out of the Mitre 10 Cup, Terry Williamson was already daring to dream about his next cup campaign. Following Canterbury's 43-27 win over Tasman on Saturday night, the red and blacks manager could not help himself from glancing across the carpark to Addington Raceway where he will fulfil a lifelong ambition on November 8. With the rugby goals ticked off and the beer drunk, Williamson can focus on racing. A passionate owner and follower of harness racing, Williamson is part of the ownership team that races emerging pacing talent and New Zealand Trotting Cup nominee Seel The Deal. "I've got the Ranfurly Shield and the Mitre 10 Cup now we're looking for the New Zealand (Trotting) Cup," Williamson quipped. Ranked at number nine in the order of entry for the biggest event on the New Zealand harness racing calendar, Seel The Deal only has to come through Monday's Kaikoura Cup safely to take his spot. With the Ranfurly Shield and national provincial championship locked away, Williamson has had a dream first year in his role as Canterbury manager but that is not stopping his visions of more success. A $51 outsider to win the Cup, confidence is high in the Seel the Deal camp that he has the ability to run in the top half dozen. "It's bloody exciting just to have a runner in the Cup. "We've been trying for thirty years and now we've finally got one that is not only capable of being there but maybe running in the top five," Williamson said. The Greg and Nina Hope-trained pacer should be improved on his last start second behind Smolda in the Methven Cup. Methven was his first run back from a minor wind operation. "Considering he had four weeks off and a wind operation it was an exceptional run," Williamson said. As long as Seel The Deal can live up to his potential at Kaikoura, his meteoric rise could become one of the best underdog stories heading into cup week. This time last year he had only had two career starts. "What he's doing is phenomenal," Williamson said. "Twelve months ago he wasn't even running straight." In just his 20th start, the lightly raced pacer will contest the Group II Kaikoura Cup - his final race before the big dance at Addington. "We always thought he had the ability to do something like this but it's come a year earlier than we thought," Williamson said. The six-year-old son of American Ideal out of Seel Their Fate has chalked up eight wins, three seconds and a third. Unfortunately for Williamson and his fellow owners Graham and Theresa Snook and Grant McStay, they have struck one of the strongest Kaikoura Cup fields in recent memory and a second row draw that negates his speedy starts. But he does follow out race favourite Smolda​ and should improve again off the run heading towards Addington. McStay trained Seel The Deal for his first 15 starts and Williamson said the Hopes are using their tried and tested skills at the top level to put the icing on a well prepared cake. Williamson compared McStay to legendary athletics coach Arthur Lydiard. "Grant makes sure they do the miles. "He takes his time and all his horses are trained to run two miles." Smolda is a $1.90 favourite for the Kaikoura Cup ahead of stablemate Titan Banner ($5.20) and Australian raider Messini ($6.50) with Seel The Deal a $28 chance. New Zealand Trotting Cup hopefuls Lewy Risk and Moonrock will look to force their way into the field via the Listed PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Aged Pace at Kaikoura. With Monbet​ not in Kaikoura, an even field will assemble for the Group III South Bay Trotters Cup (2400m).   Mat Kermeen Click here for the story at Stuff website    

Superstar trotter, Monbet is heading to Cup Day. After appearing quite firm on the fact that the reigning Horse of the Year would not contest the Group One New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All on New Zealand Trotting Cup Day, the gelding’s trainers Greg and Nina Hope have back tracked and decided to make a surprise appearance on harness racing’s biggest day. “He’s come through his Ashburton run that well that I can’t see any reason why he can’t race in both races,” Greg Hope said. “The goal all along has been the Dominion Handicap, but winning both races has been done before and he’s the sort of horse who I think could handle the two races in a short time period. “His work this morning (Thursday) was exceptional and that led to us making the decision to press forward to the Tuesday as well.” In a great coup for Addington Raceway officials, the news will probably not be quite as well received by some of Monbet’s rivals who were looking forward to the chance of racing for serious money without his ever lurking presence about. The New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All last year was the race in which the, then fledgling, squaregaiter announced his arrival in the open class ranks and set the tone for what was to be an incredible run of seven Group One victories over the course of the season. Hope said it was now likely Monbet would miss the annual Cup Trials at Addington next Wednesday with the change in plans. The stable will, all going well, have a three pronged attack on the trotting features of the week with Harrysul and Quite A Moment both touted to be there as well. They will both head to Kaikoura on Monday to finalise their preparations. The news from Woodend Beach wasn’t all happy though with Hope also confirming that they had lost Monbet’s dam, Diedre Darling. Awarded the coveted title of Broodmare of the Year at the annual Awards earlier this year the mare had aborted her Love You foal a few weeks ago but had unfortunately not been able to survive the ordeal herself as well. “It’s a big shame, especially because there are no fillies from her to breed on from, but that’s part of racing. “We have a yearling by Muscle Hill at home who is shaping up nicely so hopefully he can do the job too.” Diedre Darling left three foals to go to the races with Monbet the most prolific of them. She also left the talented Donaldson who won seven here in New Zealand and also McConway who won two races in the North Island.    Matt Markham

