Monbet and Enghien return
By Jonny Turner
Junior driver Ben Hope will have notched a career highlight before the tapes fly for a star-studded line up of trotters at Addington on Friday night.
Hope will drive Enghien, who clashes with his stablemate Monbet and Rowe Cup winner, Sundees Son, in a blockbuster 2600m handicap.
The rookie reinsman admitted just being entrusted with the drive on the 6yr-old, who is trained by his parents, Greg and Nina Hope, is a massive thrill.
Enghien will be having his first start in more than 15 months when Hope lines him up from the 15m mark.
The former Harness Jewels winner did not look like a horse that had had a long stretch away from the track when winning his first public appearance since his battle with a minor leg injury, last month.
Enghien could not back up that performance in a subsequent workout on the same track a week later, but there were genuine excuses for his fourth placing.
“The first trial everything went to plan, he trotted super and he did everything we asked of him,” Hope said.
“The second workout didn’t really go to plan – earlier in the race he lost a shoe.
“We have changed a couple of little things from his trials and he has been great.”
Trotting fans will remember Enghien as much for his less than perfect gait as they will for his eight listed and group race wins.
Hope said though the horse’s well known action has improved as he has matured, it will never be perfect.
“His gait probably has improved a bit.”
“He is the sort of horse – being a typical Love You – that he is a nice rolling type that likes to get in to his groove a bit.”
“I think he is always going to be little bit funny and his gait.”
Monbet will combine with driver Ricky May for just his second start in nearly three years on Friday night.
The 23-race winner has had three trial and workout runs at Rangiora to prepare him for his latest comeback bid.
Monbet beat lower grade trotters in the first of those, before effectively following Enghien around in his trial win.
In his latest public appearance, Monbet beat pacers to win the same workout in which Enghien suffered his shoe problem.
“We were really happy with his trial and Ricky jumped off and was ecstatic to get the feel of him again,” Hope said.
Few would expect Monbet to be at his best on Friday night after spending much of the past three years on the sideline.
The champion trotter is simply as fit as he can be without the having the benefit of recent racing.
“He is probably going to need the run, Enghien is probably a little bit more forward than him at the moment, but after a couple of runs it could be a different story,” Hope said.
“He is the sort of horse that I think with the more races and hit outs he gets, the more he will improve.”
The Hope trained pairing of Enghien and Monbet face the daunting task of facing the New Zealand’s newly crowned trotting king Sundees Son.
The Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old has had one trial leading in to his resumption and produced an impressive effort.
Sundees Son beat his stablemate Woodstone, who is scratched from Friday night’s race, as well as race rivals Harriet Of Mot, Monkey’s Way and Destiny Jones in a 2600m free-for-all event at Rangiora.
Sundees Son, who clearly looks the horse to beat in Friday night’s event, will start from the 25m mark alongside Monbet and Harriet of Mot.
Enghien, Monkey’s Way and Habibi Inta start from 15m.