Swedish Harness Racing's Hambletonian Is Thriving
Four of Sweden's 10 finalists in that country's 2011 version of harness racing's American Hambletonian were bred and registered in America.
Sweden's Hambletonian, the SprinterMastaren (or Sprinter Championship), was held July 7 on the western coast's Halmstad Track, representing the trotting race's 41st renewal. The American Hambletonian look-a-like was first conceived by Stefan Holmgren in 1969 as a competition for four-year-olds, rather than three-year-olds (the American version), because Swedish three-year-olds aren't allowed to compete in more than one race in one day.
Many American Standardbred (harness racing) races of championship caliber are made up of two to three heats, run within a two-weekend schedule. Each heat (race) is run on (generally) a half mile oval track. Each Standardbred race (heat) is contested over a one mile distance.
Other American championships, like the Little Brown Jug, are run in heats scheduled within a few hours of one another during one afternoon. Many trainers don't like the multiple-heat-in-one-day schedule of the Jug pacing championship.
For example, if 18 horses are entered in the Jug, the field is divided into two races (elimination heats) of nine participants each, which allows better room on the track for Standardbreds pulling carts.
A third race, or final heat, is then made up of the first four finishers in each of the first two heats, making a final heat field of eight. The risk in this format is that the final heat may be won by a third fellow, thereby establishing three winners from three heats. These three would then need to participate in a (fourth) race-off heat to determine an overall Jug winner. If one horse wins two of the first three heats, he is crowned Jug champion.
Sweden's 2011 SprinterMastaren
Driven by accomplished Swedish driver Orjan Kihlstrom, Orecchietti, bred and born in Sweden at Menhammar Stud, but raised on Kentucky Bluegrass, won the one-mile SprinterMastaren for four-year-old trotters.
Orecchietti's breeder, Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, also owns Stoner Creek Stud for Standardbreds in Kentucky, where Wallenius-Kleberg sends her charges for early growth and training before they return to their home country to register for the races there.
The Sprinter Trophy presented to SprinterMastaren winners is a silver statue of Hambletonian, the undefeated American trotter who, with Messenger, helped begat the world of Standardbred racing. The trophy's author is Swedish silversmith Jan A. Lundgren.
Twenty-six starters trotted in three elimination heats in this year's SprinterMastaren, with eight of 10 foreign-breds being products of American sires. The heats were won as follows:
- Elim Heat One.....Wishing Stone (2010's American Kentucky Futurity winner), by Conway Hall--Meadowbranch Magic, by Valley Victory; in 1:54.1
- Elim Heat Two.....Amaru Boko, by Coktail Jet--Sue Boko, by Yankee Glide; in 1:53.2
- Elim Heat Three.....Formula One, by Yankee Glide--Ferrari Of, by Credit Winner; in 1:57
Orecchietti qualified for the Final by finishing second in Elim Heat Two. He was full of vim and vigor in the Final, cruising away from challengers Amaru Boko and Wishing Stone and hitting the wire in 1:53.3 to earn a purse share of nearly $140,000.
The Swedish-American Connection
The eight 2011 SprinterMastaren contestants of American breeding included:
- Acolyte Hanover, by Windsong's Legacy--Astraea Hanover, by Valley Victory (Hanover Shoe Farms)
- Argwintina, by Windsong's Legacy--Person's Chip, by Pine Chip (Perretti Farms)
- Borga Crash, by Windsong's Legacy--Michele Lavec, by Enjoy Lavec (Mats Anderson)
- Formula One, by Yankee Glide--Ferrari Of, by Credit Winner (Ken Jackson)
- Hard Livin, bySJ;s Caviar--Affinity, by Victory Dream (Brittany Farms)
- JetBlue Volo, by Yankee Glide--Blue Water Fly, by Supergill (Jorgen Jahre Jr. & Kentuckiana Farms GP)
- Sandrngham Hanover, by Cantab Hall--Sally Hanover, by American Winner (Hanover Shoe Farms)
- Wishing Stone, by Conway Hall-Meadowbranch Magic, by Valley Victory (Brittany Farms)
In 2002, Scarlet Knight, sired by the prolific American sire Pine Chip, was the first American trotter to win the SprinterMastaren. Scarlet Knight beat his three-year-old contemporary rivals in the American Hambletonian in 2001.
A number of Standardbreds born in Sweden but raced in America have won the SprinterMastaren, including Mr. Lavec, Kramer Boy, and First Lavec, all handled by ultra-successful trainer Jimmy Takter.
(Source: The Horseman and Fair World magazine, July 20,2011 -- "Sweden's Hambletonian")
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