Bruce Negus is going with the tried and true to try and get himself a Methven Cup winner, even if it was forced upon him. The Burnham horseman was kicked in the hand a few weeks back by a horse and conscious of the head strong nature of his star pacer Quick As A Trick he decided it was probably best if the horse went somewhere else while his injury healed. So Robert and John Dunn got the call up and Quick As A Trick returned to life at the beach – a scenario he has enjoyed before albeit in a slightly cooler climate. “He did a lot of work on the beach when he was down South and seemed to really thrive on it,” Negus said. “I was a bit worried about him doing something silly one day at home and with my hand not being able to keep him under full control, I’m only just starting to drive some of the nice natured horses now. “So I asked John to take him home the night after his last race. He’d also just started to develop a few corns, which he has had in the past, so I’m hoping being on the sand has helped them out too.” A Methven Green Mile winner in the past, there’s no concerns about handling the track conditions at Methven this week for Quick As A Trick and the reports from Woodend Beach have been very encouraging. “John said he’s very happy with him, his work has been good and he had a nice quiet run at the workouts at Methven last weekend. “We’ve found he actually races better when he hasn’t had a hard run the week before. “But we will need to be on top of our game because this is a very good Methven Cup field.” Headlined by the All Stars duo of Titan Banner and Smolda, the $35,000 Group Three feature has drawn a deep field. Greg and Nina Hope will be represented by two strong chances in Mossdale Conner, another former Green Mile winner, and also Seel The Deal is resuming after a minor wind operation. He was very impressive winning a heat at the Methven workouts last weekend. Cran Dalgety also has a strong hand in the race with Mighty Flying Mac and also Fifth Edition. The real talk point of the race though is the entry of trotter, Valmagne. Scotch Tar’s run in the New Zealand Trotting Cup of 1982 was the last time a trotter raced in a black type race in New Zealand so it’s been a long time in between drinks. Negus also has Arya in action tomorrow in a strong fillies and mares’ trotting feature. “It’s D-Day for her tomorrow,” he said. “Her foals are going to be worth a lot more than what she will ever make on the track so we are better off looking after that. “In saying that though I do think she’s ready to start to show some real form, there’s been a bit of improvement there.” The race features Quite A Moment, Harriet Of Mot and Habibti in what is a very strong race for the female trotters. Super Selector – Methven  Race 1: Rusty I Am, Shona Mary, Lola Leigh, Ed Wood Race 2: Beach Skipper, Maninthemirror, Scotlyn Harry, Fiery Su Race 3: Young Stranger, Dream Big, Stylish Duke, Shadow Galleon Race 4: Boults On Fire, Fire One, Ireby Meg, Smouldering Ashes Race 5: James Dean, All Star Magician, Flash Boy, Likely Jereme Race 6: Mysistersastar, Hall Of Fame, Jonty James, Motu Lightning Lass Race 7: Sparkling Delight, Yankee Tara, Rocki Warrior, Wozniacki Race 8: Harriet Of Mot, Quite A Moment, Habibti, Arya Race 9: Mossdale Conner, Smolda, Titan Banner, Seel The Deal Race 10: Mighty Empire, Mach’s Terminator, Bettor Be Smooth, Gypsy’s Choice Race 11: Smarter VC, Bank Raider, Franco Texas, Dalness Mac Best Bet: Beach Skipper (Race 2) Value: Mossdale Conner (Race 9)   Matt Markham

