Editor's Note: This is a first-hand account by Steve Oldford, the United States representative in the World Cup of Amateur Racing, after the first day of the three-day competition in Finland.
Under brilliant blue Finland skies that do not darken at night, 12 countries started the first three races of the nine race series for the World Cup of Amateur Racing.
|Photo courtesy of Steve Oldford|
|Steve Oldford with his trophy after winning the first race in the World Cup of Amateur Racing.|
The races were held at the Riihimaki summer race course, about 60 miles north of Helsinki. It reminded me of summer fair racing of old as families spread out around the track with their children, picnics, and blankets to enjoy the day's racing. The grandstand was full of enthusiastic spectators who were able to wager on the races which include Standardbred and Coldblood breeds.
The World Cup drivers were presented to the cheering crowd prior to the first race. The flags of each of the 12 countries waved proudly in the summer breeze. Three World Cup races will be contested this day.
In the first race I drove a lightly raced 3-year-old son of Donarail out of the five hole. He was very immature but smart. We raced from the first over position which leads the common place second row of horses in the 12-horse field. He was very strong and relaxed to the head of the stretch in this 2,000 meter (1-1/4 mile) race and pulled ahead for the victory.
From the four hole in the second race, I had a trotter that needed a lot of help. In place of head poles, gating poles that are similar to our gaiting straps are used. They are controlled by my legs drawing them in or out to help guide the horse. It feels like rear end steering instead of using the bit. This 11-year-old gave a big effort but was not able to match the field.
The third race saw me coming from post seven and racing from about forth over for the distance, finishing sixth in the 12-horse field.
I accumulated 21 points in the first three races which places me in sixth place after the first day of competition. The points leader is Joey Vignoni from Switzerland with 29 points.
Our international group heads to Tamperre Raceway for Tuesday's card.