Upset in Elitloppet

Timoko scored his second victory in Sweden’s top race by grounding French Triple Crown champion Bold Eagle at Solvalla.

by Thomas Hedlund

French superstar Bold Eagle showed no mercy in the Elitloppet Sunday afternoon (May 28) at Solvalla. But it was another French horse, Timoko, that pulled off the upset in the final to claim his second Elitlopp title to go with the one he earned in 2014.

After Bold Eagle survived being parked by Delicious in their Elitloppet elimination (replay here) and powered to a 1:50 victory that is the fastest time ever recorded on a five-eighths mile track in Europe, it seemed like the 30,103 spectators were witnessing a horse from another world. Few thought the son of Ready Cash—Reethi Rah Jet, who was racing in Sweden for the first time, could be beaten.

Even Bold Eagle’s driver, Franck Nivard, thought an upset was unlikely.

“The horse is just so much better than all the others, I am pretty sure that he will be even better in the final,” Nivard said after the first heat in which U.S.-based Resolve finished second, D.D.’s hitman was third and 12-year-old Spring From was fourth.

Nuncio, the 2016 Elitlopp champion, was in front early in the second heat (replay here) allowing driver Örjan Kihlström to slow down the pace considerably. Propulsion was on the outside after 600 meters and gave cover to Timoko. Nuncio fought well and Propulsion never got close enough to challenge seriously. Nuncio, a son of Andover Hall—Nicole Isabelle that was bred by USTA president Russell Williams of Hanover, PA, won the heat in 1:52.4.

Nuncio’s trainer, Stefan Melander, looked satisfied after the race and driver Kihlström smiled to the cameras when he got the question if anything would be changed in the equipment for the final.

“We have to do something and probably Nuncio will race without shoes in the final. If there was any doubt by choosing number one behind the gate in next race? No, that’s the only chance we got if we want to beat the French horse,” Kihlström said with a smile.

Propulsion finished second, Timoko was third and In Vain Sund finished fourth.

The Elitloppet final (replay here) was a story the large, enthusiastic Solvalla crowd could not have foreseen.

Timoko, with Swedish driver Björn Goop at the controls, was in front right after the gate left the field of eight horses. Nuncio did the job on the outside and Bold Eagle snuck up second over.

From third over, Propulsion got the back of Bold Eagle in the last turn, but Bold Eagle, who was superior in the elimination, was not the same horse in the final. Propulsion had to leave four wide in the last turn and at the same time Timoko got full gas from Goop.

Timoko came home in 1:51 to earn three million Swedish crowns (about $347,000 U.S.).

“What a horse, what a driver. It’s totally unbelievable,” said Timoko’s trainer Richard Westerink. “When (Timoko) is in form, he is not the same horse. Everything went so perfect and it’s so incredible. Timoko is a real champion. Björn Goop is also a champion.”

Goop said, “Timoko has been beaten so many times by Bold Eagle, but he always stand up afterwards. He is like Rocky Balboa. Timoko is like a king to me.”

Timoko, the 10-year-old son of Imoko—Kiss Me Coulonces, has wrestled with the best horses in the world since he was three years old.

Propulsion (Muscle Hill) finished second for Johan Untersteiner.

“With a quarter to go I thought for myself: we have this race in our hands, but Bold Eagle was not as good as I thought he would be in the final and when Timoko disappeared we were too many lengths behind him. Propulsion was incredibly good in the two heats,” Untersteiner said.

Propulsion’s trainer Daniel Redén said, “It’s like a victory. I’m so glad for the people around Timoko’s sake. He’s a champion and my horse raced very well today.”

Resolve (Muscle Hill—Anikawiesahalee) and Åke Svanstedt finished third. Bold Eagle was fourth and Nuncio fifth.

Result Elitloppet Final 2017

1. Timoko | Björn Goop | 1:52
2. Propulsion | Johan Untersteiner | 1:52.2
3. Resolve | Åke Svanstedt | 1:52.3
4. Bold Eagle | Franck Nivard | 1:52.3
5. Nuncio | Örjan Kihlström | 1:51.4

Love Matters in Fyraåringseliten

Hambletonian horse Love Matters (Explosive Matters—Lotsa Love) was served a trip second over in Fyraåringseliten (replay here) and was strongest after a last turn three wide for Örjan Kihlström.

The Daniel Redén horse came home in 1:52.3 and earned 500,000 Swedish crowns ($58,000 U.S.).

“The horse has everything. He’s been better after every race and today he had to do a lot of work to get the victory,” Örjan Kihlström said.