Not many would have predicted that Greg and Nina Hope’s first major trotting win for the season would come from Harrysul. So when the ungainly, but effective, trotter burst along the running rail in yesterday’s DG Jones Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup at Motukarara there were plenty scrambling for the form guides to try and figure out where a performance like that had come from. Not the Hopes’ though, they were pleasantly surprised of course, but they’ve always had a bit of time for the horse. “It’s always been there, we’ve just had to juggle a few things along the way,” Greg said. “He’s not the most fluent of trotters are you can see, but he’s actually very powerful and you can’t really feel the we hitch he has when you’re driving him. “His form recently has been a lot better than what it probably looks, he finished last when we last took him to the races but he raced three wide and still trotted a bit of time so I wasn’t ready to give up on him.” Now a four time winner on the grass, Harrysul has always shown a liking to the greener surfaces and he’s also been able to transition the high speed he possesses from the grit track to the grass. Trapped away four back on the fence yesterday while Bordeaux tried to run them off their feet from the front Harrysul and Ricky May looked to be in a bit  of trouble coming off the back straight. May’s never one to panic though. He bided his time and waited for the gap, then when Harrysul got through, he did the rest. “It was a pretty big performance I thought,” Hope said. “To come from where he did, especially with those other ones in front of us, was a great run.” Harrysul Hope will now look toward Addington in a couple of weeks for Harrysul as his headaches begin around placing four open class trotters and then finding drivers if they all end up together. Monbet will be the pick of the bunch as he continues to work toward a resumption at Ashburton later this month. There’s also Harrysul, Quite A Moment, who returns in this week’s Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington, and Phil’s Gift who is proving to be a headache created of his own in his current form. “We’ve got a bit of working out to do, and so does Ricky. He’ll obviously drive Monbet but we are going to have clash some horses somewhere down the track.” The Woodend Beach stable went to a six win lead on the premiership with a winning double yesterday. They now sit on 16 thanks for the victories of Harrysul and maiden trotter, Ella Abbe. Robert Dunn is next on the list with 10 winners. Yesterday’s Motukarara meeting was another great day at the track for Jessica Young. The talented horsewoman, who has enjoyed big days in the sulky at Motukarara before, picked up a winning double. She produced a well-timed finish on Maybe Flyin to get home during the middle stages of the day before Clasina Maria, who is trained by her father Paul, smashed them in the last race, winning by more than five lengths.   By Matt Markham

With the return of grass track racing for the new season at Methven today comes the return of some new challenges for trainers, drivers and punters alike - for many though, they wouldn’t have it any other way, Big fields, even racing and big divvies - the return of punting graveyards like Methven and Motukarara - the grass surface brings everything to life. Some call it good, others battle with the prospect. Today’s Methven meeting should be no different - with some big fields and some highly competitive racing. And finding those winners isn’t an easy task. Certain stables tend to excel, Greg and Nina Hope and Robert Dunn both have grand greentop records and they quickly become punters’ best friends as the season rolls through. One of those stables has stronger representation than the other today with the Hope team loading a strong team onto the float to trek the hour and a bit down the road. In form pacers like Dalness Mac and Burn Off give them leading chances at success while others; Robert De Niro, Ella Abbe and Precious Sara all performed very well at the workouts on the course last weekend. Trial and workout form from the Methven track is regarded by many punters as some of the best in the country. And nothing is expected to change in the future - especially today. Leading the standout performers from last Saturday’s workouts is the Brendon Hill trained Rummage who looked right at home on the grass track surface - winning impressively after an early gallop. “That’s the concern,” Hill said of the gallop. “Everything after that was pretty good though, he looks pretty good on the grass.” Methven Trotting Club president, Ricky May, takes the reins on the pacer in what is the biggest field of the day. A few noted grass track performers will line up against him with Marshal Star, Maybe Flyin and Boomer Bailey among plenty of others holding strong records on the grass. Others to perform strongly and win at last weekend’s workouts on the track were; Rusty I Am, Rozzano, Maw Of A Woman, Ammisaduqa and Cocktail Waiter. Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: 4 Lucy Diamond, 2 Miss Medley, 7 Robert De Niro, 10 Gypsy’s Choice Race 2: 12 Rusty I Am, 8 Just A Dude, 9 Holly Trouble, 14 Shona Mary Race 3: 10 Maw Of A Woman, 2 Elite Excuse, 6 Precious Sara, 5 Supreme Blue Chip Race 4: 2 Ammisaduqa, 5 Pegasus Merrily, 1 Man Of Change, 11 Homeforlife Race 5: 5 Redwood Invasion, 10 All Settled Down, 11 Shadow Galleon, 9 Dream Big Race 6: 1 Curlimore, 5 Forgotten Highway, 2 Rocknroll Delight, 11 Clasina Maria Race 7: 4 Omar Sharif, 3 Illegal Immigrant, 8 Allison Stokke, 6 Dalness Mac Race 8: 8 Rummage, 10 Marshal Star, 12 Burn Off, 5 Regency Franco Race 9: 12 Royal Shine, 9 Solar Storm, 11 Stylish Duke, 5 Pretorius Race 10: 4 Fulham Royale, 5 Leading The Way, 8 Happily Ever Laughter, 7 Automatic   Best Bet: Rummage (Race 8) Value: Fulham Royale (Race 4)

