Racing: Record breaker not at his best

By Michael Guerin, Michael Guerin in Christchurch

Monbet beats his stablemate Quite A Moment in the Dominion Trot at Addington yesterday in national record time.
Monbet beats his stablemate Quite A Moment in the Dominion Trot at Addington yesterday in national record time.

Monbet has just completed one of the great weeks in New Zealand trotting history and did it without being anywhere near his best.

If you think that assessment from owner and trainer Greg Hope may be just a little post-race drama, the Canterbury horseman is putting his money where his mouth is.

Because the champion trotter, who smashed yet another national record winning the $260,000 Dominion at Addington yesterday may not race again this summer, so concerned is Hope with some issues troubling the magnificent 5-year-old.

"I am putting him in the paddock and he will definitely miss the major races up north over Christmas," said Hope. "We brought him up to win this race so he had all the big trots in the country next to his name in the space of a year.

"But to be honest we have been nursing him through. He has some little issues which are bugging him and with a break I think they will settle down.

"So we have been cautious with those. I don't want to say too much but they are wear-and-tear issues with a leg so we want to give him a break now.

"I think long-term he will be fine but we are willing to forgo the northern races and if he comes back at all this summer it might be for the Great Southern Star in Melbourne as a hit-and-run mission.

"We are so proud of what he has done we aren't going to take any chances with him."

Hope and wife Nina have plenty to be proud of as Monbet tore almost two seconds off the national 3200m record holding out stablemate Quite A Moment in the great trot, courtesy of a patient perfect Ricky May drive.

He has won two group ones in three days, both in record time, without quite dominating as he did last season, suggesting something wasn't quite right.

However, the reality is, with the other three big established stars in open class trotting sidelined, even a 90 per cent Monbet is too good for the remainder.

The good news is Hope is confident the issues troubling his stable star will not threaten his career long-term, especially if he is looked after now.

In almost any other Cup week Monbet would be the king but that title had already been bestowed on Lazarus in Tuesday's New Zealand Cup and he wore the crown with brutal majesty in the Pacing Free-For-All yesterday.

His rivals were in no mood for reputations as Christen Me burned to the lead early and driver Dexter Dunn kept up a pulsating speed, making Lazarus work for very centimetre of the 1950m.

For a few seconds at the 400m mark when Christen Me stole a length break Lzarus looked in trouble but once he got balanced up in the straight he simply had too much strength for his $2.4-million earning rival.

It was a performance every bit as special as his New Zealand Cup win and in some ways more impressive because nothing went his way and it is hard to think of another New Zealand pacer this millennium who could have done what he did yesterday.

Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will now plot his summer path but the Auckland Cup is no certainty, with Australian riches beckoning in February and March.

The pair's double-double, both in group ones and in national record time, made for one of the greatest Cup weeks Addington has ever hosted.

- NZ Herald

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