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Racing’s resumption post-lockdown could scarcely have gone any better for Woodend trainers Greg and Nina Hope, and they have seven runners gunning for further spoils at Addington this Friday. Last week three of their two-year-olds, Tedesco, Eurokash and Franco Jorik, went under the national age-group record for a 2600 metre stand set by former Dominion Handicap winner Master Lavros. “It’s amazing,” says Greg Hope, “to do it three times in three days.” All three were driven by their son Ben. Firstly he piloted Tedesco to a six length win at the trials, covering the distance in 3:31.2. Master Lavros’ record was 3:31.5 set at Oamaru in May 2011. “I’d be happy if any of those were half as good as him,” says Hope. Because it was set at a trial Tedesco’s time was not recognized. The son of Muscle Hill will have a chance to show if he is as fleet-footed as the Sydney Roosters fullback he’s named after when he makes his race-day debut in race one at Addington on Friday (1980m Mobile). At last Thursday’s Addington meeting stable-mate Eurokash cleared out to a more than five length win in 3:27.9 to break Master Lavros' record, then Franco Jorik lowered it the very next night, to 3:25.7. Eurokash was on debut, while Franco Jorik was having his third start after a fourth and second previously.  Eurokash winning at Addington Eurokash ($35,000) and (Franco Jorik ($22,000) were bought at the yearling sales, while the Hopes bred Tedesco themselves. All three could line up in the lucrative Sires Stakes series, with Franco Jorik and Eurokash also eligible for the Harness Million series. Eurokash is by Love U, who sired the brilliant Monbet for the Hopes, and also Matua Tana who won the feature trot on Friday night. He returns on Friday along with DreamsintheMist (R1), Mick Beth (R5), Spicy Girl Becqui (R5), Baxter (R7), Awapuni (R10), Mossdale Art (R11) and Mossdale Lottee (R12).   Harness Racing New Zealand

When it comes to Monbet, Greg Hope is sick of talking to the media. For the best part of three years now, he has done his best to answer regular questions about the recovery and progress of the former Horse of the Year that has suffered setback after setback. It got to the stage that he started to think talking to the press when Monbet was nearing a public return was a bad omen. So often after commenting on an impending return to the trials, the horse would go amiss or suffer a setback. But then, when Monbet was struck down again in March – and this time nearly died - after finally making a race track return, Hope started to wonder whether it was just the racing gods at work. So, this week, after both Monbet and stablemate Enghien returned to the trials at Rangiora, he was finally willing to talk to the press about his stable stars. Monbet, the 2016 New Zealand Horse of the Year and two-time Trotter of the Year, has raced just once since winning the Dominion Handicap in November of 2016. After numerous setbacks - too many to list - he returned back in March, finishing mid-pack on a Sunday at Addington. But the stable’s relief was short-lived. “About a week later he developed an infection in his leg that went right through his body,” Hope told HRNZ. “At one stage we were frightened he was going to die. “We ended up running every antibiotic known to man through him and that eventually got on top of it.” So, it was back to square one – again for Hope and wife/training partner Nina. It’s hard to complain when a horse has won you over $770,000 but you get the impression Hope was at the end of his tether. “One day we’ll be able to write a book about him. We’ll call it ‘The Trials and Tribulations of Monbet,” he quipped. “It will be a best-seller.” Enghien, a former two and three-year-old Trotter of the Year, hasn’t been seen since the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in June of last year. He missed his entire five-year-old season. “He had a little strain on a fetlock so we played it safe, really. “Just to make sure it didn’t end up being a problem long term we played it on the side of caution. “He’s good as gold now after a long, slow build. It’s probably been five months since he came back in to work.” Enghien, in the hands of Ben Hope, won the four-horse trial, getting over the top of In Sequence and Hey Yo in the shadows of the post. Monbet sat last, on his stablemates back, and was allowed to run to the line under his own steam for regular driver, Ricky May. Greg Hope, speaking 24 hours after the trial, was suitably pleased with everything. “Ricky jumped off Monbet and said he felt awesome. “They both pulled up well and I gave them a light jog this morning (Thursday). “They’ll trial again next week and then we’ll have a look at a race for them.” That won’t be easy. “They’re so high in the handicaps, we really need a free for all because I don’t want them chasing off long marks. “Enghien is rated 100 and Monbet is a 127.” Hope said he enquired about getting Monbet’s rating reduced given it was approaching three years since his last win, but that fell on deaf ears. Enghien is the more forward of the two, and with a slightly more palatable rating, he might be the first one seen on race night. “Based on what we’ve felt, Enghien is slightly more forward than Monbet, and their heart rates reflect that, too. “There is nothing like a good run or two under the belt and hopefully we can get those runs before the other good ones hit the track.” Don’t for a second think either horse will have lost their edge, either. “I’ve got no doubt they’re both as good as anything running around at present. “I know they’ve had a long time off the scene and are going to need a race or two to see the best, but it’s still there.” As for driving engagements when they inevitably clash, Hope says May will get the pick of the two and son Ben will drive the other. “We are lucky that we own Monbet ourselves and our partner in Enghien, Richard Dellaca, is very relaxed about it, too.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The Greg and Nina Hope trained Luella smashed the New Zealand harness racing record for 2yo fillies over a mobile 2400m, yesterday at the Nelson Trotting Clubs winter meeting. Luella  2 B f Sweet Lou - Stella Franco  (Badlands Hanover) ran the mobile 2400m mobile in 2-57.7 which broke the old record by nearly 4 seconds. The old record was held by Kotare Elite who ran 3-02.6 at Ashburton in June 2017. Driver Ricky May had back to back wins when the Benny Hill trained Koromiko Eyre gained an overdue win in the following race. Koromiko Eyre 4 B g Ohoka Arizona - Hanover Eyre (Peruvian Hanover) looked likely to run another second 50m before the finishing post until the leader Stetson knocked off and Koromiko Eyre came again to get his head in front on the line. Koromiko Eyre winning for driver Ricky May _______________________________________________________________________________ Tony Herlihy notched up another amazing milestone at Alexandra Park on Friday night when he became the first New Zealand harness racing driver to get to 3500 wins. Herlihy won onboard the impressive Gambit who won his second race in a row in a quick 2-41.8  for the 2200m mobile.  Maurice McKendry is the closest to Herlihy in the all time wins leaderboard on 3248 wins. (see leaderboard below) Gambit winning on Friday night.   New Zealands leading drivers with 2000 wins or more. Driver Total Wins Tony Herlihy 3500 Maurice McKendry 3248 Ricky May 2916 David Butcher 2378 Dexter Dunn 2226 Colin DeFilippi 2021     Harnesslink Media