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

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

It was his race to lose. This was the scenario facing brilliant Canterbury trotter Monbet tonight (Friday) at Alexandra Park, Auckland as he faced the harness racing starter in the Gr.1 $NZ150,000 Canam Rowe Cup, the final leg of the 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters series. Following his breathtaking victory last week in the ANZAC Cup and the sad season ending injury to his arch rival Speeding Spur, punters installed the Greg and Nina Hope trained gelding as an unbackable favourite in the North Island’s biggest trotting feature. And he didn’t disappoint. Starting from the inside of the second-line in the 3200m stand start feature, champion reinsman Ricky May wasted little time soon after a safe beginning to put the big striding Love You gelding into a forward position. Taking off at the 2000m mark, Monbet whistled around the field before taking control with 1700m left to run. Thereafter, it was a procession. The lead time was covered in 2:07.5. May allowed Monbet to stride boldly in front while rivals jostled for positions as they battled for second prize. Monbet covered the final mile in sectionals of 31.6, 29.8, 28.4 and 29 seconds. In the home straight, Monbet raced away and scored a dominant victory with a winning margin of 3 ½ lengths over Valmagne while a further 2 ½ lengths back to Queen Kenny in third. The race time was 4:06.3 with a mile rate of 2:03.8. It was his sixth Group One triumph this season. Monbet also becomes the first four-year-old to win the feature since Special Pride who scored back in 1980. The victory provided May with his second victory in the Rowe Cup after scoring aboard with Highwood back in 1988 while it was a first for the Hope’s. While recording back to back victories in APG Trotting Masters events during the past week, Speeding Spur will claim the title after amassing 220points throughout the season while Monbet will finish as the runner-up with 203 points. But with the Gr.1 $NZ100,000 Ruby on Jewels day at Cambridge on June 4 at his mercy, it may be enough to secure both National Horse and Trotter of the Year awards. A fitting result for a magical season if successful. Only time will tell. Chris Barsby

