Resolving to Go

Despite being disqualified from the Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff, Resolve’s connections have accepted an invitation to race in Sweden’s Elitlopp, setting up a possible hero’s homecoming for the trotter’s Swedish trainer/driver — and two-time Elitlopp champion — Ake Svanstedt.

by Dave Briggs

The connections of Resolve have accepted an invitation to race in Sweden’s famed Elitlopp May 29 at Solvalla Racetrack.

“Yes, he will go. He’ll leave on Monday the 23rd,” Oskar Florhed said Thursday. Florhed is second trainer to Ake Svandstedt who conditions and drives Resolve.

Resolve dominated last Sunday’s (May 8) $150,000 Mack Lobell Elitlopp Playoff at the Meadowlands, getting to the wire four-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of the field in 1:51.2 only to be disqualified for trotting inside at least three pylons in the stretch.

“Ake said he doesn’t really know what happened. There was such a hard wind there. The whole home stretch his helmet was going up and down, but just when he went inside the pylons it was a very hard wind coming right at the head of the horse,” Florhed said. “Of course, he was very sad because a lot of money for the owners went away, but the horse was very good and raced in :51.2. He was very happy with the horse, but the rest he was sad about.”

Judges elevated second-place finisher Bee A Magician to the victory and the automatic invitation to the May 29 Elitlopp at the famed Solvalla racetrack near Stockholm. Swedish officials on hand at the Meadowlands for the race also invited Resolve to the Elitlopp.

This week, Bee A Magician’s connections officially turned the invitation to race their mare in the Elitlopp fearing the travel would have a big impact on the rest of her 2016 campaign.

Trainer Richard “Nifty” Norman told HRC’s Ken Weingartner that the decision by owners Mel Hartman, Herb Liverman and David McDuffee was unanimous.

“It’s a tremendous honor to receive an invitation, but she is not the greatest traveler and the owners thought the best thing for the horse is to keep her home,” Norman told Weingartner. “She’s in a good little groove right now and they didn’t want to upset her.”

Florhed said Resolve’s team is raring to go, especially since a direct flight from New York to an airport close to Stockholm has been arranged.

“Before, when Maven and those horses went to the Elitlopp, the flight went to Belgium or Amsterdam, so it was a three-day trip. Now it’s just eight, nine hours from New York to one hour down from Stockholm and Solvalla. So, that’s much, much better for horses,” Florhed said.

Svandstedt, 57, is a five-time trainer of the year and three-time driver of the year in his native Sweden. He
has won the Elitlopp two times as a driver — with Torvald Palema in 2009 and Gidde Palema in 2004. Since 2014, Svanstedt has based his operation in North America.

Florhed said Swedish newpapers are already buzzing about Svanstedt coming home.

“For a Swedish guy to win the Elitlopp is the biggest thing. It’s like an American trainer wants to win the Hambletonian,” Florhed said. “Especially with Ake going home. At Solvalla they are crazy about asking, ‘Are you going to go home now?’ He’s still alive, but he’s a legend for Swedish people when he comes back home. So, it’s going to be very big, I think… He would not go if he didn’t think he could win. Even if he thinks he could be fourth or fifth, he doesn’t want to go. He has faith in the horse.”

Resolve (Muscle Hill—Anikawiesahalee) has a North American record of 10-11-7 in 41 starts, earnings of nearly $920,000 and a mark of 1:50.4 set in 2015 at four winning the $75,000 Vincennes on Hambletonian Day.

In 2015, Resolve posted a record of 4-4-4 in 13 starts and earned just over $700,000 en route to the Canada’s older trotting horse of the year award. Resolve finished second to Bee A Magician in the $516,800 Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk and second in the $531,250 Breeders Crown at Woodbine to Creatine.

Hans Enggren, 86, bought Resolve privately in July of 2014. Enggren — perhaps best known as the breeder and owner of 1985 Hambletonian winner Prakas as well as heading Meadowbranch Farms — first spotted Resolve while walking around the South Florida Training Center in November 2013. The horse, who in his rookie season equaled the track record for two-year-old trotters at Tioga Downs with a 1:55.2 win in a division of the Kindergarten Classic Series, was then in the care of trainer Roman Lopez.

“(Resolve) came out very good from the (Elitlopp Playoff),” Florhed said. “He looks nice. He looks better, feels much better. He’s much stronger, has more muscles. This winter he gained a lot of muscle. He’s much more sound this year, also. Last winter he had some breaking problems when he trained and was weak. But now he’s strong.

“He is a racehorse and he doesn’t show anything in training… When he goes alone, it’s hard to go under 2:30 with him sometimes. He’s lazy. But when he has the race bike on and he comes out on the track he’s a different horse.”

Svandstedt pulled Resolve’s shoes to race in the Elitlopp Playoff and Florhed said the trotter will race without shoes in the Elitlopp.

“In Sweden, I think maybe 90 per cent of the horses will race without shoes that weekend. Not all the three-year-olds, but especially that weekend, they try to go faster. Swedish trainers, they want to go,” Florhed said.

The Svanstedt Stable has high hopes for how Resolve will fare in the Elitlopp, especially with Bee A Magician staying home in North America.

“It’s good for us because if Bee A Magician had a good post and he gave her a good trip, she’s very hard to beat,” Florhed said. “It’s good for Resolve that she’s not going. Also, the horse Delicious, she was born here in the U.S. She is a Swedish horse and is the fastest mare in Sweden. She is out for the Elitlopp because she has an injury in her knee or something. So, she’s out. Delicious and Nuncio were the best horses in the Elitlopp this year, I guess. So, it’s good for Resolve that she’s not in there. But, Nuncio raced yesterday and he looks good now.”

Still Florhed said Resolve has a good chance to win the Elitlopp because he’s an adaptable trotter.

“He doesn’t care so much about the trips. He can race behind or as the lead horse. He’s a hard horse,” Florhed said.
And more than capable of making up for the Elitlopp Playoff.