Young harness racing driver Ben Hope won his first Group race yesterday when Muscle Mountain was successful in the Gr3 "Majestic Son" NZ 2yo Trotting Stakes at Addington Raceway. Hope who is sitting third on the National Junior Drivers premiership table drove another calculating race with the unbeaten Muscle Mountain (Muscle Hill - Paramount Faith) when after finding the front shortly after the start he decided to hand up to second favourite Ultimate Stride with a lap to go.  Ultimate Stride was all done at the 400m and Muscle Mountain looked like being a chance of being carted back behind him, but Ben Hope managed to extract the speedy gelding out of a tight spot on the turn and from there he cruised home to win easily without being pushed. Muscle Mountain ran the 1980m mobile in 2-29.1 a mile rate of 2-01.1 with the winner coming home his last 800m in 58.6 with a closing 400m in 27.98 seconds. One Majic Kenny was brave in second for driver John Dunn and the Purdon/Rasmussen trained filly Tailored Elegance rattled home late for third. There were two false starts in the event with multiple offenders breaking stride in the runups to the start.   In the other 2yo (pacing) race on the day there was also sensation when raging hot favorite Smooth Deal galloped out of contention shortly after the start dashing his chance and also the hopes of punters many of whom had included the son of Bettor's Delight in multi bets during the day. Mark Purdon wasn’t sure what happened when Smooth Deal went out of his gear early in his Sires Stakes heat at Addington. “He’s done it before but there was no apparent reason for it this time. He might have touched a knee it is just hard to say” Mark said. Smooth Deal had already qualified for the Sires Stakes final during his Auckland campaign, so Saturday’s failure was not as crucial as it might have been if he had not qualified. All Stars Stables had better luck later in the day taking home wins with Princess Tiffany, Winterfell and Ashley Locaz. Star 3yo old filly Princess Tiffany looked to have come back to racing in great order, winning Heat 7 of the Nevele R Fillies Series with an easy all the way win. Driver Natalie Rasmussen gave nothing else a chance when shooting Princess Tiffanyto the lead from the start and then blazing home her last 800m in 55.2 to win untouched by more than 2 lengths. Winterfell also was back in winning form easily accounting for a tidy field of trotters in the Rating 70 and faster Trot. The son of Majestic Son settled back in the running for driver Mark Purdon and despite trotting a fraction roughly at the last bend he had too much speed for the opposition in the straight going straight past them and posting a quick 3-17.8 for the 2600m stand. Ashley Locaz gave Purdon a race to race double when gaining a deserved win in the R90 and faster pace. He too led for most of the way in his win holding off a good field with a sizzling last 800m in 54.9 seconds.   Harnesslink Media

The Greg and Nina Hope trained A G's White Socks got a desreved harness racing win in the Airpark Canterbury Gr3 Rangiora Classic yesterday, when he fired home late down the centre of the track to upset a brave Thefixer right on the line. Driven by Ricky May the underrated pacer had been the bridemaid in Group races on several occasions this season but yesterday his usual fast finishing burst was enough to see him home by a nose in the $27,000 race. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven will now be put out for a spell before preparing for a New Zealand Cup tilt in November. Thefixer was tough in second for Natalie Rasmussen after working around to lead with 1400m to go and then fighting hard and only getting beaten right on the line. He too is headed for a six week break while his third and fourth placed stablemates Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz who both performed well fresh, are being aimed for the rich 4yo feature races the Taylor Mile and NZ Messenger in Auckland at the end of the month. A G's White Socks winning the Airpark Canterbury Gr3 Rangiora Classic   Harnesslink Media

