Monbet vs Sundees Son
By Michael Guerin
The last time Monbet won a race Sundees Son was an unheard of juvenile.
Tonight at Addington they clash for the first time, maybe the past and almost certainly the future of open class trotting.
It is only a $14,400 trot, a mere first step on the path toward Dominions, Inter Dominions and Rowe Cup but it might be the most symbolic passing of the baton in recent trotting history.
Because Monbet is a champion. A great trotter, in the conversation with I Can Doosit as our best since Lyell Creek.
Three years ago he was a five-year-old who collected national records and group ones at will before his body betrayed him and trainer Greg Hope has spent all that time patching him up: patience and pain.
He has had one start in 1029 days since winning the Dominion at Addington in 2016, three months before Sundees Son debuted. That start was non-event at Addington in March when he settled back and never got into the race.
Thank the racing Gods that wasn’t his last race because the Monbet story deserved a more dramatic final chapter.
Hope says Monbet, and his less-talented but equally troubled stablemate Enghien, are more forward for tonight’s 2600m standing start.
“Monbet will be a different horse than what we saw in March and I have been happy with his trials and work,” says Hope.
“But I will say this. While he has been working well he is an older horse now and if he gets too far back he might look after himself, that is the feeling I get.
“So while I wouldn’t be surprised if he won because we all know how good he is, the way Ricky (May) is likely to drive him I can’t be confident.”
Monbet is still only eight but he isn’t so much in a race with Father Time but with his own rusty joints, ligaments and tendons.
If one day this season the sun shines on his back, his old body feels like it did all those years ago and the competitive fire re-ignites inside him, Monbet might remind us what a freak horse he is. But that day may never come and it almost certainly won’t be tonight.
Sundees Son is at the other end of his career, with a strikingly similar formline to Monbet at the start of his five-year-old career.
The one-time weak ratbag was magnificent at the end of last season, winning the Anzac and Rowe Cups as well as the Jewels and he is a certainty for Trotter of the Year.
He only set foot back in Dunn’s stable a month ago, having a month spell after the Jewels and than a month on the waterwalker. Driver John Dunn is a fan of the latter.
“I love what the water walker does for them, he was so fit when he came back he went straight back to fast work,” says Dunn.
Sundees Son impressed Dunn at the trials last week when he was fast and faultless, suggesting a 25m handicap holds few fears for him tonight.
“His manners have been so good we are going to take him off the unruly from standing starts as well,” says Dunn.
“And he is working really well so he is ready to go.” Sundees Son will probably beat Monbet at Addington tonight and he might beat him every time they meet this season.
But even if he does, Sundees Son still has a way to go to be Monbet.