Tough summer love pays off
By Michael Guerin
Tough summer love paid huge winter dividends for Habibi Inta in the sensation race at the Harness Jewels on Saturday.
While there were better winning performances on the nine group one raceday, the four-year-old trot was controversial even before it started, with hot favourite Enghien galloping from barrier three in the score-up and driver Ricky May choosing to start from the unruly for the second attempt.
Enghien galloped again, losing his winning chance and burning punters, but trainer Greg Hope backed May’s call 100 per cent.
“If I had a phone and was able top call Ricky after that first gallop I would have told him to do exactly what he did, start from the unruly,” said Hope.
“It was a real shame because he went enormous after galloping. I am starting to think maybe he just doesn’t like Cambridge.”
While the incident would have left Enghien punters feeling sour at least the three minute hold up gave some a chance to cover their bets on Habibi Inta, who unlike his arch rival never put a hoof wrong and won easily from in front.
And his trainer Paul Nairn says this new, more mature Habibi Inta may have been forged on the rugged hills of Waikari in North Canterbury.
“Last season he could be a bit weak, both physically and mentally, so we chucked him into a big paddock on the hills up there and left him there for three months,” says Nairn.
“I went back and got him on New Year’s Day and was thrilled with what I saw. He was bigger and stronger and had grown up and he has raced liked that.
“The hills are pretty rugged there and they have to keep themselves fit just walking around. Its been great for him.
“He has all the tools to be a genuine open class horse next season now.” Habiba Inta always looked a good horse waiting to happen and Saturday was his graduation day.
He can now trot 1:56 miles from a mobile, begin quickly from a stand, win over any distance and has developed into being just as potent left or right-handed.
That suggests he is Nairn’s next seriously good horse at a time when the career of his older sister Habibti Ivy, a national record holder, is in doubt. But Nairn has two more past Jewels winners in One Over Da Moon and Wilma’s Mate, who returns to jogging soon, to work with also.
Which is just as well as the Canterbury trainer is going to have a few more bills in the new season, he and new wife Vangie are expecting their first child together next month.
“We are both very excited and wins like this will help,” smiled Nairn.
Habibi Inta’s win mirrored that on Saturday’s two other trots, with both Enhance Your Calm and Winterfell big strong boys who led throughout from good draws.
Winterfell has been a huge improver in the last three months and looks an open class star of the future while Enhance Your Calm is unbeaten and so in the zone for a trip to Victoria, where he is owned, for the Breeders Crown wouldn’t surprise.