Greg and Nina Hope have had a terribly frustrating time of it lately getting Monbet back to the races but they look to have a worthwhile replacement in his half-brother Baxter.
The three-year-old Muscle Hill gelding set tongues wagging when he qualified at Ashburton this week in 3.07.6, or 9.4 seconds under the required time.
It was an entirely solo effort as stablemate Ella Of Mot (3f Monarchy-Ella Powell) broke twice in the running and was always distanced.
“We were hoping to leave him as a colt but he got a little hot as a two-year-old so we had to geld him and turn him out last year,” said Greg.
“He’s no Monbet but we expect him to go a fair way.”
Baxter, the last foal from Diedre Darling, has had three trials for three wins to date and he just made a minor mistake in a qualifying trial at Ashburton just before Christmas.
Diedre Darling only produced four colt foals before being lost and Baxter will be her fourth winner.
The All Stars stablemates Enhance Your Calm and Oscar Bonavena, both big ticket purchases as juveniles last season, are expected to fight out the three-year-old features in coming months with Hope confident Baxter will be competitive with the rest of them.
The same could be said of Carlton, who was a sound third in a later standing start heat at Ashburton.
The Dream Vacation colt was an impressive winner on debut at Addington almost a year ago, but then lost the plot and went for a long spell in March.
“He got so far on natural ability but then he went through some growing pains I think – on breeding you wouldn’t have expected him to go early.
“I’ve thrown some half hopples on him for now to stop him over reaching in front.”
Baxter and Carlton are both expected to be on hand for the Orari Challenge Stakes at the Geraldine meeting on February 2, although there is a question mark hanging over whether the meeting will in fact proceed at Orari.
The track was cut up pretty badly when the club last raced there in November and when remedial work should have been done afterwards, it wasn’t.
“It needs the heavy roller and a bit of work but there’s enough time before a required inspection,” said former club president, Lochie Marshall.
The meeting could be transferred to either Ashburton or Washdyke, with the Hambletonian Classic scheduled for three weeks later at Ashburton on the 23rd.
“Hopefully it does proceed at Orari as we’ve won that race before with Gershwin and Enghien and we’re quite keen on another crack,” said Hope.
Meanwhile, it is all systems go again with Monbet and Hope is confident the champion will resume racing next month.
He won’t be placed under any undue pressure however and Hope has ruled out any trips to Australia, with the Rowe Cup just a possibility all going well.
The Ashburton trials saw another blue blood make an appearance with Adore Me’s first foal in the Sweet Lou filly Sweet On Me having her first trial.
She failed to flatter however in battling away for fourth in a mile heat won in 2.07.5 after they dawdled through the half in seven and sprinted home in 27.
Stablemate Copperfield did make a good impression in the juvenile heat for colts and geldings though.
Mongolian Marshal and Ricky May led them around in a heat won in 2.00.7, home in 57.5 and 26.7, with Copperfield coming from well back at the quarter to run down the pacemaker by a length.
Copperfield is a Bettor’s Delight colt from Tricky Woman, an In The Pocket half-sister to Scuse Me.