Lee Hope says it was never a question of if he would return, but when.

Hope and his son Shannon, also his training partner, were disqualified for three years in 2019 dating back to cobalt related offences from 2015, but last week the pair stepped foot back onto a racetrack for the first time in more than 1000 days.

Hope, 70, is now looking to the future with optimism and despite time away from the sport, the Group 1-winning trainer insists he never fell out of love with the game.

“I watched the races all the time,” Hope admits.

“Hong Kong because of Blake (Shinn, stepson) and down here because of Tahlia (Hope, granddaughter).

“I don’t think you lose it, I’ve been in it since I was 15 and left school and every Saturday that was how it was.

“Because we were disqualified we weren’t allowed to go to anyone’s place or a racecourse and couldn’t visit friends in racing.

“But we were always going to come back.

“We are starting from the ground floor again but it’s just nice to be back.”

Hope has a handful of tried horses listed in his care from his Kilmore base where he has 27 boxes and expects to have his first runner in the coming weeks.

“We have got six horses and three trackwork riders helping us so it’s baby steps,” he said.

“A few old owners helped up with some tried horses, if we went out and bought a yearling it will be a while before they get there.

“We will probably go down and have a look at Melbourne (yearling sales) and have a look around, but we won’t be putting our hand up too much I don’t think.

“We’ve only been open a week and we couldn’t do anything prior to that because the disqualification didn’t end until the 28th (of January) so we were on the other side of the fence.

“We are going to do it on a bit more of a smaller scale and hope to enjoy it a little bit more.

“The most we ever had was 25 and out of that there was proably 12 racing, so we were never really big.

“But we will probably have 15 and that’s enough we can handle ourselves and just enjoy it instead of being full bore.”

Hope enjoyed Group 1 success in 2015 when he and son Shannon trained Fenway to win the Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill when ridden by Blake Shinn.

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