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

Grass track three-year-old trots might not be the traditional path to Group One success, but today’s Orari meeting may prove to have a major impact on the age group for the remainder of the season. A lot of that lays with which version of exciting young trotter, Enghien turns up. If the best version arrives on the green surface, then the race should become a fait accompli - but if he doesn’t, things become a little bit like open slather. Last season’s two-year-old colt and gelding trotter of the year has produced a mixed bag so far in his three-year-old season with a stunning fresh up win at Addington late last year, undone with a late gallop when looking likely in the Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton earlier in the month. That’s put the pressure on his trainers Greg and Nina Hope to get things sorted with the well-bred gelding. “He’s come through Ashburton ok,” Greg Hope said. “I guess we just have to wait and see which one will show up, we know what he’s capable of if he does it all right.” The son of Love You has the advantage of having placed on a grass track back when he ran second at Methven last season behind Habibi Inta - so the Orari surface shouldn’t prove too much of a foil for him. With some major assignments ahead of him, gaining confidence will be a big boost for the camp. Off the second row Enghien does have to contend with a decent field in the $10,000 event including Hambletonian runner-up Muscles Galore and last season’s two-year-old filly of the year, Di’z Luck. The Gavin Smith trained filly was very good fresh up at Rangiora and with natural improvement and a good draw she may prove to be the horse to beat for Enghien.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Whataboyz, Moment Of Kaos, Princess Harbour, Scarlet Bromac Race 2: Sharknado, Sky City King, Master Jordy, Garry’s Legacy Race 3: Fear Rockn, Supreme Banner, Dying To See You, Enchantee Race 4: Free Bird, Tijuana Taxi, Monkey Luck, Glenis Marie Race 5: Mickey Gee, Unico Legend, It’s All Over Now, Clarendon’s Last Race 6: Shadow Galleon, Missie Castleton, Chivasion, Native’s Lasting Love Race 7: Trailer Park Girl, Jemima Franco, Crystal Slipper, Scotlyn Made Race 8: Enghien, Di’z Luck, Muscles Galore, Firenze Race 9: Tahlia Franco, Ok I’m Bad, My Cash, Star In The Future Race 10: Errol Finn, Franco Tmick, Cimarron, Wozniacki Race 11: Franco Texas, Clive, Scotty’s Image, Highview Freddy Best Bet: Mickey Gee (Race 5) Value: Sharknado (Race 2)