Everything went to plan for the four harness racing big guns tonight at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park. Spanish Armada got things off to a flying start when she was successful in the $138,000.00 Group 1 Magness Benrow Sire Stakes Fillies Championship. Away nicely from barrier 6, co trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen had the classy 2yo Bettor’s Delight in front and dictating after 300m. No one was keen to take the recent Caduceus Club Final winner on and she was allowed to stride along in front. While some punters who took the $1.30 around the favourite would have been nervous when the Mark Jones trained filly Delightful Memphis popped out of her 1-1 spot to issue a serious challenge, to wear the leader down to just a winner margin of a neck. The winner’s time for the 1700m trip was 2:02.3, Last mile in 1.55.7 – 800m 56.4 – 400m 27.7. The PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 2yo Fillies Final set down for the 13th May will be the next clash of these two talented fillies. No doubt with a handy draw Delightful Memphis could turn the tables on the top seed Purdon/Rasmussen runner. Spanish Armada _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tonight’s Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby victory for Marcoola once again justified owner/driver Clint Ford’s decision to not sell his star 3yo colt. With an offer reportedly around the $250,000.00 mark, Ford was quick to make it clear that he wouldn’t be for sale. Since that offer Marcoola has won just over $120,000.00 in stakes, while adding the NZ Trotters Derby, Sire Stakes Trotting Championship and now the Northern Trotting Derby to his resume. A 3yo Colt by Champion sire Sundon out of the Ford Family’s handy race mare Arabess – Marcoola is the horse most people dream of breeding and owner themselves. A smart drive from Clint tonight got the chocolates as he once again showcased his class by demolishing a top class field. Allowed to settle early by Ford, Marcoola was then set around to find the top, this move left 2nd favourite High Gait in a world of trouble covered up four back the pegs. In a surprise move, High Gait’s driver Natalie Rasmussen was happy to stay tucked along the rail and was seen storming home for an unlucky 3rd. Marcoola went to the line, with plenty in the tank as Ford only flicked the reins at his charge in the home straight to score by 1 length in an overall time of 3:23.7, Mile rate of 2:01.4 – 800m in 58.2 – 400m in 29.6. The Harness Jewels looks his race to lose on the back of this 7 race winning streak. Marcoola _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Field Marshal was another short favourite to salute the judge, this time doing the sort after Taylor Mile/Messenger double. After a huge performance in last weeks Taylor Mile, Trainer Tim Butt was confident his top class Art Major 4yo would handle every part of the 2700m trip.  Given a lovely trip by leading driver Dexter Dunn, Field Marshal was dominate beating Australia visitor My Kiwi Mate by 1 ¼ Lengths in a sizzling 3:15.8. With tonight’s victory, Field Marshal climbs over the $250,000.00 mark in stakes earnings, with a healthy record of 14 wins from just the 25 starts. While Field Marshal in a clear leader on top of the Harness Jewels leader board, Australian My Kiwi Mate catapulted himself into 22nd spot, just $10,000.00 short of the 12th place Captain Doimio. With connections chasing a jewels spot, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see My Kiwi Mate line up at Alexandra Park over the next few weeks in order to qualify. The 4yo Jewels invite is likely to go to the Amanda Turnbull trained Tact Tate, who will make their decision in the coming days. Field Marshal _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Superstar trotter Monbet was absolutely sensational in the 2016 Rowe Cup, winning from an awkward, inside the back row draw. Trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope, Monbet started one of the hottest favourites in history after arch rival Speeding Spur was stuck down by a suspensory injury that could see him sidelined for 10-12 months. Away nicely from the tapes, Monbet settled in before driver Ricky May sent the $1.11 favourite around to the lead with two laps to run. From there on after the 4yo Love You gelding never looks in danger. Owned by the Hopes and M J Molloy, they also turned down a reported offer of $600,000.00 a few weeks back. Since that offer Monbet has earn't a tidy $184,000.00. Co trainer Greg Hope confirmed last night that providing his charge recovers well they will look to take their place in the Cambridge Harness Jewels, where he will start one of the shortest jewels favourites ever. Waimate trotter Valmagne was the run of the race behind the winner. Co Trainer Josh Kennett was stoked with the performance of his stable star, “He has gone super, last week he broke just as he was getting into it” said Kennett. Monbet Andrew Fitzgerald

There is still plenty at stake for Monbet. The exceptional four-year-old trotting talent will start as a prohibitive harness racing favourite this Friday night in the Gr.1 $NZ150,000 Canam Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park, Auckland – the final leg of the 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters. Following his scintillating victory in last week’s ANZAC Cup where he blew away Speeding Spur who was subsequently diagnosed with a season ending injury, Monbet can’t surpass his arch rival who gathered enough points to hold an unassailable lead heading into the final leg. Speeding Spur has 220 points while Monbet has 103 points prior to Friday’s feature. But there’s still plenty up for grabs for the Canterbury trained star. If Monbet proves successful in the Rowe Cup and then ventures to Cambridge in June for the Jewels and collects another Group One victory, he could easily claim the Trotter of the Year plus the overall Horse of the Year titles. The Love You gelding has already won five Group One races this season. On Friday night, Monbet will face twelve rivals in the grueling 3200m stand start feature including all bar Speeding Spur from last week’s ANZAC Cup. The Greg & Nina Hope trained performer is a stand start specialist but is foreign to the two mile distance range with 2700m being the longest he’s raced. Another intriguing factor to be considered this week for Monbet is his draw, the inside of the second-line. But if there is a scratching to his inside in the great race, Monbet will move from his inside second line draw to the outside of the front line, barrier nine, in direct contrast to what happens in mobile races. Most expect to him win regardless of where he starts from - front or second-line. And favourites have a great record in the race with the punters elect winning 7 of the last 9 editions, the exceptions being Stig in 2013 and I Can Doosit in 2011, the first of his two victories in the feature event. Champion reinsman Ricky May will once again handle Monbet and he is no stranger to success in the premier North Island trotting feature having won the race back in 1988 with Highwood. Key rivals this week include Sheemon, a runner-up in this event two years ago while the improving types of Blackguards Corner and Yagunnakissmeornot will also command respect. Realmein, Jag’s Invasion and Scarrymcleary all have upset chances on current form. Waterloo Sunset, Valmagne, Queen Kenny, Paramount Dream, Al Bundy and Quite A Moment will all require luck to claim the feature. The Canam Rowe Cup is race 8 on the program and scheduled to start at 9.13pm local time. Chris Barsby