The stunning maiden mile win in 1-52.5 by Mossdale Art at Winton in December has put the spotlight once again on ‘Mossdale’ horses raced by former Northern Southland and now Cromwell breeder Archie Affleck and his wife Margaret. “Yeah that first start was pretty good. Goodness knows whether this is the peak or there’s more to come. Time will tell. I think the Hopes think she’s a bit special,” he said. The Mossdale Harness Racing prefix has been around since 1993 and stems from the Mossdale Clydesdale Stud near Otama which was owned by the late Thomas Logan, Archie’s Grandfather. It was later relocated to Tapanui where it’s now run by Archie’s brother Bill. “I was being a bit of a smart ass one day and called a horse Mossdale Flyer. After that we just keep calling everything Mossdale.” Mossdale Flyer was by Lake Hills Jeb out of Lady. Lady was by Holmes Hanover out of Lady Sherwood who was by Armbro Hurricane out of Zenover. So this is the dual gaited family that’s produced juvenile trotter Harvey Wilson and Zebec and pacing stars Elsu and Motoring Magic. “We leased that mare (Lady) off Bob McArdle.” Looking back on the history of the Mossdale Stud and in 1932 the then Governor General of New Zealand Lord Bledisloe visited the stud. It was the same year the first Bledisloe Cup was played for between the All Blacks and The Wallabies. The Cup is named after Lord Bledisloe. Like the Standardbred industry the Clydesdale industry is suffering from a decline in breeding numbers. In the 2009/2010 season 97 mares were served in New Zealand while last season only 47 were put in foal. Archie Affleck with wife Margaret and their grandchildren with Mossdale Art at Winton after her second win there - Photo Bruce Stewart  Archie Affleck grew up in Northern Southland and his father (also Archie) instilled a strong work ethic in him and the boys of the family. “My father was a Scotsman so he kept us working. I had four brothers and we all knew that we had to work if we wanted to go farming,” he said. And farming young Archie did. He and Margaret farmed 4000 acres North East of Riversdale up the Waikaia Valley where they ran sheep and beef. “We just kept buying bits.” They have since sold the farm and moved to Cromwell. “The last bit sold in March but we’ve been selling down for a year or two. All the good stuff has gone to dairy but the hill land is still beef and lamb.” They’ve now taken on a completely different challenge, growing cherries on the three hectare property they’ve owned for three years.    “This is a new experience. We’re picking this year after just three years but usually it takes four. Growing them on the wire makes it a bit quicker. Most of them go overseas but the local market has been pretty good this year. It’s a first year on our orchard but out daughter (Jane Miscisco) is in her second year so she should get a very good crop this year.” On the Standardbred front all of the Affleck’s mares now reside in Christchurch. “We could have run them here in Cromwell but the horse transport trucks don’t go past. I didn’t want to be loading up horses and carting them round. They’re up at Dancingonmoonlight.” So getting back to how his racing and breeding interest began, it was while living in Northern Southland that Affleck ventured into racing and breeding Standardbreds initially, with Jaccka Lodge’s Charlie Smaill. “Charlie pushed us into it. I was keen though because it was a bit of an outside interest to farming.” The first horse they raced was Keyali which was bred by another Northern Southland breeder Neil Timms. She was by Gaines Minbar out of Keyanau and had her first start at Invercargill in February 1987 when trained by Phil Cross. From January the following year Hori Lee took over the training and she won three races in a row. “We thought we were made and then the next telephone call was to say she was lame. It brings you back down to earth again.” She ended up winning seven races from forty nine starts before going to the broodmare paddock. The mare’s first foal was Kute Jaccka (Holmes Hanover) which won four races. “She was a big strong mare.” Once Kute Jaccka retired from racing Affleck started to breed more seriously. Kute Jaccka’s first foal Mossdale Kara qualified at the annual Balfour grass track meeting in December 2005 for trainer Tony Barron but never raced. She had been the mare responsible for rejuvenating the Mossdale breed, leaving Mossdale Conner (13 wins), Mossdale Major (2 wins), Mossdale Sue (2 wins) and Mossdale Rose (6 wins). Mossdale Major is also the dam of Affleck’s latest star Mossdale Art. Mossdale Conner is the best horse Affleck has raced so far. He’s the winner of 13 races in New Zealand including the Taylor Mile in 2015, the Northern Southland Cup in 2016 and the Green Mile at Methven in 2014. He was also placed third in the 2015 New Zealand Trotting Cup and ran a close second in the New Zealand Free For All at Addington. Mossdale Connor after his win in the Northern Southland Cup   -photo Bruce Stewart And his favourite memories of the horse? “My best memories were the Taylor Mile as well as running third in the New Zealand Cup then we thought we’d won the Free For All as well as the Northern Southland Cup.” photo Bruce Stewart Unfortunately Mossdale Conner was tragically lost in the United States after a battle with cancer. He had only raced six times for his American trainer Peter Tritton, winning four, including the $150,000 Ben Stafford Junior Invitational - pacing the mile in 1.49. “He was the horse. The fella that bought him was pretty sad to. He thought he was going to be something really special. While he was here we’d treated the horse for a cancer growth on his shoulder. Brendon Bell (vet) didn’t want to cut it out in case it interfered with the muscles. The buyer knew all about that before he bought him. Whether it was connected I don’t know.”  Affleck is no longer breeding from Mossdale Kara. “She had an accident and the last few years we’ve tried embryo transplant and it hasn’t worked.” But he is breeding from some of her daughters. Mossdale Sue, which is a full sister to Mossdale Conner, has just left her first foal – a filly by Mach Three while Mossdale Rose although still racing is due to retire as she’s in foal to Sweet Lou. Mossdale Kara wasn’t the only mare Affleck tried breeding from. In the late 1990s he bought On Leave from Ossie Throp. “We had a whisky to confirm the deal.” She was by Majestic Chance out of On Patrol. Affleck bred twelve foals out of her with the best being Mossdale Ross which won twelve races in Australia. In the early days Affleck had his horses trained by Hori Lee and Kirk Larsen but now they’re all trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope. It’s a relationship that goes back to 1998. “We had two at the sales and one didn’t sell and Anthea Sharp who had prepared the horses recommended that we send it to Greg. He went halves in it. When we went there Ben was barely walking - that was twenty odd years ago.” The one they sold was Mossdale Jane, whilst the horse that went to the Hopes was Mossdale Cam (Camtastic – Taurus Ali). It won one race before Brian Meale bought him and exported him to America where he won another five races. It was the beach training Greg and Nina Hope could provide that appealed to Affleck. “I remember one of the Southland trainers – it might have been Tony Barron went up to Brighton Beach before he went to Auckland. I reckon you could just about see the horses smiling. It was better than running round in Southland in a circle. If I was a horse I’d want to be on the beach.” Consequently all of  Affleck’s race horses go to Greg and Nina Hope. “We’ve got a lot of respect for the Hopes, Ricky (May) and Ben (Hope) .”      Mossdale Major’s next foal is a yearling colt by Mach Three. “John Yesburg likes that one and we’ll race him.” One stallion that’s nicked with the Mossdale breed is Bettor’s Delight. “I’m not a big studier of pedigree but when you look at all the big races the Bettor’s Delights aren’t too far away.” Although they probably moved to Cromwell for quieter times, I suspect Archie and Margaret are still kept pretty busy with grandchildren, cherries and a few trips to the races, where there’s bound to be a few more Mossdales winning races.   Bruce Stewart