Frustrated with the current farming life, champion harness racing driver Ricky May might find driving high-priced racehorses today at Ashburton somewhat of a stress relief from the battles he’s facing on the farm.  The Methven horseman is currently juggling harvest work with driving horses, but as the unpredictable weather continues to wreak havoc on his yields, May, has the luxury of being able to focus on the job at hand on the racetrack a little more than what he usually does at this time of the year. “It’s been a bit of a weird old season,” May said of the cropping life.  “We are getting a couple of really good days and then some wet ones which is meaning the crops aren’t drying and it keeps pushing things back.”  Today though the focus will be solely on the track as he looks forward to two of the Ashburton Trotting Club’s most prestigious juvenile races – the Hambletonian Classic and the Sapling Stakes.  His Hambletonian drive – Enghien, is a beauty.  The Greg and Nina Hope trained three-year-old hasn’t been to the races since a stunning fresh victory back prior to Christmas.  He did trial at Ashburton last week, galloping late in the piece when beaten by race-rival today, Habibi Inta.  “It’s always a concern when they do that, but I think we can forgive it, I’m not worried about it.”  “They have made some changes to his shoes since then and knowing Greg and Nina he should be sorted.” May used the trial as a chance to push Enghien out of the gate and he responded beautifully looking powerful as he surged forward.  “That’s the best he has felt out of the gate, I was really happy with it.  “We are going to have to go forward from our draw, so I’m pleased we did it.” Enghien will start from barrier eight. His biggest rival, Habibi Inta, will start from the second row for Blair Orange.  Never far from the action at Ashburton, which is just a 20 minute drive from home base, May is closing in on 200 driving wins on the track over his career. He’s got 182 wins on the grit track and one sole victory on the grass track from when he drove Liz Winter to success for David Isherwood in 1979 – the first of his wins at the Ashburton Racecourse.  In the Sapling Stakes, which he won back in 2000 with Thank U John, May will take the reins on Cullenburn for Benny Hill. The big-figure purchase at last year’s yearling sales is a brother to open class pacing star, Locharburn and has had two public appearances ahead of his debut in the two-year-old feature.  “He’s got all the makings of a really nice horse, he’s going to be pretty tough when it all clicks together.  “I don’t know about this week though, he might just need the experience, I think he’s good enough but we will have to see.” Gerard O’Reilly will drive the likely favourite in the event, Cole Porter – a son of former top racemare, De Lovely by Bettor’s Delight.  May’s other chances today include Mossdale Rose and Bella Jones for the Hope stable while he made Diamond Life his best of the day.  “I thought he’d be pretty hard to beat. It’s not a super field.” Diamond Life is trained by Hill and part-owned by popular rodeo identity, Craig Wiggins along with May’s wife Judy who bred the foal from her broodmare, Ruby Wax.    Ashburton Selections – By Matt Markham  Race 1: Say Your Pres, Kai Time, Louis Moss, Paradise Spur Race 2: Sky City King, Cleaver Green, Loretta Franco, Locked Out Of Heaven  Race 3: Diamond Life, Waimac Attack, Glenferrie Duster, Kotare Mist Race 4: Woosh Factor, Burn Off, Living Legend, Elusive Flight Race 5: Matrika, Tahlia Franco, Supreme Banner, Happy Styx Race 6: Mossdale Rose, Bonnie Joan, Ariadne Lavra, Ask Again Race 7: Mighty American, Cruzy Dude, Gumpowder, Crackamoa Race 8: The Brooklyn Brawler, Cullenburn, Cole Porter, John The Plumber Race 9: Enghien, Habibi Inta, Chevron Express, Firenze Race 10: Habibti Ivy, Arannalea, Sugar Cane, Agatha Tyron Race 11: Ultimate Desire, Glenferrie Classic, Cmeerock, Bella Jones Best Bet: Ultimate Desire (Race 11) Value: Sugar Cane (Race 10)

