Champion trotter Monbet is back but not to his best.
So while trainer Greg Hope was thrilled with the Horse of the Year's return at the Ashburton workouts yesterday, he says the superstar could be vulnerable in the Flying Mile on the same track next Monday.
Monbet wasn't asked to fully stretch himself when he came from a 40m backmark to finish second to All Lit Up in yesterday's trot workout, finishing with the removable hood still in place.
But Hope was smiling as the five-year-old trotted the 2400m in 3:4, his last 800m in 57 and the final 400 in 26.7 seconds. "It was ideal for what we needed and Ricky [May, driver] was happy, which is the main thing."
Hope says Monbet is showing no ill effects from banging his leg two weeks ago and has no soundness issues going into his first race of the season.
"But he can still be vulnerable on Monday," he warns. "I am glad his first race back is a mile but if he draws badly then he is beatable.
"If he draws wide he may not be ready to make his own luck and then it becomes hard to win over a mile when you really have to be up in the speed."
So the draws, which come out around lunchtime today, will be crucial. Hope is also likely to deviate from his original early campaign plan and take Monbet to Kaikoura for their feature trot on October 31 even though he doesn't want to.
"If he came out and went super on Monday then we might be able to get away with only going to the Cup trials a week later.
"But the whole aim is to have him fit enough to win the Dominion (November 11) and to do that he might need another race so at this stage he is likely to head to Kaikoura, even though I'd prefer to miss it."
Monbet got as long as $1.90 to win the Dominion, from which fellow stars Speeding Spur, Stent and Master Lavros are missing.
But he is back into $1.70 after yesterday's reappearance.
There has been movement in the New Zealand Cup market too, with Smolda into $5 after winning the Methven Cup and long-time favourite Have Faith In Me out to $4 because of his manners concerns.
Those three and many of the other main NZ Cup chances will clash in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on Monday.