Impressive Regent Car Court Nugget Final winner Mossdale Art looks to be the early favourite for the Southland Oaks in April. The Bettor’s Delight three year old has been impressive in both her wins at Winton in the last three weeks and her win today against a field of primarily three year old colts and geldings stamped her as a quality filly. “I think she’s a filly that should have a pretty good season. She’s had two starts for two wins and hopefully she’ll carry on learning,” said driver Ben Hope, son of Greg and Nina Hope who train the filly. In today’s final Vintage Rose showed early gate speed to lead before Zinny Mach took over. With 1300 metres to run Hope moved Mossdale Art out from three back on the inside to take up the parked positon for 200 metres before taking her to the front. In the last 50 metres she held out Zinny Mach which came up the inside to get within a neck of the winner with another half a neck back to a late charging Just Wondering for third. Mossdale Art (1) hanging on to beat Zinny Mach (2)                  - Photo Bruce Stewart. “I had the second and third horse well covered. I let her cruise to the line herself. As soon as Zinny Mac snuck up I had to nurse her across the line again. She had them well covered but just pulled up because of her inexperience.” Mossdale Art is owned by Mossburn breeder Archie Affleck and Hope thinks she can perform at a higher level. “It’s hard to know how far she’ll go but I’d say she’ll be able to keep up with most of the fillies.”  Affleck was one of Greg and Nina Hopes first clients. They have been training horses for the Mossburn based breeder for fifteen years with the first ‘Mossdale’ winner (Mossdale Cam) winning at Marlborough in January 2003. Winning connections       - photo Bruce Stewart Today’s win was the 31st ‘Mossdale’ the Hopes have trained for Affleck. The combination’s biggest winner so far has been Mossdale Conner which won thirteen races including the 2015 Taylor Mile. “It’s really great to get another win for Archie. He’s been with Mum and Dad for ages. He couldn’t make it last time when she won over a mile so it was great to have him here today.”   Bruce Stewart