A day in the sun at Nelson on Friday quickly became a day belonging to Johnny Dunn. The North Canterbury horseman, who wears two hats as an unofficial trainer and as a driver, stole the show on the first day of the Nelson Harness Racing Club’s two day meeting winning five in the sulky with four coming from the stable of his father, Robert. In a display of aggressive driving, making full use of a notable front runners bias yesterday, Dunn took the bull by the horns and set about dominating from the outset. He won early in the day with Muscles Galore in the maiden trot for his father-in-law and sister-in-law Craig and Aimee Edmonds. A Muscle Mass three-year-old gelding out of the former smart trotting filly, Harriet Hughes who hailed from the same stable, Muscle Mass went to war with BD Khaosan a long way out from home but kept finding and drew clear inside the final 100 metres to claim victory. Dunn the saluted on maiden pacers, Kotare Mist and Returntorocknroll - the latter finally breaking the maiden status after 19 starts for owners, Trent and Wendy Yesberg. Returntorocknroll is the sixth foal to the races from Jingle Belle Rock and now all six have won at least one race with noted performers, Bettor Rock On, J D Fortune and Great Balls A Flyin also hailing from the mare. Kotare Mist is also well bred being a Christian Cullen out of Kotare Yangtze who has left Bella Star, Kotare Mahdi and Kotare Mahal - she is raced by prominent owners and breeders, Tony and Gay Abell. Dunn’s remaining two winners come from consistent trotter, Foreverman and then he won the last with handy three-year-old pacer, Billy Badger who was levels ahead of his opposition in the last of the day. Greg and Nina Hope picked up a few of the scraps following the Dunn demoltion. They won the Nelson Cup Prelude with Usain Colt who continued a great run of luck for his owners, Wayne and Connie Stewart and then A G’s White Socks lived up to his reputation by remaining unbeaten with a big win later in the day after doing a power of work inside the final lap. Ricky May was on board both of the Hope winners. While it was Dunn’s day, Ladbrooks trainer, Dean Taylor achieved a notable milestone when he notched up his 500th training success when Jessica Young produced a peach of a drive on Go Davey to get him home against a handy field of pacers. Taylor has held a licence since 1989 - 1990 season, training his first winner at Westport when Lumber Scott won with Jeff Whittaker in the sulky. He’s prepared top open class pacer, Waipawa Lad to win a New Zealand Free-For-All and Captain Peacock won a New Zealand Derby. In recent years Taylor has formed a strong association with Young and he is currently enjoying a good season with eight winners on the board already.   Nelson Second Day selections - By Matt Markham   Race 1: Unico Enchantress, Out Of Aces, Living Glory, Jersey joe Wilcott Race 2: BD Khaosan, Gold Sovereign, Scarlet Bromac, Geena’s Girl Race 3: The New Man, Jimmy Nga, Lolita Franco, Idealagain Race 4: Johnny White, Black Art, Spooky, Clarendon Falcon Race 5: Tattinger Rose, Franco Lamar, JJ’s Delight, Red Ranger Race 6: Destiny Jones, Forverman, Prestine, Alvira Hest Race 7: Gotta Go Ya Hu, Bella Jones, Mac Toddy, Handlebar Hank Race 8: Unico Legend, One Off, Smooth N Easy, Born Again Delight Race 9: Mighty Flying Major, Usain Colt, Alta Orlando, Smithy Race 10: A G’s White Socks, Waimac Attack, Mrs Browns Boys, Gunpowder Race 11: Cmeerock, Torrid Bromac, Emily Blunt, Go Davey   Best Bet: A G’s White Socks (Race 10) Longshot: Geena’s Girl (Race 2)

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

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

Classie Brigade is the one to beat in the $30,000 McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Central Otago Trotting Cup at Omakau on Monday on the strength of a record win in the Ashburton Cup last Monday.   Classie Brigade only won the Ashburton Cup narrowly from his stablemates Maverick and Ears Burning but his time of 3.58.3 for the 3200m was 1.2sec inside the race record set by Four Starzzz Flash in 2012.   Another pointer to Classie Brigade at Omakau is that Four Starzzz Flash won the CO Cup a week later. Ears Burning is again in the field, giving Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath a strong hand. McGrath and Blair Orange, who drove Classie Brigade, combined to win another two races at Motukarara on Thursday.   McGrath had to scratch Maverick at Omakau.   “He (Maverick) has a bit of a cough,’’ said McGrath.“The other two are both really well.”   McGrath has replaced the blinds on Classie Brigade with sliding blinds in the hope that the 4-year-old will finish the race off better.   “I was just not happy with the way he came off the back of Maverick at Ashburton.”   Dexter Dunn, who drove Four Starzzz Flash in his Ashburton and C0 Cup wins, is aboard Captain Dolmio on Monday. Captain Dolmio was far from disgraced when second to Acolyte in the Gore Trotting Cup on Tuesday.   He was given little respite when attempting to lead for the last 1000m of 2700m in blustery conditions after starting from 30m. The 2600m (mobile) of the CO Cup is ideal for Captain Dolmio, who won over the distance in 3.07.7 at Addington in April. He won there in 3.11.5 in November.   The track record at Omakau is 3.10 set by Quick As a Trick (now in Australia) in the C0 Cup last year.   Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope, who have won two of the last three CO Cups with Jason Rulz, have Mossdale Conner in contention. Ricky May, who drove Jason Rulz, is back on Mossdale Conner, who worked hard early when sixth in the Ashburton Cup. The Hope stable have won the group one National Trot with Quite A Moment and six races at the Westport and Reefton meetings in the past week.   Costa Del Magnifco and Robyn’s Bad Boy are chances for longer odds. Costa Del Magnifico  was having his first race for three and a half months when he finished sixth the Wairio Cup from a 40m handicap on December 17.   Robyn’s Bad Boy, who won in 2.54.7 for 2400m (mobile) at Winton last month was disappointed for a run at his last start.   The star trotter Master Lavros is a standout in free-for-all on Monday. Master Lavros resumed racing after a 12 month lay-off with a superb win in a ffa at Addington on December 23 after going off stride and losing some 50m at the start. The winner of two Dominion Handicaps, a Rowe Cup and New Zealand Trotting Championship, Master Lavros looks a class above his five rivals.   Phil’s Gift, the other open class acceptor and last start winner, has been scratched when showing soreness, leaving trainer Phil Williamson with Father Christmas, Monty Python and Springbank Eden in the field.   Bet of the day: Master Lavros. Longshot: Costa Del Magnifico (race 10).   Tayler Strong

