by Thomas Hedlund
The $463,000 Grand Prix de l’U.E.T. for 4-year-olds were held at Vincennes racetrack in Paris, France on Friday night and the evening ended with first victory for the year for Timo Nurmos’ Muscle Hill son Villaiam.
Villiam won the Swedish Kriterium in world record performance 2017 and the 4-year-old was the first choice, by many, to win the Derby in Sweden this year. But Villiam disappeared in the elimination for that race and in the qualification for European Derby, he was not at his best, finishing third behind Chianti and Dream Night Palema.
From number 8 behind the gate, driver Jorma Kontio had no other options but to take it slow from start with Villiam and the duo found a position deep down in the field of 12 horses. With 5/8ths of a mile to go, Kontio followed French hope Eridan three wide, but short thereafter Villiam was given order to attack fourth wide and the son of Muscle Hill accelerated quickly at the back stretch.
Favorite Who’s Who was parked outside leader Chianti and Villiam landed outside the leading duo in the last turn. When the field reached the home stretch, Villiam got control of the race and he even struggled to keep Muscle Hill mare Mellby Free behind him in the finish.
The expectations were big before the season, but Villiam hadn’t showed that he belongs in the top among the 4-year-olds in Europe, until now.
”This is a very good horse and most certainly one for the Prix d’Amérique in the future,” Kontio said.
Trainer Timo Nurmos has had a great year, especially in France, so far. His Readly Express (Ready Cash) won Prix d’Amérique in January and Jämtlands Stora Pris in Östersund in June. Nurmos has also collected victories in Finnish Derby with Hachiko de Veluwe and Swedish Kriterium with Inti Boko.
Villiam reached the wire at mile rate 1:54,4 over 1.3 miles.
Strong performance by Face Time Bourbon
Sébastien Guarato trained Face Time Bourbon (Ready Cash) had to work hard for the victory in the $116,000 European Championship for 3-year-olds at Vincennes racetrack on Friday night.
Björn Goop drove the son of Ready Cash and from post position 7 behind the gate, there were factors that could cause trouble along the way in the 1.3 miles long race. And the first 5/8ths of a mile was tough for Face Time Bourbon. Three wide in chase for position without cover outside the leader should normally have got the 3-year-old trotter exposed in the end of the race, but instead of losing power, he sprinted home to a comfortable win in mile rate 1:56,2.
Holy Water (Pastor Stephen) got the silver medal after a trip behind the leader and Fric du Chene (Nobody du Chene) was placed third.
Wire to wire for Dijon
The $116,000 European Championship for 5-year-olds became a quite uneventful happening since French Dijon (Ganymede) early hit the lead and was allowed to keep the pace down.
Mile rate 1:59 was enough to win this race at Vincennes and Orlando Jet (Orlando Vici) was locked in behind horses as second while Django Riff (Ready Cash) held as third from position outside the leader.
Björn Goop returned to Sweden and Åby racetrack for the $115,000 Swedish Championship on Saturday afternoon were he was entrusted behind Timo Nurmos’ Prix d’Amérique winner Readly Express (Ready Cash).
From post position 12 behind the gate, Goop found third over before he left three wide after a quarter of a mile. Leader Cyber Lane and driver Christoffer Eriksson kindly let Readly Express reach front position, from where the son of Ready Cash controlled the race every meter thereafter.
“Readly Express is a horse that means a lot for me since we won Prix d’Amérique together in January. I still think about that moment at least once a day and I suppose this is the best horse that I’ve driven in my career,” said Goop after the victory in mile rate 1:55.4 over 1.7 miles.
Cyber Lane (Raja Mirchi) held strong to second place while Racing Mange (Orlando Vici) finished strongly for third place.
Goop turned 42 this day and he has had spectacular days on the tracks in Europe the last week. Beside the big wins in France and Sweden, he also passed his father Olle Goop regarding being the most winning driver in Sweden. Björn Goop has visited the winner’s circle more than 6,750 times. Kontio, born in Finland and with Swedish licence, is still the most winning driver in the northern countries in Europe with more than 10.500 victories.
In Swedish Championship for mares ($111,500) the talented 5-year-old Cash Crowe (Ready Cash) showed that she is one of the best mares in Europe. Christoffer Eriksson found the lead with Petri Puros trotter and the last 5/8ths of a mile went really fast, which made it hard for the chasers deep down in the field.
Dear Friend (Orlando Vici) tried to capture Cash Crowe via open stretch, but never got seriously close to the winner. In Toto Sund (Ken Warkentin) finished quickly from fourth over and took bronze medal. Cash Crowe came home in mile rate 1:55.1 over 1.3 miles.
”This is the kind of horse that you want to drive and today she was just perfect. We could keep the pace down midway, but I’m pretty sure that she would have won in the same easy way if I had chosen a tactic with higher pace,” said driver Christoffer Eriksson after the victory.