Monbet was nigh-on unbeatable as a four and five-year-old.

Monbet down to race at Addington on Sunday for the first time in over two years

 

Fact File

Monbet

5 NZ records

10 G1 wins

$770,714 in stakes

The long awaited and much anticipated return of Monbet is set to happen, once again, at Addington on Sunday.

Though his co-trainer, Greg Hope, who prepares him with wife, Nina, will be touching a fair amount of wood in the meantime.

The 2016 Horse of the Year has been off the scene since winning the Dominion of that year in a record 4.00.7, some 27 months ago.

He resumes in a 1980m mobile Free For All with a preferential draw off the back of two workouts in recent weeks.

“Logically you’d have to think there’s no reason why he can’t get back to his best, but you never really know with a horse that’s been through so much.

In the first one, Ben Hope handled Monbet from a 30m handicap where he ran BJ Lindenny to a head and then last week Ricky May took the reins when he started from 40m and finished third, timed ‘post to post’ in 3.19 for the 2600m.

“He looks great and feels good although you’d have to expect it’s going to take a couple of races before we know if he’s going to get back to his best after being away for so long,” said Greg Hope.

“Logically you’d have to think there’s no reason why he can’t get back to his best, but you never really know with a horse that’s been through so much.

“I’ll be very happy if he’s just hitting the line strongly on Sunday and I think Ricky might be having a yarn to the stipes about how he intends driving him.

“But I’m pleased with where he’s at; his blood has been good this week and he’s fit enough to race.

“I’m picking he’ll be about 90% race fit on Sunday and then we’ll look for 5% incremental improvements with each run.”

When Monbet won the Dominion it was his eighth straight win, six of them at Group 1 level.

It was his 17th win in his previous 19 races dating back to June of 2015 and his only defeats had come with a rare break in the Grand Prix in Australia and at Ashburton when he dipped his toe in open company for the first time.

When forced off the scene with surgery required on a knee, the now seven-year-old son of Love You had raced 34 times for 23 wins and $771,000 in stakes.

At one point, the Hopes were turning down offers of more than half-a-million dollars for the gelding.

Monbet is heading towards the Trotting Championship at Easter and all going well this week, there are thoughts about taking him south for the Southern Lights at Ascot Park on March 9, a race with a 30m maximum handicap.

“We’ll keep him to Free For Alls as much as possible, but I’ll probably take him to Invercargill if A G’s White Socks goes for the Northern Southland Cup.”

Ultimately, Hope is hoping to head back to Auckland for the Anzac and Rowe Cups, races Monbet also won in 2016, but he is loathe to get too far ahead of himself after what has been happening along the comeback trail.

Monbet was being set for Ashburton and the Cup meeting in the spring, but a suspected bee sting and a minor colic attack put those plans on ice.

Then in November, a piece of splint bone needed to be removed and Monbet was sidelined again for three weeks.

“It’s just been one little drama after another, but everything seems good this time around – touch wood.”

With the expected retirement of Speeding Spur just around the corner, plus doubts over the future of Great Things Happen, Monbet’s return will be a welcome sight in the top trotting ranks.