Hope springs eternal
HOTEL Drive beat Hope Island when they clashed a fortnight ago but the result could be very different when they go head-to-head again in the Open Handicap (1200m).
Hope Island finished fifth that day while Hotel Drive was second to the classy Fabry.
But Daniel Bowen’s horse was held up for a long way and appeared to be coasting down the home straight and was right behind Hotel Drive at the finish, unable to show his true form.
“It was luckless but that’s racing,” Bowen said. “He needed to get clear at the top of the straight but he couldn’t and if he did I think he would have finished second.”
Hope Island is one of the true iron horses of Australian racing.
He’s having his 13th start this year today and it will be his 19th since a six-week freshen up.
Before that, he had 14 starts after a four-week freshen up and hasn’t had a full spell since late 2016.
And his last start certainly showed he’s loving his racing and taking his ear muffs off has helped greatly.
“He was getting to the sort of grade where I knew I had to find a length or two for him and I was wanting to take them off for months but was waiting for the right type of race where there was going to be tempo,” Bowen said.
“He has seemed to have found a few more lengths with them off.
“He used to get back a lot but now with the ear muffs off he should be able to race handier and make his own luck.”
The plan will be similar to his last start but connections just want even luck this time.
“There looks like there will be a fair bit of pace in the race with La Dolce Vita and that will help,” Bowen said.
“If he gets a nice run, he might be able to finish off over the top of them.”
Hotel Drive’s trainer Scott Henley said he couldn’t be any happier with his horse heading into the race knowing he’ll be in front of Hope Island entering the straight.
“He’s going to be hard to beat but it’s a really good race with a couple of handy ones in it,” he said.
“He’ll be making his own luck on the speed, second or third.
“His run was good the other day behind Godbolt’s horse (Fabry) for the simple reason that they ran 36 seconds for the first 600m and came home in 33 seconds.”
Henley said his horse would have raced better last time as well if he was able to get going sooner and make a longer run to the line.
“He got held up and he had to sit and wait. When he did get going the race was all over but he’s improved off that run and is fully fit now,” he said.
Anne Bonny makes her return to racing against Hotel Drive and Hope Island and, while trainer Owen Glus said she’ll run a “bottler”, he expects her to be better second-up.
Queanbeyan’s Joe Cleary has just the one runner at Murwillumbah and that’s a tip in itself.