Trainer Greg Hope did not need to be anywhere near a racetrack or even in the training sulky for one of his most anticipated recent moments in harness racing.

His champion trotter, Monbet, lined up on Monday, not for a race or a workout, but for a vet's exam that was to decide his immediate racing.

Hope, who trains the 6-year-old in partnership with wife Nina, held more concerns ahead of the outcome of the assessment than he has had watching his star squaregaiter cruise to some of his biggest wins.

The exam was booked after the horse had heat in his off-side knee during his buildup towards a race return after 10 months away from the track.


Hope's nerves were replaced by a feeling of relief when a scan of the horse's offside-knee showed no serious injury - not one that would derail his comeback Dominion Handicap campaign.

"His scan was a lot better than we thought," Hope said.

"You always expect the worst especially when there's a bit of heat in the leg but his leg is scanned and the vet is of the opinion that it is very manageable." The trainer got even better news the following day as Monbet's injury already started improved just a day after being treated.

"The leg seems really good and it has settled down today so hopefully it is onwards and upwards," Hope said yesterday.

The recent flare up in Monbet's knee is thought to be a flare up from a previous injury the horse suffered as a 3-year-old.

Hope suspects the horse has done something minor and nondescript while going through his normal training routine that has tweaked the old injury.

"When he was a 3-year-old he had a float accident and he got his leg over the chain, it was before the [New Zealand Trotting] Derby. We had to work pretty hard to treat him to get him right for the Derby and it settled down."

Uncertainty around Monbet's injury has forced the TAB to release a Dominion fixed odds market yesterday, without the champion trotter, harness racing bookmaker Richard Wilson said.

The bet pays on the first horse home in the race that is not Monbet, which will likely be the event's runner up if Monbet lines up and wins.

The market is headed by Aldebaran Eagle, Bordeaux and Dark Horse, who have all opened at $7 quotes.

Bordeaux, with his fourth in last season's Dominion and second in the Rowe Cup, has the strongest credentials of the trio in New Zealand's open class staying ranks, while Aldebaran Eagle and Dark Horse are both untested at that level.

While Dark Horse is expected to step out in October, some of the mystery surrounding the ex-North American trotter Aldebaran Eagle lifted when he won a Rangiora trial at the end of August for his new trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.

The trotter is not scheduled to step out alongside the 10 horses Purdon and Rasmussen will line up at today's Rangiora trials.

However, among their team are New Zealand Cup favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks who will make second public appearance for the season alongside their stablemate Have Faith In Me and three other runners in a 2600m special handicap.