by Thomas Hedlund
Hambletonian winner Perfect Spirit (Andover Hall) was the favorite to win the $119,000 Kungapokalen (King Gustav V) final Saturday for 4-year-old colts and geldings at Åby in Sweden. After the elimination, where the Daniel Redén-trained horse won from the lead, driver Örjan Kihlström chose post number one behind the gate for the final and it was a correct decision. Perfect Spirit opened quickly for the lead and the pace was high throughout the whole race.
With Enterprise in the pocket and the option to use the open lane, it looked like the home stretch would be an exciting scene. But Perfect Spirit had more to give, even though he was a little hard to handle for Kihlström.
Perfect Spirit won in the mile rate of 1:54.2 over 1.3 miles.
“Örjan was very satisfied with the horse today,” Redén said. “It looked like the horse was too ambitious but he showed what a great horse he is. Elitloppet? Absolutely not. He is just a 4-year-old and we aim for the big races later on this summer. Right now we’re enjoying this victory. It’s a little bit of a pressure to train a horse that has won Hambletonian, but now I think that he has shown what a good horse he is.”
Dibaba – Queen of Sweden
Roger Walmann trained Dibaba (Ready Cash) won the $119,300 Drottning Silvias Pokal for 4-year-old mares at Åby racetrack on Saturday afternoon and her performance was strong.
Kihlström drove Dibaba and the race became an odd story where Björn Goop sent his Feed Your Head to the front and opened the first 5/8th of a mile in 1.08.5 (a mile rate of 1:50.1). Dibaba had to work first outside, far behind the leader and when the power ended for Feed Your Head, Dibaba used her strength and talent for the victory in mile rate 1:54.4 over 1.3 miles.
Dibaba was one of the best mares in the crop last year, but she never won any of the biggest races for 3-year-old trotters. This year, trainer Walmann can count on his top mare in several Group races and Dibaba’s previous ambitious tendencies seemed like they have gone away.
“She has developed since last year. She has always been a great horse, one of the best in her crop and it was nice that we could win this time. The race was spectacular, but with 300 meters to go, I felt that my horse was strong and that we were going to win,” said Kihlström after the victory. Owner Lennart Ågren (SRF Stable) had a great afternoon at Åby since he owns both Dibaba and Perfect Spirit.
Nadal Broline earns Elitlopp invitation
Reijo Liljendahl’s 8-year-old Yankee Glide son Nadal Broline won the Algot Scotts Minne at Åby and got an invitation for the Elitlopp after the race.
American bred 4-year-old Giveitgasandgo was in front in the mile race and Nadal Broline had to fight first outside with driver Ulf Ohlsson. The tough trip didn’t stop Nadal Broline from winning and the time was 1:53.2.
“This horse is a real friend of mine. He always fights and now we’ll go home and reflect over this victory,” said Reijo Liljendahl.
Handsome Brad in Lyon Grand Prix
The Lyon Grand Prix for 5-year-olds collected many top horses behind the gate over 1.6 miles. Diamanten and Muscle Hustle were chasing tickets for the Elitlopp, but question marks were left when they performed poorly. Muscle Hustle broke early behind the gate and Diamanten was early a beaten horse.
Rajesh Face kept the pace in front and the Ulf Stenströmer trained Handsome Brad (Brad de Veluwe), driven by Carl Johan Jepson, finished strongly for the victory in a mile rate of 1:55.2, which was announced as world record time over the actual distance.
“Handsome Brad had no luck as a 4-year-old and we were pretty cautious with him. Three horses were named as winners before this race, but I had believed in my horse and I think that has shown that he can compete against the best,” said Ulf Stenströmer.
Handsome Brad earned $35, 000 in Lyon Grand Prix.
In Breeders Course for 3-year-olds ($93,000), German-bred Muscle Hill son Northern Charm won in :56.2 over the mile for driver Peter Ingves.