Ben Hope has first Australian win

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk

A brilliantly-judged drive has seen Ben Hope secure his first success in Australia.

The talented junior driver-trainer has been in Australia for a fortnight or so now, based at the very successful stables run by ex-pat Kiwi Brent Lilley at Bolinda, north of Melbourne.

So it was only fitting that Hope should get his first win with the Lilley-trained Kyvalley Paint in the Ballarattrottingclub.com.au Mobile Trot at Ballarat last night, upsetting at $20.60 and $3.80.

Hope sat parked off with a wide draw intially and then slotted into the one-one before being three back the running line. Turning for home he was a still few lengths off the leaders but came with a strong burst between runners to edge out favourite She Sailz by half a head.

Judging from his social media post he was pretty happy with the win!

Speaking earlier in the week to harness racing personality Paul Campbell (Campbell's Comments) at Bendigo Hope had been upbeat about his trans-Tasman experience.

"It's going really well, it's a bit of a quieter period back home so I thought I'd come here and do some work experience," says Hope, "it's same but different."

He's raced at a variety of tracks all over Victoria and got a better insight into the more aggressive Australian style of driving.

"I was second in a Group 3 at Ararat and that's a 800m track ... but Melton, that would be my favourite track here."

At Ararat Hope drove Baxter in the Premix King Ararat Tontine Trotting Championship. He's a horse he knows well. He was bred and raced by Ben's parents Greg and Nina Hope and had six wins from 50 starts before heading to Lilley's stable last year. The Hopes and the Lilleys have long been family friends.

While Ben Hope has left his star trotter Muscle Mountain behind Lilley has some superstars of his own, most notably the Kiwi-bred and owned Queen Elida, the winner of six this season and 24 overall.

"She's a super horse ... a phenomenal mare."

He also rubbed shoulders with Chris Alford, Australia's most successful driver ever, and a regular driver for the Lilley stable.

"Chris is one of the best, if not the best and very easy to talk to."

Hope hasn't booked a return ticket yet though he's planning to be back for summer.

In saying that he's already eyeing up another trip to Australia with his multiple Group 1 winning star.

"I'd love to bring Muscle Mountain here for the Great Southern Star ... of all the races that would suit him the best by a mile."

The next series at Melton is set down for February next year.

It seems Hope and Australia are getting along just fine.

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