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

It’s not every day you get to see the fastest harness racing horse in the world. But that’s exactly what’s happening at Alabar NZ this Sunday. He’s Watching has been a hype horse all his life. A true World Champion. In 2013 as a two-year-old he made racegoers sit up and take notice with his unbeaten 8-for-8 season in which he blazed his way to a multitude of track and world records. In 2014 as a three-year-old he astonished harness racing with his world record performance in demolishing an outstanding field in the Meadowlands Pace. In 2015 Tim Tetrick travelled to New Zealand and Australia and repeated He’s Watching was the fastest horse he ever sat behind, a horse he said “felt like he had wings”. Unfortunately 2015 also saw He’s Watching’s stellar race career come to an abrupt, injury enforced end. The timing of this injury means He’s Watching will debut as a sire in New Zealand – surely a wonderful coup for the breeding industry downunder. At 1pm, this Sunday 4 October at Alabar NZ (480 Seagrove Road, Waiau Pa, Pukekohe) He’s Watching will be paraded to the public alongside Alabar’s other new recruits – Sunshine Beach and Peak. Sunshine Beach is a horse with movie-star good looks and a pedigree and race career to match. A son of Somebeachsomewhere, he too is a world champion and has the distinction of being the first horse ever to beat the great Captaintreacherous. Peak is the only horse to win a Group One trotting event in Europe and then repeat the feat in the Southern Hemisphere. He brings a bit of European flair to Alabar and, the horse who made such an impression in his all too brief New Zealand career, has furnished into a stunning individual. Breeders should contact Graeme Henley (0-9-232 1800 or graeme@alabar.co.nz) if they wish attend on Sunday.  

Alabar have added some European flair to their harness racing line up with the arrival of the exciting trotting sire, Peak. If travel truly does make you more interesting, then breeders should be infatuated with Peak. He was born in Denmark, his father is French, his mother is Danish and her father is American. He raced around Europe and scored his greatest success in the Group 1 Danish Trav-Derby in Denmark as a 4yo. As a Group 1 winner of 8 races, Peak headed a daring syndication package put together in 2013 by New Zealand trainer Tim Butt and his reinsman brother Anthony. Peak was magnificent in his New Zealand debut against the open class trotters in the Group 3 Ashburton Flying Mile. He hadn't raced for over three months, he'd spent several weeks in quarantine in Europe, had travelled around the world and then spent another two weeks sitting in quarantine in New Zealand - but he was still good enough to work hard for the lead, be taken on and stick to his guns to win by a neck in 1:57.6. Two weeks later he raced in the Group 1 NZ Trotting free-for-all at Addington on New Zealand Cup Day. He was parked for the first 800m and then had to work hard for the lead. Given no peace in front, he was headed half way down the straight but - as only the best horses can - he found the stamina to fight back and win (in a 1:57.7 mile rate). "He had every reason to get beaten but he just refused to lie down" was what Anthony Butt enthused on returning to scale. Next up came the Group 1 Dominion Handicap where his two outstanding performances installed him as one of the favourites. Shuffled back early, Peak mounted a run around the field to be right in contention only to break with 200m to go. The reason for the uncharacteristic break was soon apparent with Peak sore in a hind leg after the race. Cruelly, this was to be his last start. It is thought the lameness was the flaring up of an injury that stemmed from him kicking out at a stable wall not long after he arrived out of quarantine. The Butts have been fighting a losing battle to get their star trotter back to the racetrack ever since. Peak actually served 40 mares in New Zealand last season while continuing to be trained and rehabilitated - this is a very solid result considering only two trotting sires served more mares than this in New Zealand for the season. Now officially retired, Peak will no doubt serve a much greater book of mares - being on full time stud duty and based at Alabar with his semen promoted in not only New Zealand but also across the Tasman. Anthony Butt described Peak as: "The most clean gaited trotter I have ever driven. The perfect trotter - speed, gait, heart and manners. When I ask him to go he goes - and keeps going." Tim Butt is equally taken with him: "He's such a beautiful horse with a massive heart and superb attitude. He has an unbelievable gait - far superior to any other trotter I've trained. His will to win was his biggest asset." Peak is an example of the ever increasing impact European trotting is having around the world. The likes of the 1:49 trotter Sebastian K and the $5 million winner Commander Crowe have come from Europe to conquer North America. The top free-for-all trotters from North America are venturing to Europe for races like the Elitlopp - as they know this is the Holy Grail. And in Australia and New Zealand, the deeds of Love You as a sire and the likes of Peak on the racetrack have certainly opened the eyes of many to the quality that abounds in Europe. Of note, the great Commander Crowe - the European champion who franked his greatness by venturing to North America as an 11yo and winning the US Breeders Crown - is by a son of Buvetier D'Aunou, the sire also of Ganymede - the sire of Peak. Both Peak and Commander Crowe are flashy chestnuts with a thin white blaze. Ganymede is a super-sire in Europe. In 2014 he was the champion sire of France (for the second time) and runner-up champion sire in Italy. He also has a number of successful siring sons at stud. In Australia, Ganymede has a handful of foals bred from frozen semen. They include the $195,000 winner, Vincennes which won the Vicbred Final as a 4yo and was placed second to Stent in the final of this year's Great Southern Star. Peak is from a daughter of the outstanding sire Sugarcane Hanover - a grandson of Arnie Almahurst. Sundon is another notable grandson of Arnie Almahurst. This link certainly lends weight to the feeling that Peak is an attractive option for daughters of Sundon - something that is vital for any trotting sire in this part of the world. (Of note, Stent is a current superstar that carries a double-up of Arnie Almahurst in his pedigree) Peak will stand at Alabar's Auckland farm at a fee of NZ$2,500 (plus GST). His semen will be available in Australia at a fee of A$2,500 (incl GST).  

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