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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

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

After eight weeks of harness racing this season, Blair Orange is still in front in the drivers premiership with 17 wins from 105 drives.   His latest win came courtesy of  the Ken and Tony Barron trained Terracotta who overpowered the favorite Beaudiene Delightful at Rangiora on Sunday (September 24).  Dexter Dunn is currently running second in the premiership with 15 wins from 77 drives but is closing in fast on Blair after missing the first few weeks of racing. Ricky May has had a good start to his season so far and is third on 13 wins from 72 drives, with a gap back to Rory Mcllwrick and Samantha Ottley on 8 wins each.   The top 15 in the drivers premiership Name Starts Wins  2nds 3rds Stakes UDR Blair Orange 105 17 19 12 130,162 0.3005 Dexter Dunn 77 15 12 9 114,692 0.3203 Ricky May 72 13 9 5 92,695 0.2731 Rory McIlwrick (J) 35 8 6 1 47,425 0.3333 Samantha Ottley 46 8 5 5 53,192 0.2705 Zac Butcher 29 7 3 5 55,781 0.3563 David Butcher 44 6 10 6 60,762 0.3081 Joshua Dickie 25 6 1 2 42,188 0.2889 John Dunn 43 6 3 10 72,653 0.2558 Gavin Smith 55 6 3 4 49,840 0.1636 Robbie Close 38 5 4 5 38,985 0.2339 Stephen McNally 41 5 6 10 39,615 0.2846 Andre Poutama 26 5 4 2 31,111 0.3034 Sheree Tomlinson (J) 25 5 1 1 35,380 0.2356 Brad Williamson 44 5 3 8 37,320 0.2121   Harnesslink Media

Breaking out on your own after a successful harness racing partnership that has lasted many years is supposed to be hard yakka, but Paul Court can be forgiven though for thinking it’s all a little too easy. The West Melton horseman, who was alongside his father Graham in training partnership for close to a decade, is making a pretty good fist of the solo training caper and yesterday, on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting, he picked up his first training hatrick. “It’s been a pretty dream start really, better than I could have ever expected anyway,” Court said. Yesterday’s three wins came less than 24 hours after Stunin Dude won at Forbury Park on Thursday night in the hands of Blair Orange and it was the Postman who was in the sulky for two thirds of his Friday success. Orange drove both Hypervelocity and Expressive Victor to victory while Ricky May was on board Courage To Live who won the last race of the day. “I thought that they were all good chances, but for all three to win was great. “You got to the race expecting to have a good day and often it’s the opposite.” Expressive Victor’s win in the Winter Cup Prelude was impressive. The 4-year-old mare, who was second behind Rocker Band in the 4YO Ruby at the Harness Jewels three weeks ago, overcame an early bobble to sit off the speed before unwinding brilliantly down centre track to secure victory. “The gallop was a bit of a worry, she’s usually such a good beginner. “Blair said she got a bit of a fright when the tapes went, I don’t think one on the 10 metre line was a good draw for her.” The imposing mare will start a warm order favourite on Sunday to go back-to-back on what is fast becoming her favourite track. From five starts on the Waterlea Raceway surface she’s won twice and placed on as many occasions with her only failure coming when she choked down and crashed to the deck at the Summer meeting earlier this year. Both Hypervelocity and Courage To Live will both also be in action on Sunday.   The former will have to deal with the impressive Franco Cristiano who made light work of his race track return earlier in yesterday’s programme for Robert and John Dunn. Courage To Live also has a tough ask from a wider draw, but his free going racing style means he will be on the speed at some stage in the race and that’s here he seems to race best. “He probably lacks that really high speed, but he will just keep going. “I was pretty impressed with the way he won, he looked like he could have kept going at that speed too. “He’s just got better and better each time I’ve taken him to the races.” Closely related to Terror To Love, the Jereme’s Jet colt was one of two winners for Terry McDonald who also shares owns Hypervelocity. McDonald went had the perfect day on Friday with Letspendanitetogetha, who he owns with good friend Reg Storer, finishing second to Courage To Live. While Court’s three wins was impressive, Orange’s driving talents were on full display. He won three races to go with the three he picked up on Thursday night, taking him to 117 winners for the season and 16 wins clear in second position on the national premiership which is being led by Dexter Dunn. Dunn endured a winless day at the office and will have to wait until next week to get New Zealand win No. 200 as he’s on a plane to drive Christen Me in Queensland on Saturday night and isn’t returning to Blenheim for Sunday’s meeting. Matt Markham

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

Any glimmer of hope Monbet’s rivals harbored heading into next week’s Harness Jewels might have just been sledgehammered by harness racing trainer Greg Hope. Because the Canterbury horseman says his trotting freak is working in career-best form heading into the final race of his magical season. On a day that could boast seven odds-on favourites Monbet is set to be the hottest, with the TAB still only offering betting on the four-year-old trot division with him removed from the market. After a huge season dating back to September 25, Monbet has won six group ones, a group two and a group three race, meaning victory on Saturday week would at least put him in the conversation with Have Faith In Me for Horse of the Year. But after such a long season there could understandably be concerns about Monbet holding his form, especially as so many of his follow open classers, both pacers and trotters, who could have headed to the Jewels have fallen by the wayside. Yet Hope says the four-year-old flyer will travel north this week in peak form. “He worked as good as he ever has on Saturday morning,” said Hope. “He obviously hasn’t raced for a while (April 29) but he felt great and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
 With arch rival Speeding Spur sidelined with injury, Monbet could be expected to sit parked and win on Jewels day if he had to and gives Hope and wife Nina a huge shot at becoming only the third stable to win two trotting Jewels in the same day --- the All Stars stable (under two different partnerships) and John Dickie being the other two. The Hopes also train Enghien, who is now $1.45 to win the two-year-old trot division after smashing his rivals in the Sires’s Stakes Trot at Addington on Saturday. Not only did he come from 12 lengths off long-time favourite Habibti Inta to thrash him but he did so untouched, suggesting he is right in the zone. “He has improved a lot mentally and we will give him a look at Cambridge at the workouts this Saturday, not that he needs it for fitness,” says Hope. “He and Monbet could both trial there but they won’t be out to do anything special. “Most importantly we want a front line draw with Enghien for Jewels day.” Also heading to the special Jewels workouts will be Field Marshal, who trainer Tim Butt says is over a bout of colic suffered last Tuesday. “It was a bit of a shock at the time but we got him to the vet straight away and got him treated and he came right pretty quickly,” says Butt. “We were able to work him properly on Saturday morning so he is still on target for next week.”
 While his Taylor Mile and Messenger wins suggest Field Marshal deserves to be favourite for the four-year-old male pace, that will be tested should he draw outside Titan Banner, who has been one of the biggest market movers in Jewels history. Punters could get as much as $26 about him before he joined the All Stars stable a few weeks ago but he is now the $2.40 second favourite. He was enormous beating Christen Me at Addington on Saturday with trainer Mark Purdon much happier with how he paced after the addition of an overcheck. “He was a lot smoother than the week before and we still have two more weeks to work on him,” said Purdon. “But I am not that worried about him around Cambridge now because he didn’t hit his knees anywhere as badly on Saturday." 
Meanwhile, the last Australian entry for the Jewels still not in New Zealand will complete his preparation at Menangle on Saturday night. Heza Bromac, rated a $26 chance in the three-year-old male pace, was to have trialled at Menangle yesterday but was scratched. But he is still on target for the Jewels and will start from the outside of the front line in a solid three-year-old mile. The other Australian contender for the Jewels, My Kiwi Mate, races at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Michael Guerin

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

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

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

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

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

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