The Riverton Cup was always going to be tactical and when driver Matty Williamson took Airpark Flyer to the front with 1600 metres to go he knew his brother Nathan on Franco Santino, sitting at back of the field, was going to have to be good to beat him. With a lap to run Nathan did move Franco Santino forward to sit parked but Airpark Flyer proved every inch a stayer when he out muscled Franco Santino winning by a length and a half. The Dali five year old owned by Graeme Harris and Heather Jerard started his career with trainer Peter McClelland. "I always love the horses. As a young fella I worked part time up in Auckland as a waiter round the race tracks. I always wanted to own by own horse. My neighbour Peter McClelland asked me if I was interested in buying him. I fell in love with him and stuck with him through wind operations. I thought it was good to name him Airpark Flyer like the old freight train that he is. It's good for putting my business name out there," said Harris who owns Airpark Canterbury - the only South Island privately owned 24/7 off-site airport car parking business. Airpark Flyer winning the 2018 Riverton Cup - Photo Bruce Stewart. Harris has really got the racing bug and is enjoying the success Airpark Flyer's bring to Jerard and himself.  "His stable name is George. Trent brought him down yesterday. He checked him in the float and he was vitually asleep. He's got a kind demeanour about him but he's like Mike Tyson going into a boxing ring. When that gear goes on him he knows it's game on." With all the spoils - Photo Bruce Stewart Airpark Flyer won his first race for McClelland in November in 2017 at Rangiora when driven by Williamson. His form then deserted him and in September 2018 under the guidance of his new trainer Trent Yesberg he returned to the same track to record his second win. From that point on he's proved to be one of the finds of this season, winning four of his five starts.     "He's been a funny horse to work out but he just seems to be getting better and better. I don't do a lot of traditional training with him. We do a lot of interval training. He's thrived and gone to another level. I went to University and studied science and that sort of stuff and I try to incorporate a lot of that in my training techniques so whatever I do it's backed up by science. I work very closely with my vets and I'm big on soundness," Yesberg said.  Yesberg is perhaps best known as being one of Canterbury's best yearling preparers but he was always going to get into the training game.  "I've worked with some great trainers but I've never seen a horse go from what he was doing to what he's doing now. I think he'll go a long way particularly with the way he can stay. It's impressive."  Like most good horses Airpark Flyer has a tremendous will to win and has developed into a robust racehorse.  "When I got him he wasn't really quick but he's just getting faster and faster. Now his whole body is sound and he's really athletic. He has a great will to win. I can't really work him in company because he just runs them into the ground. You literally can't pull him up if you work him with company so he does a lot of his work by himself." And Yesberg is also big on individual feed regimes. "I'm pretty particular with my diets. All my horses are on individual diets. I don't feed one thing across the board. Airpark Flyer is quite a big horse and he does really well so I've got to be really careful with his weight management." And he points out that Williamson and Airpark Flyer are the perfect match.  "Yeah it suits his driving style a lot. Matty's a nice aggressive driver and the horse loves that sort of thing." Yesberg is in his fifth season of training after working for Brent Lilley, Greg and Nina Hope and having also spent time in America. "Greg and Nina have been a big influence on my career. I've picked up a lot of their training techniques." He's starting to get a few racehorses around him and he continues to prepare yearlings as well.  "It's a really successful part of my business. I've got twenty yearlings coming in for the sales so it's going to be busy for the next couple of months." Yesberg says Airpark Flyer is likely to have his next start in the Geraldine Cup on the 24th November. "The Country Cups is probably his go. He's such a good stand start horse so that's where he's placed best."  Yesberg also won earlier with trotter Missy Moo which won by twenty three and a quarter lengths. She was also driven by Matty Williamson.      Bruce Stewart 

The long wait for New Zealand's best trotter is almost at an end. But punters should be wary of backing comeback champ Monbet to win the $300,000 Dominion even though he will make his first public appearance in 22 months next week. The one-time Horse of The Year will finally make it back to the trials next Wednesday after having not raced, or even been to the workouts, since winning the Dominion at Addington in 2016. Monbet has struggled with leg problems since and had stem cell surgery which has resulted in a so far, so good prognosis. "He had his latest scan last Saturday and the vets said he was good to go to the next stage," said Ben Hope, whose parents Greg and Nina train Monbet. Monbet may head to the Flying Mile at Ashburton, a race he won fresh up two years ago, on October 22 before the Cup carnival. But while he is the $3.90 for the Dominion on November 16, Hope says Monbet is no certainty to start in New Zealand's richest trot even if he remains sound. "It could be a case where he goes to the Mile at Ashburton and the Free-For-All on Cup day but the Dominion is unsure at this stage," explains Hope. Even more unlikely is the Inter Dominion in Victoria. "That isn't something he is being aimed for at this stage and he is more likely, all going well, to head to Auckland with Enghien to campaign up there." Enghien will miss the Cup carnival as he has only started fast work and is being given plenty of time to find his feet as a five-year-old. The Hope stable, of which junior driver Ben is basically a third partner in the family training business, have been pleased with the two outings this season of New Zealand Cup contender AG's White Socks. He was caught late by Dream About Me after leading in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru last Sunday and while they believe he is probably a better horse following, they wanted to stay in front last Sunday to earn some respect. The road to the New Zealand Cup gets busier over the next week, with favourite Ultimate Machete having his third trial this campaign at Rangiora yesterday while Harness Jewels winners Eamon Maguire returned for his first. Both pleased trainer Mark Purdon enough although Ultimate Machete did miss getting away properly, not as badly as he did in his first trial two weeks ago, but enough to make punters nervous as he is the favourite for the Cup. Star Galleria headlines the next Cup lead-up race at Alexandra Park tomorrow night.   Michael Guerin