Two of New Zealand’s leading harness racing stables have cast their nets far and wide this Boxing Day - nearly 373 kilometres to be exact. Woodend Beach trainers, who currently sit second and third on the national trainers’ premiership, have a big number of horses racing today across both the harness meetings on offer at Ashburton and Westport. There’s 12 horses in total wearing the distinctive double blue colours of Greg and Nina Hope while their neighbours, Robert Dunn beat them by one with a team of 13 across the two meetings. Incidentally both stables have chances in the two features of the day, the Ashburton and Westport Cups. Mossdale Conner flies the flag for Team Hope on the eastern side of the Island as he continues to look win his second race in almost two years. An improved third behind the in-form Ears Burning last time out showed we might not be too far away from seeing the best version of the former New Zealand Trotting Cup placegetter. With Ricky May heading to Westport to handle the team over there, the Hopes have tried to keep things as familiar as possible for their Ashburton time by engaging the services of another gold capped driver in Matty Williamson to drive their three chances. Williamson drove Mossdale Conner last time out and will also pick up the drive on Emily Blunt who he won on at Addington at her last start and also debutant, Gold Sovereign - a full brother to outstanding open class trotter, Sovereignty. On the Coast, the Hope stable looks particularly strong. They have two chances in the Westport Cup in Ranfurly Rulz and Burn Off. The former has local ownership connections, so a win would be a popular result. The Dunn stable have a leading contender in the race in Say My Name who returns from an enforced layoff after showing plenty of promise in his last campaign. He also meets the talented Buster Brady who returns off the back of his strong Geraldine victory fresh up. Dexter Dunn will drive the four-year-old with Blair Orange staying to drive in Ashburton. Alta Orlando will fly the stable flag at Ashburton in the small, but select Ashburton Cup field with Ross Houghton doing the driving. There is currently one win separating the two stables with the Hope stable on 34 wins for the season to the Dunn’s 33 winners. Super Selector - Ashburton - By Matt Markham Race 1: Ace Commander, Beg For Chevron, Gold Sovereign, Izmok Race 2: Chloe, Pay Me Interest, Patanjali, Nicky Anew Race 3: Boults On Fire, Playingintheshadows, I Am Yours, Nearis Green Race 4: Bailey’s Rock, Culley Backy, Pradas Ideal Dahling, The Valiant Race 5: Runaway Three, Hilarious Magic, Cullenz Diamond, Lets Rock N Roll Race 6: Franco Saxon, Christopher Banner, Eh Ef El, Torrid Bromac Race 7: Maverick, Mossdale Conner, Classie Brigade, Ears Burning Race 8: American Tart, Miss Daisy, Emily Blunt, RR Sand Dollar Race 9: Beg Hall, Jean Sebastien, All Lit Up, Don’t Look Back Race 10: Stars Align, Cable Beach, Nolan Sackett, Pay Me Way Best Bet: Chloe (Race 2) Value: Maverick (Race 7)   Super Selector - Westport - By Matt Markham Race 1  Returntorocknroll, Dali’s Masterpeice, Indie, Supreme Harmony Race 2: Lord Roydon, War Spirit, Ronald J, Michelle Race 3: Warloch, Smooth Mara, Shark Attack, Samarias Falcon Race 4: Franco Tmick, Franco Lamar, Dream To Reality, JJ’s Delight Race 5: Helena Ideal, Garry’s Legacy, Li Na, Master Jordy Race 6: Jonty James, Precious Sara, Midfrew Tarpediem, Monet Grace Race 7: Buster Brady, Say My Name, Johnny Eyre, Ranfurly Rulz Race 8: Sarah Palin, Medusa, Royal Shine, My Armour Race 9: Earthquake, Wobbegong, Young Mister Grace, Danse Macabre Race 10: Sails, Knockmanaugh, Extreme Spark, Lottie Franco   Best Bet: Lord Roydon (Best Bet) Value: Sails (Race 10)

