The wait is nearly over
By Michael Guerin
The long, 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 in 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.
“He looks really well so we are looking forward to getting him back to the trials.” 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, which returns on December 1 after being scrapped six years ago.
“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 A G’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 want to stay in front last Sunday to earn some respect.
“We were happy for Ricky (May, driver) to stay in front because he he keep handing up on him it gives us less options in the big races later because everybody will attack for the front when he leads.”
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 away, 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.