As a breeder, for you are to have consistently good results at the yearling sales each year, then you really need a good crystal ball on top of everything else. When the vendors were planning what mare to breed to what stallion to produce the yearlings they sold at the sales this year, they had to make a judgement call on which stallions they thought would be in demand two and a half years down the track and which wouldn't be in such demand. It is an incredibly hard thing to get right and the margin for error is huge. It was with some satisfaction then that Studholme Park and Brian West produced the only two yearlings by Love You at the yearling sales this year. The stock of Love You are the hottest item in town on the trotting stallion front and Studholme Park was duly rewarded for its foresight with both yearlings selling for big money. First up was Lot 294, a Love You colt from a race winning half sister to the dam of I Can Doosit 1:55.5 ($1,455,774) named Thank You. Appropriately, Thank You was knocked down to two of the biggest supporters of Love You in New Zealand in Greg and Nina Hope who outlaid $50,000 for the good looking chestnut colt. Greg and Nina have had a lot of success with the stock of Love You from Monbet to the The Earth Moved and it was no surprise to see them have a nibble at the second Love You colt from the Studholme Park draft. Catalogued as Lot 334, the striking chestnut colt is named Paramount King and is a half brother to the outstanding age group trotter in Paramount Geegee 1:57.3 ($561,342) and a full brother to the Harness Jewels winner in Paramount Queen 1:59.7 ($122,612) while another half sister in Paramount Dream (8 wins) is heading for open class in the north. The bidding was fierce from the moment Paramount King walked into the ring and never let up until suddenly $110,000 became the ceiling for the buyers chasing him. Prominent Invercargill owner Ben Calder signed for the colt but he had already started the process of putting together a syndicate to race the colt before the auction. So Studholme Park grossed $160,000 for their two Love You colts which just goes to show how important that stallion choice is two and a half years out from the yearling sales. Harnesslink Media

For the last eighteen months, Stent has ruled the Australasian trotting scene but in the last two months he has lost his crown to a young harness racing four-year- old called Monbet. The son of Love You has thrilled crowds at both Addington and Alexandra Park with displays of raw speed seldom seen in a trotter in this part of the world. Today he added a staying componet to his reportire as he again put the best trotters in New Zealand to the sword in the $80,000 National FFA Trot. Ducking a couple of galloping horses early from his second line draw, Monbet settled in the one by one running line early before driver Ricky May set him alight at the 1400 metres mark to burst forward and grab the lead off Stent.  Attacked a couple of times during the last round, Monbet simply ran away and hid when Ricky asked him for an effort on the corner. Monbet won easing down by 2 3/4 lengths with Ricky hardly moving in the bike. Speeding Spur got home well from three back on the inner to grab second in front of a game One Over Da Moon with Stent a disappointing fourth. A minor highlight of the race was the performance of Prince Fearless who after galloping wildly early and settling a long way from them, was three wide for most of the last lap and stuck on well for a great fifth. It was win number thirteen for Monbet's at just his twenty third start and took his earnings over the $270,000 mark. Monbet  trotted the 2700 metres in 3:22.9, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 27.5. Ricky May was all smiles when he came back to the winners circle. " He did that really easy to be honest." " He is really so much more settled this season. " Those couple of breakers around him early didn't affect him at all." " Once he got to the front, I was really confident they wouldn't beat him." " He is clearly the top trotter in New Zealand at the moment," Ricky said. Trained by Greg and Nina Hope, Australians will get to see Monbet later in the season when travels with Mossdale Conner to Victoria Harnesslink Media 

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