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)

Two of the more quiet achievers of the Cup Week undercard look set to dominate separate grass track features today at Methven. Impressive four-year-old Chase The Dream will start a short priced favourite in the Methven Green Mile for the pacers off the back of his stunning fresh up victory on Show Day at Addington. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained pacer hasn’t been sighted since the performance but will strip a fit and ready horse when he walks out onto the green top this afternoon with Rasmussen in the bike. Despite having never raced on grass before, the striking individual opened up a warm order favourite in the one mile event ahead of Classie Brigade who will be out to go one better than his second last weekend at Orari. The Nigel McGrath trained pacer was a brave second and has the advantage of a good barrier draw to work forward early and make the others try and chase him. “He’s been brilliant this week,” McGrath said. “I’ve taken him out for a bowl on the beach a couple of times and he’s really impressed me with how he has felt.” Franco Texas will hold many keys to the race with his blistering gate speed as Jess Young looks to go back-to-back in the race after winning with Quick As A Trick last year. He’s back to defend his title too, but will start from the outside of the front line with John Dunn pressing the go button early a high possibility considering the gelding’s high cruising speed. The enigma of the race is without doubt, Mossdale Conner. A former winner of the race, he will be looking to bounce back to form over the shorter distance after disappointing last week. “He’s just not going like he can,” driver Ricky May said. “Hopefully the one mile will suit him and we can see the best of him.” Mossdale Conner starts from one on the second line. Earlier in the day, Marcoola, like Chase The Dream, will start a hot favourite in the trotting Green Mile. The progressive trotter was a brilliant second behind Monbet on Cup Day and comes into this week with the aid of having won a workout on the Methven track last weekend. He is one of three runners in the race for Ken Ford who will also line up Amaretto Sun and grass track toff, Zachary Binx. Super Selector – By Matt Markham Race 1: Time For Diamonds, China Express, Lola Leigh, Dragon’s Sister Race 2: Red Moon Rising, Unico Enchantress, Novak, All About Henry Race 3: Dancing In The Dark, Shards Halo, Curlimore, Mr Woodlea Race 4: Mossdale Sue, Playingintheshadows, Sky City King, Jay FM Race 5: Missinmemate, Julia Lady, Mrs Browns Boys, No More Change Race 6: Debaneyre, Jean Sebastien, All Star Angus, BK Dawn Race 7: Vincent, Franco Tristan, Bevan’s Cullen, Dana Duke Race 8: Marcoola, Amaretto Sun, Le Lievre’s Gift, Harrysul Race 9: Myidealson, Augusta, Run Boy Run, Magical Mitch Race 10: Classie Brigade, Chase The Dream, Mossdale Conner, Johnny Eyre Race 11: Cruzy Dude, Motu Lightning Lass, Regal Major, Crackabella Best Bet: Red Moon Rising (Race 2) Value: Motu Lightning Lass (Race 11)

