Racing: Clash of the titans down south

By Michael Guerin

Monbet is certain to win New Zealand Trotter of the Year on Saturday night. Photo / Greg Bowker
Monbet is certain to win New Zealand Trotter of the Year on Saturday night. Photo / Greg Bowker

Taking on champion pacer Have Faith In Me once this year will be more than enough for Greg Hope.

Hope trains trotting hero Monbet, who faces the toughest rival of his remarkable season in Christchurch on Saturday night.

Monbet is certain to win New Zealand Trotter of the Year while Have Faith In Me has a lock on the Pacer of the Year title.

So the premier award at the Harness Racing New Zealand Horse of the Year dinner looks certain to be one of the superstar four-year-olds.

But whoever prevails, it will be the one time they clash this year, as Hope has laughed off suggestions Monbet will take on the pacers in November's New Zealand Cup.

Monbet was surprisingly added to the market for the great race last week when TAB bookies were asked to supply a quote for him.

"But there was never any chance we were going to the New Zealand Cup, we never even considered it," says Hope.

"So anybody who bet on him for that lost their money."

Have Faith In Me is favourite for the NZ Cup but opinions are divided on which one of the two great horses will win the ultimate honour on Saturday.

Have Faith In Me suggested he could be an all-time great with his Australasian record 1:47.5 Miracle Mile win on February 28, coming two months after he had given the entire field a start and a beating in the Auckland Cup, adding the Chariots Of Fire in between.

But his domination was over a relatively short time frame as he went to the spelling paddock in March.

That could aid Monbet, whose ascension to the top of the trots was incredibly fast but his stay there prolonged.

He had his first open class start in October and last group one win in June, winning almost everything that mattered over that period.

Have Faith In Me probably has a more glamorous list of scalps - Lennytheshark, Beautide, Smolda and Ohoka Punter - but Monbet beat everything thrown at him in an open class crop that lacked consistent depth through injury to key rivals.

The 27-strong vote promises to be close.

"We are just honoured to be there and if we are in with a shot for Horse of the Year that is great," says Hope.

"That really would be the icing on the cake."

Hope is adamant Monbet is back bigger and stronger after his break and has put on plenty of weight.

But he plans to start next season's campaign different to this, with no mobile starts planned before the Dominion Handicap, which has risen to $260,000 in stakes with the new sponsorship of Haras des Trotteurs, the Australian-based company formed by huge owner Pat Driscoll to breed world class trotters down under.

"We are definitely going to try and avoid the mobiles so the Flying Mile at Ashburton and the NZ Free-For-All are out at this stage," says Hope.

"So we will look at the trot at Kaikoura about 11 days before the Dominion and overall I don't think he will have as many races as this season.

"He won't have the four-year-old races and of course the lower grade races he started out in last season."

While the Horse of the Year title should be close, Saturday should see some dominant winners with the likes of Dream About Me, Lazarus, More The Better, Spanish Armada, Marcoola and a few others likely to win near unanimous victories.

- NZ Herald

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