Solvalla, Sweden --- This year’s Elitlopp, set for Sunday (May 25) at the Solvalla Racetrack in Stockholm, Sweden, features two well-known American contenders in the spirited mare Maven and the precocious Uncle Peter. Both are conditioned by transplanted Swedes who are returning to their native turf to compete in one of Scandinavia’s biggest events.
Both Maven and Uncle Peter, racing in separate elimination heats, will have to face off against 14 other highly-regarded and seriously-respected rivals, in order to capture the Elitlopp crown for 2014.
In the first elimination, Shaq Is Back hails from post position one. This 7-year-old, a son of Credit Winner, has 66 career starts with 19 wins and more than 4.3 million Swedish Krone in earnings. Trained by Daniel Reden, Shaq Is Back earned $442,225 as a 2- and 3-year-old state-side, winning such races as a 2009 Bluegrass division at Lexington’s Red Mile. After being sidelined with an injury for the majority of 2012, he returned to compete in the 2013 Elitlopp, but failed to reach the final. This year he comes into the event with an unblemished record in four starts, and typically enjoys racing on the front-end.
Garnering post two is the Italian-bred contender Prussia, trained by Pietro Gubellini. This 5-year-old mare has earned more than 2.2 million SEK ($333,680) from 14 victories in 27 starts. As a 4-year-old in 2013 she shocked many in Scandinavia when she finished a solid third in the Elite at Solvalla. Two weeks later the chocolate brown mare scored an impressive victory at Copenhagen and this season she won the Prix Etain Royal at Seinäjoki, Finland.
The French-bred horse Timoko will start from post three for trainer Richard Westerink and driver Bjorn Goop. This dark blood bay horse won France’s major events as a 4-year-old, including the 2011 Criterium Continental at Vincennes, and finished third in the Elitlopp last year. When paired with Goop for the first time a month ago, he won easily at Vincennes. Now 7, Timoko has won 20 events from 50 starts, and $3,038,838 in career earnings.
Leaving from post four is the Swedish gelding Digital Ink with driver Örjan Kihlström. This 5-year-old has 15 triumphs in 30 career starts and $513,169 in earnings. Trained by Stefan Melander, Digital Ink captured the 2013 Breeders Crown at Eskillstuna and the Grand Prix at Solvalla, and finished third in the Elite for 4-year-olds. Since 2012 he has never finished worse than second in any event.
Reven d’Amour will start from post five for trainer Fredrik Larsson. This 9-year-old near-black stallion captured the 2009 Elite for 4-year-olds at Solvalla, and has won 19 races in 72 trips postward. He appeared to be in top form at ages 3 and 4, but was plagued with injuries in the years following. He comes into this year’s Elitlopp after breaking the track record at Örebro, Sweden. Erik Adielsson is slated to steer the winner of $794,002 lifetime.
Maven, starting from post six for driver Yannick Gingras, needs no introduction to American fans. This 5-year-old mare has 26 wins from 41 career starts and career earnings of $1,453,969. Her trainer, Jonas Czernyson, will be returning to his native country hoping to score in one of Scadinavia’s biggest events. Throughout her stellar career Maven has captured a plethora of solid trotting stakes, including the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare final last fall at Pocono Downs in 1:52.3 and the $500,000 Breeders Crown 3-year-old filly final in 2012 in 1:54 at Woodbine.
The handsome Truculent leaves from post seven with Johnny Takter in the sulky for Swedish trainer Lars Nilsson. This handsome dark horse with the white stripe down his face has overcome countless injuries in his career to earn $291,329. The 7-year-old stallion has 20 wins in 36 career starts, and his best season was as a 4-year-old, when he won the V75 International Trot in 2012 at Jägersro. Last year, he had only four starts but emerged victorious in all of them.
Last but definitely not least is last year’s Elitlopp winner, Nahar, with his trainer Robert Bergh slated to drive from post eight in the first elimination. This burly Swedish gelding, now 9, is known for his great speed but also for his tendency to go offstride on occasion. He will be the first horse since Varenne to try to win the Elitlopp two years in a row. To date he has 12 wins from 75 starts with $1,388,315 in his lifetime bank account.
In the second elimination, the 5-year-old long-striding but compact mare Delicious will leave from the rail with Daniel Reden in the sulky. Racing sans over-check, Delicious won the Elite for 4-year-old mares at Solvalla in 2013, and has 12 wins in 32 career starts, and $359,009 in lifetime earnings.
Panne de Moteur and driver Örjan Kihlström leave from post two for Swedish trainer Stefan Hultman. This 6-year-old stallion has $1,061,258 in earnings from 18 wins in 37 lifetime starts. This stout trotter has won 11 of 13 races at Solvalla since 2012 and is a fan favorite at the Stockholm raceway. In 2013 he captured the Sundsvall Open Trot at Bergsåker and began this season with three straight triumphs in his native country. He will likely be one of several hometown favorites.
Uncle Peter, a winner of $1,187,636 in his career, will start from post three with David Miller driving for trainer Jimmy Takter. The 5-year-old son of Cantab Hall-Victory Treasure has one start on Scandinavian turf under his belt, having finished fifth in the Copenhagen Cup in Denmark on May 11. Owned by Christina Takter, Brixton Medical AB, John and Jim Fielding and Goran Falk, Uncle Peter posted a 1:50.3 world record at Pocono Downs last year as a 4-year-old, and has 13 wins, 12 seconds and a trio of third-place finishes state-side, from 37 trips postward.
The long-striding Raja Mirchi will have his trainer, Swede Lutfi Kolgjini in the bike from post four. The 7-year-old stallion has earned $1,237,741 from 24 wins in 56 starts. He comes into this year’s Elitlopp after finishing fifth in last year’s edition, and had previously captured the coveted Svenskt Travkriterium at Solvalla in 2010. He will likely be another hometown favorite of the Solvalla fans.
Sanity will start from post five for driver Erik Adielsson and Swedish conditioner Malin Löfgren. This 8-year-old gelding, who has amassed $1,488,825 in his career, is one of the most versatile trotters in Scandinavia and Europe, having succeeded in both short and long-distance races. From 70 starts he nabbed 30 triumphs, including a victory in the Norrbottens Stora Pris at Boden in 2012. He raced in France this past winter and most recently finished a strong second in the Olympiatravet before finishing off the board in a prep for the Elitlopp in Finland.
The striking 8-year-old chestnut trotter Caballion hails from post six for driver Bjorn Goop and French trainer Franck LeBlanc. This winner of $855,671 lifetime has 21 wins in 69 career efforts and has eight times won a V75 event at ages 4 and 5. Though he seemed plagued with breaking problems the last few years, he most recently was victorious in the Copenhagen Cup in which Uncle Peter finished fifth. This athletic and charismatic gelding has back class that cannot be overlooked when the chips are down.
Juliano Rags and driver-trainer Noralf Braekken will carry the hopes of Norway from post seven. This 6-year-old rangy stallion captured the Norwegian Derby in 2012 and has $278,095 in career earnings to his credit. He finished fifth in the Finlandia Ajo and is considered an underdog to win this season’s Elitlopp.
The slick-gaited Pascia’ L'est and driver Enrico Bellei have the outside slot in the second of two Elitlopp elimination heats. Trained by French conditioner Thierry Duvaldestin, this Italian-bred horse already has career earnings of $1,255,521 at just five years of age. He has 13 wins from 24 starts and dominated his foes as a 3-year-old in his homeland, having won the Derby Italiano at Tor di Valle in 2012. Last year, he won the Elite Trot for 4-year-olds at Solvalla and most recently captured the 2014 Prix d’Atlantique in April.