Royal Tribute an impressive looking son of Stunin Cullen has improved on his trials third last week by winning todays 2yo qualifying heat at the Chertsey harness racing trials.   Stunin Cullen had oodles of speed and Royal Tribute looks to have inherited a fair bit of that speed judging by todays win on the Ashburton track. The colt cruised to an easy one length victory in very hot conditions for driver Ricky May. Royal Tribute ran the 1609m journey in 2-02.5 with a fast final 800 metres in an impressive 56.5 seconds with a closing 400m in 26.6 seconds. He is trained by Paul Court and owned by his father Graham who stands Stunin Cullen at Pinlea Farm Stud.   Royal Tribute running third at last weeks trial. (Todays video will be available later)   Harnesslink Media  

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

By his own admission, Ricky May knew just how close he came to blowing a Group One victory at Addington yesterday. For years the champion reinsman has been renowned for his ability to get the best out of a horse without knocking them around - it’s a driving style that has, in time, often won him so many big races but it’s also thrown a lot of criticism his way too. And had the might of Monbet not got him over the line first in yesterday’s Group One New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All, after a stirling length of the straight battle with Marcoola, he knew as well as anyone what the reaction would have been like. “I completely underestimated it around the last bend,” May said. “He felt like he was travelling and when I angled him onto the back of Marcoola he took the bit and I thought he would just come off his back and run past him. “But he didn’t and that’s all to the credit of the other horse who just kept giving the whole way up the straight.” With the Dominion Handicap just over 72 hours away at the time, May was conscious of not asking for too much from Monbet and ensuring the horse didn’t expend too much energy ahead of the major assignment for Cup Week 2016. So when the opportunity to duck for a bit of cover arose, it was always going to be in the Methven horseman’s nature to take it. “We’ve got a pretty big race coming up in a couple of days and the last thing you want to be doing is going out there and giving him a real hard run that will leave him flat. “In saying that he doesn’t seem to be quite as sharp when he’s not in front, he took a fair bit to get around to parked when I moved around them.” At the end of the day, whether or not May did leave it a little late or not became a moot point when Monbet called on all his champion like qualities to draw level to, and then head Marcoola in the shadows of the post. He never actually looked fully likely to do that until inside the last 50 metres when May’s urgency levels went from moderate to through the roof in about one second flat. What is sure now though is that Friday’s Dominion looks ripe for the picking for Monbet and if he is successful, he will be able to lay claim to holding all the major trotting titles in New Zealand within a 12 month period. His charge on Friday is helped by the fact Marcoola won’t be there - but there is some fresh blood joining the fray in the form of on-song trotters; Bordeaux, Harriet Of Mot and Sunny Ruby along side many of those who were left to fight for the scraps yesterday. “I think he will tighten up again with that run,” May said. Monbet’s win yesterday was of course his second in the race after last year’s effort but also gave May his fourth win in the race following last year and then the winning efforts of Allegro Agitato and the grand old trotter Cedar Fella in 1997. May combined with Greg and Nina Hope, Monbet’s trainers later in the day for a Cup Day double when Everybody Knows produced a stunning performance after an early gallop in the C1 Trot. There will be no late payment for the Dominion made by the connections of Marcoola despite his valiant effort to lead up in a New Zealand record time and push the reigning Horse of the Year so close. He will follow a similar path to that which Monbet did last season so based on that, his next appearance could be on the grass track at Methven for the Green Mile early in December. Australian raider, Kyvalley Blur was an eye-catching third in the event and is now a contender for Friday’s Group One.   Matt Markham

