by Thomas Hedlund
Propulsion traveled to northern Sweden on Saturday to race in the land of the midnight sun and came away the victor for the fourth consecutive year in the $190,000 Norrbottens Stora Pris in Boden.
The 8-year-old son of Muscle Hill first visited Boden (about 600 miles (10 hours) north of Stockholm) in 2016 and enchanted the spectators in his first year among Europe’s elite trotters.
The last two years have fortified Propulsion’s popularity at this particular racetrack and Saturday he chased his fourth victory in Norrbottens Stora Pris.
The fans had their reasons to hope for a change in the result list. Makethemark, third in the Elitlopp this year, trained by Petri Salmela from Boden, had a lot of support from the big crowd of more than 10,000. But Propulsion was back in business for real after his uneven performance in Elitloppet, where he finished fourth and Örjan Kihlström could note that he and his horse were in front after 500 meters of the race. Robert Bergh and Muscle Hustle opened quickly for the lead, but Bergh was not interested in that position and Propulsion easily took the front. From that position he was allowed to keep an abnormally (for this kind of race) slow pace, which meant that Propulsion’s worst enemy Makethemark had to do the job on the outside while the leader had plenty of power to use in the race’s last 5/8 of a mile.
Propulsion flew in the home stretch and Kihlström never had to use the extra gears to win Norrbottens Stora Pris for the fourth year in a row. The mile rate was 1:55.2 over 1.3 miles and Makethemark followed strongly for second place while Muscle Hustle took the bronze medal.
“Propulsion is Propulsion and one can never doubt him. He had a bad day at Solvalla three weeks ago and many people have asked me if anything is wrong with the horse. But I’ve felt that he’s been as good as he can be in training and to win this race four years in a row is just something special. My hands are shaking and tonight I’m going to think about this wonderful horse,” said trainer Daniel Redén after the race.
Kihlström was full of admiration when he spoke to Swedish television.
“It’s hard to find the right word to describe this horse. I mean… he wasn’t good in Elitloppet a few weeks ago, but still he finished fourth and that says a lot about what kind of horse Propulsion is,” said Kihlström.
Impressive performance in Finland
The $225,000 Kymi Grand Prix in Kuovola, Finland was held on Saturday afternoon and Joakim Lövgren’s Racing Mange (Orlando Vici) was at his best and impressed the harness racing fans.
Elitloppet contender Next Direction opened quickly for the lead and Racing Mange didn’t find position first over until after almost a half mile into the race. The 6-year-old Orlando Vici son had to struggle three wide for 700 meters when Björn Goop, driver of Orlando Chief, decided to let Racing Mange take position outside the leader.
Opponents tried to attack three wide at the back stretch, but in the last turn, trainer/driver Lövgren seemed pretty happy about what he felt in Racing Mange. Regardless of the heavy trip, the duo left their challengers and hit the wire in mile rate 1:55.2 over 1.3 miles.
“This is incredible. Racing Mange got a tough trip and did his best performance in his career so far. I thought about the tactics during this week and remembered that it was hard to sit far back in the field at this track. Racing Mange is in his best condition and managed to accelerate from start and in the end,” said Lövgren.
Next Direction finished second and Handsome Brad third.