Hope stable set to wheel out the big guns
By Michael Guerin
The stars of the Hope racing stables are almost ready to return, and they are not all equine.
Trainers Greg and Nina Hope have already welcomed back their three top trotters headlined by Muscle Mountain, who will be racing in a month.
He will be joined in the Ordeal Cup at Addington by Anzac Cup winner Eurokash while Midnight Dash will be back even earlier, being set for the Basil Dean on August 25.
But before the powerful squaregaiting squad returns the stable’s prodigal son makes his way back across the Tasman.
Ben Hope has spent the last 10 weeks in Victoria working for fellow Kiwi horseman Brent Lilley and gaining valuable experience but will be back this Sunday.
“We knew he would be back to drive the good trotters,” laughs father Greg.
“But we are thrilled it took the opportunity to go and while a stable like Brent’s has Chris Alford as its top driver, Ben has had some nice drives and driven at something like six or eight tracks over there.
That is great experience and that can only help if we campaign a horse like Muscle Mountain there early next year.”
The younger Hope returns at the right time as Muscle Mountain is thrilling Greg and Nina in his work.
“He looks great, amazing in fact, we couldn’t be happier with him.
“He is coming up so well we will probably only give him one trial before the Ordeal Cup and then obviously he will be set for Cup week.”
Greg says he won’t have any concerns starting Muscle Mountain in mobile races like the Flying Sprint at Ashburton on his way through to the Dominion on Show Day even though Muscle Mountain blew the standing start of the Rowe Cup in May before staging a huge, albeit unsuccessful, recovery.
“There is always going to be that slight risk with him because he is that sort of horse but we will make sure he has a couple of good standing starts before the Dominion.
“And if needs be we will even consider putting him on the unruly for standing starts because we’d rather give away a small start than a big one.”
Eurokash was one of the late autumn finds at Alexandra Park’s Rowe Cup carnival and will follow a very similar path to Muscle Mountain, returning in the Ordeal and with his main aim the Dominion.
Midnight Dash is back earlier as he also spelled earlier, with a very slight bleed suffered after a race at Addington ruling him out of his planned northern campaign.
“It was a real one-off thing and only very minor and we have seen no signs of it again,” explains Hope.
“He is coming up well and will be ready for the Basil Dean and then a horse as versatile as him has plenty of options.”