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

It is time for New Zealand’s best pacer to get serious. Because for all his talent and a trophy case that includes the Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile, Have Faith In Me is starting to get painful for punters. The five-year-old has the perfect opportunity to turn that around in tomorrow’s (Monday's) Ashburton Flying Stakes, the crucial final chance to earn respect before everybody’s early season aim, the New Zealand Cup on November 8. A potential all-time great if he can develop the manners to match his motor, Have Faith In Me’s record in standing start races make for ugly reading. He won that Auckland Cup from the stand but has only two placings in five other attempts, with his last-start fourth to stablemate Lazarus at Addington a perfect example of how frustrating he can be. Have Faith In Me missed away enough to settle last and when Lazarus and his mates set up a national record in front even an equine superman can’t come three wide and beat them. With the small field today and the remote back straight starting point for the 2400m contest, Have Faith In Me won’t get a better chance to get away on terms with his rivals and be in a position to launch a mid-race assault. If he does that and gets in front of Lazarus he can win, if he doesn’t punters might do their cash again because Lazarus doesn’t look the sort of horse who comes back to his rivals. So not only will Have Faith In Me’s manners determine his winning hopes today but whether he can be backed with any confidence in the Cup. “He felt a bit flat after his last run but he has bounced back and worked well on Wednesday,” says co-trainer Mark Purdon. "This is his chance to settle handier and if he does that he has to be put in the race.” Lazarus has so far looked a near perfect open class newcomer and if he leads or settles handy it will take the best version of Have Faith In Me to beat him. Their cases have been aided by stablemate Smolda being pulled out today because of a slightly off blood report but Purdon insists that is no big deal and he could head to Kaikoura next Monday on his way to the Cup. On a beautiful day of racing that feels like the real launch of the harness racing summer, Horse of the Year Monbet returns and has the right draw to be driven aggressively in the Flying Mile. If Ricky May elects to go forward early that would put key rivals Marcoola and Sunny Ruby behind Monbet and could be the winning of the race so those taking the short odds will hope May pushes the go button early. Michael Guerin  

Brendon Hill’s the first to admit he wasn’t much of a fan of Beaudiene Delightful when she first arrived at his place. But he’s starting to warm to the wonderfully bred filly and if she keeps producing performances like the one she laid on the table at Timaru yesterday then the relationship between trainer and horse is going to be just fine. A daughter of grand producing mare, Beaudiene Babe who has left notable performers Beaudiene Bad Babe, Guns N Roses and also Beaudiene Boaz, Beaudiene Delightful broke maidens at start No.2 and there’s the promise of more to come still. “Big dreams for her, whether we get to them or not, I’m not sure,” Hill said. “She’s got all the makings of being a really nice horse but we won’t be pushing her. She can find her own way forward from here and we will see where we end up.” After originally doing stints with Mark Smolenski and then Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Beaudiene Delightful found her way to Hill’s stable through an association with breeder Dave Kennedy who also bred Pay Me Interest who Hill is training. “Mark Purdon had suggested she might have been better served at a stable that was smaller with someone who could spend a bit more time working with her. “When she first came she caused a bit of trouble, but we have slowly ironed most of them out I think. “She went fantastic at Rangiora first up and then was very good winning.” With a bright future in front of her and a driver in Ricky May who is keen to stick with the ship, Hill is being careful not to get too far ahead of himself. As he knows time will be his best friend. “I’m thinking we might take a look at a run in the C1 grade at Ashburton and then, all going well there is a race for her on Show Day I think, so we do have some options.” Her win yesterday took Hill’s tally to seven winners from 18 starters, a flying start for a small, but select racing team. “I’ve learnt a few things in the past few seasons about placing horses and I would like to think I’m getting better at finding the right races for the right horses. “There’s a bit of a running joke that I never used to know where Oamaru was because I tended to focus on the bigger meetings in Canterbury, but I’m learning all the time. “The way the season has started has been great, the team is going so well. “Horses like Rummage and Cruzy Dude going great each week and it certainly helps going to the races feeling confident about your chances.”     Matt Markham

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