Relaxing at a Marlborough vineyard sounds like a lovely way to spend a couple of days. Unless you are supposed to be 800km away preparing two of the favourites for today's Harness Jewels at Cambridge. Welcome to the week of trainer Greg Hope, the man behind Enghien and A G's White Socks, who have the draws and group one records to both win their four-year-old Jewels today. Enghien is a genuine open class trotter up against mainly intermediate grade horses while A G's White Socks beat key rivals Eamon Maguire and Star Galleria in the Taylor Mile six weeks ago. But their week has hardly gone to plan after their Cook Strait ferry crossing was cancelled on Sunday and they had to spend three unexpected nights in Marlborough until they crossed on Wednesday, getting to Cambridge that night. "The first day we just jogged them around the grape vines at my sister's farm in Seddon, where we stayed," says Hope. "It was a bit different but I kinda think they enjoyed it. "And then we worked them properly at the Waterlea track on Tuesday so they haven't actually missed any major work." Hope's main concern was whether the extended trip would tire or tie up the talented pair but blood tests taken on Thursday allayed those fears. "Their blood came back perfect and they worked really well on the Cambridge track on Thursday so I am very happy. "Enghien is spot on but of course he might have to sit parked to win whereas A G's White Sock has had a long season like plenty of these horses at the Jewels. But he is very well." Hope isn't the only trainer thinking an unusual preparation could lead to the winner's circle today, with champion trainer Mark Purdon adamant Princess Tiffany (race one) is better now than before she drove a nail through her hoof on race night at Alexandra Park six weeks ago "She is well over that and has really gone ahead in the last few weeks," says Purdon. "Even from her barrier draw she is the best chance of our three in that race and I can see her following Kayla Marie into the race. But she still might have to sit parked to win." After a bizarre week, Purdon says he is happy with all 21 charges he and Natalie Rasmussen will take to Cambridge today, with the draw seeing him lean toward Shez All Rock in the three-year-old Diamond. "She took a few days to settle in up here but is spot on now." He is happy with their huge team and in the other races where they have multiple starters he rates Enhance Your Calm (race two), Winterfell (race eight) and Sicario (race nine) their best hopes. "But I don't think there is anything between Another Masterpiece and Jesse Duke in the juvenile pace. It could just come down to who gets the better run." Horses in drugs scare get the all-clear The 10 harness horses at the centre of a drug contamination scare this week have all been cleared to start at today's Jewels meeting. Precautionary tests requested by trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (nine horses) and Terry and Glenys Chmiel (Dibaba) and conducted by the Racing Integrity Unit showed no presence of drugs in any horse. The unusual concerns were raised when two, now former, staff members of the All Stars stables were believed to have used recreational drugs in the last week and had been in contact with all 10 of the horses tested as they were transported from Canterbury to Waikato. One of the staff members provided a sample to a professional drug tester called in by Purdon and returned a positive while the other refused a test and both were subsequently dismissed. Purdon and Rasmussen contacted the RIU on Wednesday and asked for all nine of their horses who had been in contact with the two employees be tested to ensure they were drug-free heading into today's $1,275,000 meeting, while Dibaba as also tested as it has come north on the same transporter. All 10 horses will take their places at today's meeting, which boasts nine group one races. The TAB, which had been asked by the RIU on Wednesday to suspend betting on six of the Jewels races, re-opened those at 4.30pm yesterday. "The RIU is very pleased with the result. The integrity system worked as it should," said RIU general manager Mike Godber. "The trainers were proactive in advising the RIU of the potential contamination." Michael Guerin

