Canterbury junior driver Ben Hope scored a career highlight when he drove Muscle Mountain to victory in the group 3 New Zealand Trotting Stakes at Addington on Saturday.
Hope produced a cool tactical drive to win the first Group race of his career with the two-year-old trained by his parents, Greg and Nina.
“It was a huge thrill,” the reinsman said.
“It is the biggest highlight of my career – definitely.”
Hope was faced with a key tactical decision with a lap to go in the $30,000 feature.
Muscle Mountain’s main rival, Ultimate Stride, challenged him for the lead and the junior driver elected to take a trail behind the blueblood.
After a few nervous moments when Muscle Mountain was held up before the home turn, it proved to be a winning move.
“I have heard of the huge wraps they have got on Ultimate Stride and how good they think he is,” Hope said.
“I really respected Ultimate Stride and if it was any other horse I probably wouldn’t have handed up.”
“I was a little bit worried he would hand up to the parked horse.”
“But, when he got a little bit tired we were lucky enough to get off and get a run.”
Once Hope got Muscle Mountain off the back of the tiring Ultimate Stride and in to the clear, the trotter reeled in his rivals to score with utter ease.
“He is tough, but he has also got a lot of speed.”
“As soon as I pulled him out he felt like the winner, he felt like he was going to go bang and he did.”