by Chris Lomon
When it came to making a great first impression, Christian Lind absolutely nailed it. His lasting one is equally as impressive.
It was just over six years ago when the Swedish-born horseman sat in the sulky for his milestone first race, one that seemed anything but a sure thing.
Saddled with post nine and flashing odds of 15-1 on the tote board, a top-four finish would have been reason to celebrate.
Lind, however, had other plans, culminating in a trip to the winner’s circle at Pocono Downs on July 19, 2016.
“I know that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, so it was a really nice way to start things off. When you see success like that right away, it makes it more fun and makes you want to pursue it even more,” Lind said.
The victory was even more special considering Lind’s father, Staffan, trained the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven—Love of Art.
“That made the win that much better, to be able to share that with him.”
If there had been any thought Lind was going to be a flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonder type, he quickly showed he was quite the opposite.
In his rookie campaign, he went 5-5-1 from 36 starts. One year later, in 2017, he won 23 of 161 starts and recorded $320,440 in purse earnings.
“The best thing my dad ever told me was to always look forward, which I tried to do from the very beginning of my career. From race to race, it’s very easy to get caught up if you are having a bad day. It’s better to take every race as it comes, make that the focus and then move on to the next one.”
After seasons of 17, 13 and 11 wins, Lind won 37 races in 2021. This year, he’s in the midst of a banner campaign, one that has already yielded career-best numbers across the board.
The recent results are a direct result of a shift in approach to his craft.
“I would say the last two years, I’ve definitely had more focus. I was driving pretty much everything for my dad, and I think I got a little too comfortable with that. With him moving back to Sweden, it changed my perspective, that I had to focus more and take it even more seriously. I think when I started to do that, I’ve seen a lot of growth in myself and my abilities on the track.”
As for his best attribute in the sulky, Lind points to a patient hand and the ability to make split-second audibles.
“I’m not going to rush out and just see what happens. I prefer to put the horse where I think it should be and give it the best chance to win. Obviously, things can go the exact opposite of what you are anticipating, so you have to be able to adapt quickly too.”
Keeping an open mind and an open ear has also served him well.
Lind has had the good fortune to have worked with some of the top names in the sport, including trainers and fellow Swedes, Nancy Takter and Marcus Melander, as well as conditioner John Hughes.
He’s also had the opportunity to talk shop with top reinsman such as Grand Circuit stars Yannick Gingras and Andrew McCarthy, who have shared helpful advice and encouraging words.
All of what he’s learned from those conversations and experiences have been a game-changer for Lind, who has transitioned from splitting time as a trainer and driver, to a nearly 100 per cent focus on the latter.
“I appreciate all of the advice I’ve received and I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to be around so many successful people. That’s been the best part, to have learned from people who are willing to take the time to answer questions and help give me confidence. You do pick up small things from everyone and you use that to hone your own skills.”
Armed with a set gameplan and buoyed by a confident mindset, Lind has enjoyed recent success at Oak Grove in Kentucky.
Now, the New Jersey-based horseman is looking to expand his driving reach.
“Short term, I’m sticking around the Red Mile. I’ve been in Kentucky for the past five months. I’ve been thinking a lot of where I’m going to be, the best place for me. After that, I’m going to try and get in a little bit out east at The Meadowlands and Chester, to see if I can pick some drives up and make it a good winter. Long term, I’m going to ride this out and see where this all takes me.”
If recent outcomes are any indication of how that will unfold, Lind should no doubt be optimistic.
The shift to a near full-time driving career has certainly paid its dividends.
“Driving, to me, is what attracts me to this sport. I love training down babies and fixing little things with the horses, but the adrenaline rush I get is when I’m driving. That’s the reason for me to focus on it. That’s the reason to get up every day and better myself.”
Lind has also come to appreciate the benefits of enjoying life outside the sphere of racing.
Relaxation is found in the form of the great outdoors with his girlfriend and standardbred groom, Amalie Ødegård.
“We like to spend time together, including going on hikes, something to get away from the pressures of racing for a little while. If you didn’t do something, your mind would easily be on the horses all time. To be able to spend time with her, and just relax is really helpful.”
Another boost comes in the form of the support Lind receives from back home.
“That’s the fun part about racing. You can have a really good day and when you see people’s comments, it really makes you so happy. My mom always posts on Facebook when I win and then I get to read what people back in Sweden say. Sometimes you forget that there are so many people there who follow what you do, but when you see that, it reminds you of how lucky you are.”