Moni Maker was the last U.S.-owned horse to win the Elitlopp, capturing the prestigious event at Solvalla Raceway in 1998. She also was the last female trotter to win the race.
Jimmy Takter trained Moni Maker in 1998 -- the first of her two Horse of the Year seasons -- and now returns to the Elitlopp for the first time since that victory, with Uncle Peter.
|USTA/Ed Keys photo|
|Moni Maker was the last U.S.-owned horse to win the Elitlopp, capturing the prestigious event at Solvalla in 1998.|
The 5-year-old Uncle Peter has won 13 of 37 career races and $1.18 million. His 1:50.3 win at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs last season made him the fastest trotter ever on a five-eighths-mile track, which is the size of Solvalla’s oval.
He races in the second of two eight-horse Elitlopp eliminations, from which the top four finishers return for the same-day final.
“It would be exciting to go back and win the race after Moni Maker just passed away,” Takter said recently. “You’ve got to take a shot. If you’re not in it, you can’t win it.”
Maven, trained by Jonas Czernyson, will try to become the first female trotter since Moni Maker to win the Elitlopp. The 5-year-old mare, who trotted the fastest race mile ever on a half-mile track when she won in 1:51.4 last year at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Ohio, has won 26 of 41 lifetime starts and $1.45 million.
She races in the first Elitlopp elimination.
“I’d be thrilled if she was able to fill Moni Maker’s shoes and pick up that crown over there,” said Bill Donovan, who owns Maven. “Moni Maker was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, trotting mares ever. Those are big shoes to fill.”
Timoko, who won the Grade II Prix Kerjacques at Vincennes earlier this month, is the 5-1 favorite to win the Elitlopp, according to international bookmakers. He starts from post three in Maven’s elimination.
Uncle Peter and Maven are both 10-1 and Nahar, who won last year’s race, is 15-1.
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Maven’s driver Yannick Gingras was busy doing homework in the time leading up to the Elitlopp.
“I’ve watched replays of every horse in the race,” Gingras said prior to leaving for Sweden. “I like to know my competition. I don’t know them as well as horses over here, but I did what I could.”
|USTA/Mark Hall photo|
|Trainer Jonas Czernyson and driver Yannick Gingras celebrate in the winner's circle after Maven captured the Miami Valley Distaff earlier this month.|
Starting from post six in her elimination might not be the ideal spot for Maven, but Gingras is confident in his mare. She has raced once this season, winning the Miami Valley Distaff in a track-record 1:53.3 at Miami Valley Raceway on May 4.
“If she’s good I think she has a big chance,” Gingras said. “We wouldn’t be going if we didn’t think she had a chance. Post six is not the best spot, we’ll need a little bit of luck, but I think she’s as good as anybody there.”
European races often are different from those in the U.S., with horses racing on the outside for longer periods of time, although that might not be the case in the Elitlopp.
“I think it’s a very Americanized (style) race now,” Gingras said. “Horses might be wide a little earlier, but it’s pretty close to what we do.
“But sitting on the outside is not a problem for (Maven),” he added. “I don’t think she’ll get her feelings hurt. She just keeps going. My main concern is getting a clean trip. She’ll do the rest.”
To see video of Maven preparing for the race in Sweden, click here.
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David Miller, who is trying to become the first U.S.-born driver to win the Elitlopp, also is confident heading into the race. Before heading overseas, Uncle Peter raced twice at the Meadowlands, beating Sevruga by a half-length in 1:52.1 and finishing second to Modern Family in a 1:51.2 mile in his seasonal debut.
|David Miller will be driving Uncle Peter in the Elitlopp on Sunday.|
Uncle Peter finished fifth in the Copenhagen Cup on May 11 in Denmark. Uncle Peter led the 1-1/4 mile event until the top of the stretch, when Caballion took over and trotted to victory. Uncle Peter was beaten by about two lengths. Caballion, who races from post six in Uncle Peter’s Elitlopp elim, is 17-1 to win the Elitlopp.
“I’ve got confidence in the horse and I think he’ll do fine,” Miller said about Uncle Peter, who is owned by Christina Takter, Brixton Medical AB, John and Jim Fielding, and Goran Falk. “I know he didn’t race very good in Copenhagen, but I think that was just a matter of the ship. They told me he trained back very well. I know I have a good horse. Hopefully everything works out great.”
Miller plans to drive several races Friday at Solvalla to get a feel for the track.
“The main thing is the (starting) gate,” Miller said. “I’d like to get a time or two behind the gate because they tell me it’s a bit different. But everything else, I’m pretty sure it’s pretty much the same everywhere you go. It’s racing. I don’t think they’ll throw anything at me I haven’t seen before.”
Miller, who will be inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in July, is looking forward to the experience.
“I’m excited about going,” the Ohio native said. “I always said if I ever got the opportunity, I would go. Here’s my opportunity.
“Hopefully that ride home is really sweet.”
For more about the horses in this year’s Elitlopp, click here.