Racing: Monbet's shot at honour in voting

By Michael Guerin

Monbet. Photo / Greg Bowker
Monbet. Photo / Greg Bowker

Monbet could soon join the great Courage Under Fire with a distinction his connections would prefer to miss.

The amazing trotter completed his surprising season with a workmanlike victory in the four-year-old trot division of the Harness Jewels on Saturday, giving his $1.30 supporters the briefest moments of concern.

Rather than surging forward to sit parked or even attack for the lead from his wide barrier, driver Ricky May was patient and cautious in a rough house first half of the race.

But when he launched, Monbet's giant stride enabled him to cruise up to sit parked and he was left clear when second favourite Sunny Ruby punctured at the top of the straight.

He was never asked for his best to win in a steady 1:56.6, heading home a trifecta for sire Love You.

It was Monbet's seventh group one win for the season, a haul which would usually be enough to secure him Horse of the Year honours.

But whether he or Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me secures the title on July 30 could come down to personal voter preference, the natural bias towards most recent memory and just how much Australian harness racing the voters have watched.

Monbet has won four group ones since Have Faith In Me headed to the spelling paddock in March, all in New Zealand so they will be fresh and vibrant in voter's memories.

Have Faith In Me's Auckland Cup win from the unruly was the domestic harness performance of the season but his Miracle Mile and Chariots Of Fire wins will seem a long time ago to many so it might be advantage Monbet.

Either horse would be a worthy winner of the HOTY but those making a case that Monbet's seven group ones should secure him the honour are fighting history as Courage Under Fire won not only seven group ones but four group two races as a three-year-old in 1998-99 and didn't even win pacer of the year that season, let alone horse of the year.

Both titles, quite rightly, went to Christian Cullen courtesy of winning the New Zealand and Auckland Cups, NZ Free-For-All and a breathtaking Miracle Mile performance.

While Have Faith In Me might have Christian Cullen's motor, he doesn't have his looks or hype, so the vote could be close.

What isn't in doubt is that Monbet is already a champion and while established stars like Master Lavros and Stent will return next season, the sidelining of arch rival Speeding Spur with injury suggests the open class ranks are Monbet's to pillage again.

It wasn't all smooth sailing to trotting glory for his trainers Greg and Nina Hope on Saturday though, with stablemate Enghien galloping three times in the two-year-old trot, costing everybody involved, including punters, a fortune.

- NZ Herald

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