Junior driver Ben Hope saw first hand how rough the weather can get in the deep south when he drove at Ascot Park for the first time today. The day was probably at it's best when he reined Kingslayer to win the Watts Backflow Junior Drivers Mobile Pace. Trained by his parents Greg and Nina Hope, the Christian Cullen gelding at only it's third start is still green and showed a few wayward tendencies in his preliminary.  "In the warm up he was keen and galloping and wasn't really on the job. When we got up on the gate he was very keen to go and had that wee gallop but to his credit he came back down quite quickly," said Hope. Three lengths off the gate at dispatch, Hope didn't panic and settled the favourite in last place with Ellie Barron taking second favourite Black Ops to the front.  "With a lap to go he was really pulling hard. I felt he probably would have choked down if I'd stayed there much longer." So Hope sent Kingslayer forward three wide with a lap to run.   "I saw Ellie batting her one (horse) up a bit so I thought I might be able to go round quickly enough to get in front of her which I did. It took a bit of work to get there and lucky enough the horse kept going for me."  Hope didn't get to the lead until the 500 metre mark and with 400 metres to run pulled the ear plugs and started to tap the gelding up to keep him rolling. Under a hard drive Kingslayer held on to beat a late charging Shelby Bromac by three quarters of a length with a nose back to a game Black Ops, and Machs Mareta another nose back in fourth.   Kingslayer (6) and Ben Hope beating Shelby Bromac (8) -Photo Bruce Stewart. "He's got the ability but he's a green horse and likes to run around. He has two prickers on and a jaw breaker to help his steering. He's got a big motor and we came down to try and win a junior drivers race with him and get points for the junior drivers championship. I'm currently in the top six. That was the goal and he duly delivered. It's my tenth win of the season."  Kingslayer is out of the Bettor's Delight mare Millwood Manhattan and was bred by Katie Carville. Millwood Manhattan won three races for Auckland trainer Tony Herlihy including her first start as a two year old. Kingslayer is her first foal. He's closely related to big winners; Ohoka Arizona (8 New Zealand wins), Ohoka Samson (3 NZ wins and 12 Australian) and Ohoka Colorado (3 NZ wins and 20 Australian wins).   "I'd say he should be able to win four or five at least. He just needs a bit more racing. He'll probably go out for a break now."   Although it was cold for his first drive on Kingslayer, the weather turned later in the afternoon and was at it's worst when Hope drove Rockntommy Rulz in Race Six. The first start two year old settled last early and lost his way in the doom and gloom finishing twenty two lengths from the winner - the aptly named Fun In The Dark.  Fun In The Dark is trained and was driven by Matt Purvis. Purvis's sister Charlotte won earlier in the day on the Phil Williamson trained Madison Jane. It was the Monarchy mare's third win in four starts. She's now won five races in total and was up against a field made up primarily of one win horses.  Meanwhile it was a super day for Ascot Park trainers Mark and Debbie Shirley. They brought two horses to the races; Cullens Avenue and Mighty Conqueror and they both won. Mark shares in the ownership of both with good friend Malcolm Dewe. Mighty Conqueror's half-brother Young Conqueror ran second to his younger sibling.  Shane Walkinshaw drove both.  Mark is the President of the Invercargill Harness Racing Club   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

In what was a minor harness racing upset, Rock N Roll Heaven gelding A G’s White Socks has ruined an All Stars clean sweep by beating the favourite More The Bettor in yesterdays $90,000 Group 1 Easter Cup. The Purdon/Rasmussen team had looked on target for winning all six of the races they had starters in, until the Greg and Nina Hope trained A G’s White Socks charged down the centre of the track to claim a deserved win in the Addington feature race. Driver Ricky May said after the race that he always thought A G’s White Socks was suited to the extreme distance of 3200m. "He has gone well over the distance before in the Auckland Cup. " Today he really sprinted when I asked him to go and he picked More The Better Up easily," he said. A G’s White Socks paced the 3200m from a stand in 4-02.1 with a closing 800m in a sizzling 55.2 with the 400m in 27.1 seconds. More The Bettor stuck on well for second after trying to lead all the way and Tiger Thompson also battled on well for third after working hard mid-race. The Hope stable also picked up the 4& 5yo Trotting Championship when Enghien led for the last 800m and won easily with May in the sulky. A G’s White Socks winning the Easter Cup Harnesslink Media

Champion harness racing pacer Lazaraus, goes back to the workouts today at Ashburton. The Bettor's Delight five year old starts in a two horse heat along with All Stars stablemate Heaven Rocks. Heaven Rocks is back on track after suffering a greasy heel at his last race day start, in the Canterbury Classic two weeks ago, a race that Lazaraus won. Both horses are continuing their preparation for this years Christchurch Casino New Zealand Cup in November.  Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have a big team of ten horses entered at the workouts today, with Dominion Handicap bound Prince Fearless and last years classy fillies Elle Mac and Shenanoah also making an appearance. _______________________________________________________________________________ Titan Banner will head to the Kaikoura Cup on October 30, after winning the Terror To Love Methven Cup on Sunday. The Art Major six year old was simply too strong for All Stars runner Dream About Me, after he led for the last lap and outstayed the rest of the field in the hands of driver Dexter Dunn. Titan Banner winning the Methven Cup ________________________________________________________________________________ Top trotter Monbet was supposed to have his first public trial this year at Ashburton today, as a lead-up to his race day return in the Flying Mile on the Ashburton track next Monday, but trainers Greg and Nina Hope have abandoned plans of racing him this summer, after some niggling leg issues with the the horse. Greg and Nina hope to have the horse back and ready in time for the Rowe Cup next year. Harnesslink Media      

