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Sears looking for rare double in Elitlopp
Monday, May 21, 2012 - by Ken Weingartner, Harness Racing Communications

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Ken Weingartner
Freehold, NJ --- Brian Sears hopes to make his first trip to Sweden a winning one.

Sears will drive Arch Madness in Sunday’s prestigious Elitlopp, an invitational event that unites 16 of the world’s best trotters at Solvalla Racetrack, and could join elite company with a victory.

Only two drivers in history have won the Hambletonian and Elitlopp -- John Campbell and Joe O’Brien.

Campbell won the first of his record six Hambletonian trophies with Mack Lobell in 1987 and teamed with the horse to capture the Elitlopp the following year. O’Brien won the Hambletonian with Blaze Hanover (1960) and Scott Frost (1955) and the Elitlopp with Fresh Yankee (1969).

Sears has one Hambletonian to his credit, with Muscle Hill in 2009. He could add the Elitlopp with Arch Madness.

“I’m looking forward to going over there,” Sears said. “It’s quite an event and you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll put on a good showing over there and the horse races well and if things work out we could have a good day.”

USTA/Mark Hall photo
Brian Sears has driven Arch Madness to wins in the Breeders Crown, Maple Leaf Trot and Titan Cup.

Arch Madness has won 30 of 78 lifetime races and earned $3.34 million for owners Marc Goldberg and Barry Goldstein’s Willow Pond LLC. Arch Madness’ top wins include the 2008 Maple Leaf Trot (in a then-stakes-record 1:52), the 2007 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old colt trotters and the 2011 Titan Cup in a stakes- and world-record 1:50.2.

This year, Arch Madness has won three of five races and earned $114,659. He is coming off a third-place finish in the $481,844 Oslo Grand Prix on May 13.

Arch Madness, trained by Trond Smedshammer, drew post No. 7 in his eight-horse Elitlopp elimination race on Sunday. The top four finishers from each of two elims return later in the day for the final.

Commander Crowe, who won the Oslo Grand Prix, drew post No. 1 in the same elim as Arch Madness and is the early favorite to capture the Elitlopp crown according to overseas bookmakers.

Arch Madness, with odds in the vicinity of 8-1, is among the other top contenders, with Rapide Lebel, Sanity, and Orecchietti. Canada’s Windsong Geant, who will start from post one in the first elim, is 19-1.

Sears has driven Arch Madness to 11 wins, including in the Breeders Crown, Maple Leaf Trot and Titan Cup.

USTA/Mark Hall photo
Brian Sears is looking forward to racing in the Elitlopp.

“I know the racing style is quite a bit different,” Sears said about the challenges he will face in Sweden. “They sit on the outside and seem to rate their horses quite a bit. They don’t really rush them and throw up big fractions; they kind of rate them and then brush home and hit the gas the last quarter of a mile or three-eighths of a mile.

“Hopefully I get a few drives (prior to the Elitlopp) and get a little bit of a feel for the track and the gate and how the starting car releases the horses. Hopefully, I’m aware of all the possibilities that can go on and can be in the right spot.”

Last year, Arch Madness was one of the favorites in the Elitlopp. He won his elimination, but Smedsahmmer said Arch Madness showed signs of tying up, or cramping, in the final. The race was won by 27-1 longshot Brioni.

“He does have pretty good gate speed and he also can take a lot of air,” Sears said about Arch Madness. “He doesn’t mind first over; he’s raced first over some very good trips. If he’s strong and on his game, he’s as good as anybody, that’s for sure.”

Sears, who raced against Commander Crowe and Rapide Lebel in last year’s Breeders Crown at Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, smiled when talking about receiving the invitation to race in the Elitlopp, saying: “They invite you because they want to beat you.”

“It makes more of a storyline to have an American horse and an American driver over there, so they really wanted me to come over,” Sears added. “It is quite an event and I’m starting to get excited about it. (To win) would be very exciting, no doubt.”

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