Would moving the Elitloppet from its traditional last Sunday in May spot attract more international interest?
Solvalla’s sports general Anders Malmrot discusses the future of Sweden’s biggest race.
by Thomas Hedlund
Solvalla’s sports general Anders Malmrot visits most of the important races in Europe every year. So, naturally, he booked a trip to the French Riviera when the Criterium de Vitesse was held last week at Cagnes-sur-Mer.
Malmrot’s duties at Sweden’s leading racetrack include finding 16 horses prepared to race two heats in the Elitloppet in late May.
Over the years, many memorable editions of the great mile race have been held, but the trend over the years has shown that it’s quite hard to attract the very best horses from all over the world.
And it is exactly that — horses from different parts of the world — that Malmrot is looking for.
“Representation from many different countries is a big part of the entire event that we call the Elitloppet,” Malmrot said. “The Elitloppet grows with participation from many parts of the world and the fans have their horses to follow, respectively. Basically, we see some of the best mile trotters in the world in the race, but that doesn’t mean that every country that we actually want to attract has a participant.”
According to Malmrot, working on the Elitloppet is a year-long pursuit.
“You kind of live with the Elitloppet even in the fall, when Paris’ meeting begins and, if we are lucky, we see some really impressive performances when you least expect it during a season,” Malmrot said. “My job in finding horses for the Elitloppet intensifies when the ’B‘ races in Paris begin. And then comes the Prix d’Amérique, Prix de France and now, the Criterium de Vitesse.”
Snow is still covering large parts of Sweden and many of the big stables haven’t even shown up at the tracks yet, a fact which leads to the question: Is the Elitloppet held at the right time of the year in late May?
“That is a tricky question,” Malmrot said. “The harness racing countries all over the world have their own kind of meetings at different occasions. America for example… it feels like it’s tougher to attract the very best trotters from that continent nowadays and let’s say that the Elitloppet would be held later on in the summer… well, then the American trainers have a lot of races to go for in USA and Canada, so it’s not so easy to choose Solvalla and the Elitloppet.
“French horses, at least the stallions, have their stud work throughout the spring, but I can say that we have discussed the date of the Elitloppet. It’s the tradition prevailing right now. The last Sunday in May is synonymous with the Elitloppet for most of the European harness racing fans. But as you mention, the winter in Sweden messes it up a bit. In December, we now see green lawns and in March, the snow is falling.”
In his role as director of the Elitloppet, Malmrot tries to find horses from America every year and has some in mind for this year.
“As for now, it looks like Åke [Svanstedt] or Marcus [Melander] are the trainers with horses that might be [possible] for the race,” Malmrot said. “I’ve tried to attract Bella Bellini and Jujubee, but none of them will come this year. It doesn’t look too [good] regarding American trotters. Alrajah One, trained by Åke Svanstedt is at least a horse [I’m] hoping for at this point.”
Malmrot has invited Björn Goop’s 6-year-old San Moteur and there are still others on his wish list.
“Obviously, Francesco Zet, but we don’t know how it will be with him, if he races already in May after his stud duties,” Malmrot said.
Horsy Dream was invited to the Elitloppet by Malmrot on Saturday (March 18) afternoon. Two horses are now set for the mile race at Solvalla in May: San Moteur and Horsy Dream.
“I believe that [Horsey Dream] would love a five eighths-mile track with his speed and Eric Raffin is the driver. Raffin loves to come to Solvalla, he knows how to drive here and the horse has a cheering section that follows him wherever he starts. Horsy Dream, among several others, would be an interesting element in the Elitloppet.”
ETONNANT BACK AS A WINNER
Richard Westerink’s Elitloppet winner Etonnant (Timoko) made his comeback Thursday (March 16) after his sickness (Lyme disease) which hit him in Paris in January, just before the Prix d’Amérique.
Westerink found a soft task for his top trotter in Caen, France where the $37,500 Prix de Cauvicort was contested over 1.3 miles.
Alexandre Abrivard was entrusted as the pilot behind Etonnant and he used his horse’s capacity well. The duo had to settle in position first over with three quarters of a mile to go, but that didn’t stop Etonnant, who quite easily disarmed leader Ce Bello Romain and challenger Capital Mail in the stretch.
Etonnant’s mile rate was 1:53.4 and it seems like Westerink can aim to defend his Elitloppet title at Solvalla in May, as long as Etonnant continues to stay sound and healthy.
NEVER ENDING STORY IN CAGNES
Sunday’s (March 12) $215,000 Criterium de Vitesse over the mile at the track in Cagnes-sur-Mer became, in a certain sense, a rerun of what we’ve witnessed at the French Riviera before. The result was a rerun, but the race itself was a more spectacular one than earlier editions as Alessandro Gocciadoro’s Yankee Glide son Vivid Wise As claimed the big trophy for the third time in four years.
Matthieu Abrivard took a slow start from a post far outside behind the gate and Vivid Wise As had to settle in fifth over while stable mate Vernissage Grif controlled the field in front. Franck Nivard sent the Benjamin Goetz-trained Emeraude de Bais in a three wide attack with a little less than a half mile to go.
Vivid Wise As had cover throughout the entire last turn before Abrivard had to try one last move. Vivid Wise As never looked like the winner of the Criterium de Vitesse off the turn. Emeraude de Bais took control of the race in mid-stretch and at that point, Vivid Wise As still had plenty of lengths to make up, but a true champion never gives up. The race’s last 20-30 meters became too much for Emeraude de Bais and Vivid Wise As’ experience and toughness played its part, which resulted in a win by a head in 1:51.1.
Vivid Wise As set another European record by winning the Criterium de Vitesse; he’s now the European trotter with the most victories in mile rates under 1:52.3, a fact that sulkysport.se presented after the race.
Emeraude de Bais was a brave runner up ahead of the Jean-Michel Bazire-trained Gently de Muze.
Vivid Wise As now has eight wins where the mile rate has been under 1:52.3 (1.10.0 in kilometer rate) and the fastest race so far was in Cagnes-sur-Mer 2019, when Gocciadoro’s trotter noted a strong 1:50.2 mark over the mile.
Criterium de Vitesse replay.
JOVIALITY CONTINUES IN SWEDEN
Joviality (Chapter Seven—Pasithea Face) was one of the most dominant trotters in the American top races during her 2- and 3-year-old season and the Marcus Melander-trained filly was named the Dan Patch 3-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year for 2022.
Now, the 4-year-old mare will face another challenge as she’s moving to Sweden and into the stable of trainer Sabine Kagebrandt (chief executive officer for owner Courant Stable in Sweden).
Swedish bred Joviality will most probably be aimed towards the big 4-year-old races Drottningpokalen and Stochampionatet, but when a horse with the capacity that Joviality has shown shows up in Sweden, the rumors about a possible entry in the Elitloppet start to spread. And to be fair, a horse like Joviality, with all her merits, is rarely imported to Sweden — at least as a racehorse. So, it’s understood if the entourage surrounding the horse aim for the highest ranked and most prestigious races this year.
Joviality’s 28 starts resulted in 20 wins, a 1:50 record mark and over $1,600,000 in earnings