Photo: Centurion ATM – Winning The 2014 Peter Haughton Memorial Final
If someone other than Jimmy Takter or Ron Burke is standing in the winner’s circle Saturday after the Hambletonian it’s likely to be Åke Svanstedt.
Svanstedt’s Centurion ATM looks like the main threat to the sport’s two most powerful stables, Burke and Takter, in Saturday’s Hambletonian.
The horse turned some heads last out when he finished second behind The Bank in the Stanley Dancer after breaking stride. The break cost Centurion ATM a good 10 lengths. He only lost by a length.
”Of course we were disappointed he lost the race because of the break, but we saw we had a horse who is a tremendous horse and his form is getting better and better,” said Svanstedt’s assistant Bernie Noren. “He just took a wrong step. He had never broke before in his life and he’s never going to break again. There’s nothing to worry about. He never does it, so why should he do it again? It was one misstep and any horse can have one misstep in life. Fortunately, it was not a big race that he did it in.”
Centurion ATM showed some promise last year winning the Peter Haughton (watch the race here) on Hambletonian Day, but didn’t exactly come back strong this year. He lost his first three races this year, including a Pennsylvania sire stakes race, before the Dancer. But the Dancer was definitely an indication that he is back on top of his game.
“He is a great horse and he is a great race horse,” Noren, said. “He loves to race. Training-wise he never gets really tired. He’s not a standout in training, but when he sees the gate he’s a great race horse.”
Before settling in the U.S., Svanstedt was among the top trainers in Sweden and he has won important races all over the world. The Hambletonian, though, would be an important addition to his record.
“It would be one of the great achievements of his career,” Noren said. “I know Ake is very focused on this race Saturday and if he can win it will be one of his greatest memories ever. He has won a lot of big races in Sweden, but this would be one of the top three races he has ever won.”
Between Svanstedt, Jimmy Takter, Nancy Johansson, Staffan Lind and Jonas Czernyson, 12 of the 19 entrants in the Hambletonian were born in Sweden.
“Harness racing in Sweden is very big,” Noren said. “The big races draw big crowds. This Saturday a lot of people will follow the Hambletonian with over half the field trained by people born in Sweden. It will be a huge day for Swedish harness racing. If a Swedish trainer can win it will be a big story at home.”