By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk
Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope will be looking to summit bigger mountains this season with another quality trotter.
Four-year-old gelding Muscle Mountain made it six wins from just nine starts when he was victorious in the Lamb and Hayward Handicap Trot (2600m) at Addington Raceway on Friday night.
He began well from his 10m mark and was able to navigate his way around a couple of breakers.
Driver Ben Hope pushed his charge forward early to take the lead and was able to dictate the pace for the rest of the race.
He kicked clear turning for home and was able to hold out his only challenger, Doff Your Cap, to win by 2-1/4 lengths, with a further 8-1/2 lengths back to The Player in third.
“He is a very nice horse,” Nina Hope said. “Greg has got a pretty high opinion of him.
“He can get a little bit hot and can pull a bit, but he went super first up. We have really been working on his manners.”
Hope was delighted with his win and said the sky is the limit for the talented square-gaiter.
“If he continues to improve and keeps his head and manners right, he will go right to the top,” she said.
While he has plenty of ability, Hope said they will continue to take a cautious approach with the Gr.3 NZ Two-Year-Old Trotting Stakes (1980m) winner.
“We tend to take each race as it comes,” Hope said. “We will just go by how he races, we don’t like to throw them in the deep end too soon.”
Muscle Mountain’s victory completed a double for the Hope barn after stablemate Luella was dominant in the previous race on the card, the Allied Security Mobile Pace (1980m).
Ben Hope was in the cart once again and took similar tactics into that race, taking Luella straight to the front and dictating terms throughout. She proved too strong for her rivals and ran away to a 5-3/4 length victory.
“She went super last start (when finishing fifth),” Nina Hope said. “She ran her last half in 55, we were rapt with her.
“We were pretty confident she would go a good race because it was down in grade a little bit.”
While she was confident heading into the race, Hope admitted she was a bit nervous when the Sweet Lou mare took a front-running role.
“She led up in her first start back and she was a little bit disappointing, so I was a little bit worried when she was leading up,” Hope said.
“But she ran 56.2 for the last half, so she was pretty hard to catch from there.”