The odds are stacking up against one of New Zealand’s most talented horses. Because champion trotter Monbet is out of the New Zealand Cup carnival, almost certainly the summer and probably the whole season. And while trainer Greg Hope still remains optimistic we will see the best of the one-time Horse of the Year, doubts must be creeping into his mind and those of his army of followers. Monbet was supposed to have his first public trial this year at Ashburton today as as lead-up to his much-anticipated return in the Flying Mile on that track next Monday. But Hope has pulled the pin on both of those and says the defence of his Dominion title at the New Zealand Cup meeting is also over. “He is not quite right and he is too good to take any risks with,” says Hope, who trains the six-year-old with his wife Nina. “He has been nagged by something for a while and I think the knee we took the bone chips out of last season is still worrying him. “And that is now making him off-load and hurt his other knee. “Some people tell me he is fine and the vets say it isn’t that bad but I am not going to risk him because I’d hate to make it worse.  “He is still only six and if we look after him I hope we can get him back.  “But basically the Cup carnival is gone and so too is the summer probably. “What we will do next is looking at some stem cell injections in that area and if that all goes well hopefully we could get him back for the Rowe Cup in May. “But it is all a bit up in the air at the moment.” Monbet was crowned harness Horse of the Year last year but the bone chips saw him only race three times last season. That trio of starts reminded racing fans why he may be our most talented trotter since Lyell Creek as after a fresh-up win in the Flying Mile he won both the NZ Free-For-All and Dominion in national record time. He has not been seen in public since and trotting has been the worse for it. For all Hope’s optimism, Monbet’s body has often struggled with the demands of his record-breaking motor and the fact he couldn’t even make it back to the trials this campaign doesn’t boost confidence we are going to see any sustained racing from him this season or maybe ever again.  The TAB got whiff of Monbet’s problems two weeks ago and opened a market for the Dominion with him excluded from the getting and only re-opened their main market it with him in the futures betting yesterday. It is now closed again.  Last season’s injury cost Monbet’s connections a fortune as most of the group one trots Australasia-wide were won by horses who wouldn’t live with a fully fit and sound Monbet.  That class void worsened when his arch rival Speeding Spur was injured twice and missed many of the top races last season as as well while trotting millionaire Stent is still making his way back from injury.  He continues that path at the Motukarara trials today and could still make the New Zealand Cup meeting although he hasn’t raced for over 21 months.  The reports are good though for Speeding Spur, who has done two works faster work after a four-month slow build-up.  “He feels good and we have the green light with him to press so but he won’t make the Cup carnival,” says co-trainer John Dickie.  “But all going well, and I think it will because his injuries haven’t been because of unsoundness, we could have him back racing by mid December.” While Ashburton face having no Monbet for their huge meeting next Monday they have left entries open after securing only six nominations for the Flying Stakes, including four from the All Stars.  NZ Cup favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks warm up for that race with a workout at Ashburton today. Michael Guerin

Wilma's Mate who won her section of the harness racing Jewels last season and Bordeax who ran third in the Rowe Cup last season, both get serious in their Dominion Handicap preparations this weekend. The classy trotters will both race fresh up on the grass surface in the group three Banks Peninsular Trotting Cup at Motukarara on Sunday. Bordeax ran second in the race last year which was won by the Greg and Nina Hope trained Harrysul. _______________________________ Meanwhile the Greg and Nina Hope trained Monbet has had a minor setback in his Dominion Handicap preparation with a leg issue, but will be back at the trials next week. Monbet trotted a New Zealand record of 4-00.7 for the 3200m stand when winning the Dominion Handicap last year and is a hot favourite with the TAB to repeat the performance and win this year. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Titan Banner became the first Otago trained horse to win the Hannon Memorial for over thirty years, when he won the time honoured race at Oamaru on Sunday. The Art Major gelding stopped the clock at 3-16.8 for the 2600m stand, with a quick 54.9 for the last 800m and home in 27.0 seconds flat for the last 400m. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ The All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have a big team engaged in todays Ashburton workouts. The top trainers have thirteen horses entered including top 4yo, The Fixer.   Harnesslink Media

The field for todays PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial at Oamaru has been reduced down to a field of seven, with the latest scratching of the Greg and Nina Hope trained Usain Colt, who has been sold to Australia.  Hope still has the current second favourite Seel The Deal engaged in the race. He is a big mover on the FF win fixed odds, caving in to $3.80 after opening longer than $5.00 on Thursday night. There is a lot of confidence in the Hope stable that Seel The Deal can go a cheeky race today, in preparation for the New Zealand Trotting Cup in November. Driver Ricky May is also quietly confident about the seven year old geldings chances and said "he could need the run without any racing, but I like him a lot in that race" Seel The Deal has been ticking along nicely at the trials and workouts. He ran slashing final sectionals at the Rangiora trials on the 13th September, running home in around 55 seconds for his last 800m in that Rangiora trial. Race rival Alta Orlando trained by Robert Dunn, zipped over his last 800m in a tick over 54 seconds in the same trial, also justifying his readiness for todays race.  The Graeme Anderson trained and Dexter Dunn driven Titian Banner is currently the warm favourite ($1.65 FF) to win the Hannon Memorial, after an easy win fresh up at Addington on the 1st September and then a good second placing to Have Faith In Me in last weekends New Brighton Cup. Seel The Deal and Alta Orlando in their latest trial   Robert Dunn also has the speedy Tuapeka Trick engaged today in Race 6 with John Dunn doing the driving. Tuapeka Trick was placed last season in the group three kindergarten stakes behind stable-mate The Brooklyn Brawler and has come back a stronger horse judging by his latest dominant win at the workouts. The well bred Bettor's Delight colt is raced by the Westview Racing Super17 Syndicate, many of whom are heading down to watch the race today.     Harnesslink Media

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