Etonnant — best in the French south

by Thomas Hedlund

The $225,000 Grand Criterium de Vitesse mile-long race was held at Hippodrome Cote d’Azur in Cagnes-sur-Mer on Sunday (March 13) afternoon.

Second choice Etonnant (Timoko), who has been a serious factor in all Grand Prix races in Paris during the winter, played an unusual role as he is mostly known as a strong trotter who loves longer distances more than the mile. Driver Anthony Barrier opted for quite a strange tactic from the start. Etonnant, from post 6 behind the gate, started behind horses and Barrier didn’t show any interest at all in pushing his horse when the car accelerated. Instead, Etonnant was seen in fourth over as the race’s heavy favorite, Vivid Wise As, hit the lead after a quarter of a mile. And Vivid Wise As was allowed to keep his own pace in the lead, at least until the first half mile when Etonnant made company on the leader’s outside.

Vivid Wise As seemed to have the race under control, even at mid-stretch, but the tough Etonnant fought well and disarmed the leader shortly ahead of the wire.

Trainer Richard Westerink’s Timoko son won in 1:52.2.

Etonnant will likely be one of 16 horses racing in the Elitlopp at Solvalla in May.

Etonnant won the $450,000 Prix de Paris over 4,100 meters last year and it’s fascinating that the same horse dominated a mile race the following season. Etonnant will be an attraction for several high staked races throughout Europe later this season and it seems like trainer Westerink would like to come back to Solvalla, the track where he claimed two Elitloppet titles with Etonnant’s sire, Timoko.

Billie de Montfort, who made her last start in France in Sunday’s Criterium de Vitesse, finished third after a perfect inside trip, while leader Vivid Wise As held to silver medal.

Admiral As in strong comeback

Six-year-old Ready Cash son Admiral As, trained by Reijo Liljendahl in Sweden, has been a frequent  and successful participant in Swedish V75 the past two years and the talented trotter will most certainly be aimed against the very big races in Europe later on this season. His comeback and first start of the year happened at Solvalla Wednesday (March 16) in the $22,500 Dartster F:s race over 1.3 miles and merited trotters such as Milligan’s School and Very Kronos were among the opponents.

Örjan Kihlström drove Admiral As, who hit the lead the second after the car left the field and when the duo was allowed to control the race in moderate pace, the chasers were out of chances to catch up with Admiral As, who came home in a mile rate of 1:57.1.

There is no secret that trainer Reijo Liljendahl very much would like to enter Elitloppet with his horse and driver Örjan Kihlström has some pleasant issues to handle in coming months. He is the first driver of Who’s Who, who won his comeback in great style two weeks ago; title defender Don Fanucci Zet, who already received an invitation for Elitloppet and Admiral As, who, according to many fans, is one of the horses that are named among the favorites to win Elitloppet.

But before Elitloppet, Paralympiatravet at Åby waits and title defender, French mare Delia du Pommereux, will most likely make a trip north even this year. The first elimination race ahead of Paralympiatravet is scheduled at Jägersro on April 9 and the final at Åby will take place on May 7.