One of the greatest weekends of racing is upon us at Solvalla near Stockholm.
by Thomas Hedlund
The dinner is served and the menu is varying, to say the least, when Solvalla near Stockholm offers harness racing fans an incredible race card this weekend, starting today (May 26).
This year’s edition of the Elitloppet recalls the historic years when participants from all over the planet gathered at Solvalla and it’s a spicy combination of horses, trainers and drivers that will show up before the packed house.
The Elitloppet is a special event, known all over the world for its hospitality and well-arranged show during three days. This year, Solvalla has really succeeded in compiling an interesting program.
The two Elitloppet eliminations are obviously the most exciting races during the weekend, but when we glance at the entries for the entire show, many other races are worth keeping an eye on.
Saturday’s (May 27) highlight is the $187,500 Harper Hanovers race over 3,140 meters, where trotters like Moni Viking, Power, Aetos Kronos and Kentucky River show up. Earlier on the same race card, the three Sweden Cup eliminations will end in a $135,000 final with nine horses (three from each elimination) over 1,640 meters. Throughout the day, finals in every V75-division will be held, so the program is massive for the fans.
And the show continues on Sunday (May 28) with the $113,000 final of the Breeders Course for 3-year-old fillies, the $187,500 final of the Breeders Course for 3-year-olds, fillies included, and the two big races for 4-year-olds: the $56,000 Delicious race (where Joviality shows up again after her win in the Drottningpokalen earlier in May) and the $95,000 Fyraåringseliten (with Double Deceiver as one of the contenders).
Between all these great races, the two elimination heats of the Elitloppet will be held and the three last spots in the race were taken by Norwegian owned Best Ofdream Trio (Nad al Sheba), Ultion Face (Joke Face) and Saturday’s winner of the Prins Daniels lopp, Mister Hercules (Trixton).
The two top seeded horses in the Elitloppet are San Moteur and Etonnant, so they will not face each other before the final, if they make it to that race. The 2023 Elitloppet is an extraordinarily open story and Solvalla has really managed to find the best possible horses for the moment to race. There are several trotters aiming for the trophy that really can go all the way this year and the draw for post positions that was held on Sunday night (May 21) didn’t lower the expectations.
San Moteur is still the favorite to win the Elitloppet, but the odds are quite even a few days before the battle.
Åke Svanstedt is entrusted behind last year’s runner-up in the Elitloppet, Hail Mary and the 7-year-old Googoo Gaagaa son has impressed in his two starts in 2023 so it will be exciting to see what Svanstedt can do from post 4 in the second elimination.
ELITLOPPET HEAT 1
Horse — Driver — Trainer — Odds as of Wednesday night
1. Don Fanucci Zet — Örjan Kihlström — Daniel Redén — 4.50
2. Önas Prince — Per Nordström — 8.50
3. Stoletheshow — Dexter Dunn — Frode Hamre — 70.00
4. Etonnant — Anthony Barrier — Richard Westerink — 8.25
5. Vernissage Grif — Alessandro Gocciadoro — 35.00
6. Go On Boy — Romain Derieux — 18.00
7. Just Believe — Greg Sugars — Jessie Ann Tubbs — 300.00
8. Brother Bill — Magnus A Djuse — Timo Nurmos — 28.00
ELITLOPPET HEAT 2
Horse — Driver — Trainer — Odds as of Wednesday night
1. Best Ofdream Trio — Kim Eriksson — Erik Killingmo — 70.00
2. Ultion Face — Adrian Kolgjini — 100.00
3. Mister Hercules — Santtu Raitala — Daniel Redén — 50.00
4. Hail Mary — Åke Svanstedt — Daniel Redén — 8.00
5. Hohneck — Gabriele Gelormini — Philippe Allaire — 8.00
6. San Moteur — Björn Goop — 3.90
7. Vivid Wise As — Matthieu Abrivard — Alessandro Gocciadoro — 45.00
8. Usain Töll — Alexandre Abrivard — Vitale Ciotola — 175.00
Don Fanucci Zet won the Elitloppet in 2021, in the fastest mile so far in a final (1:50.4) and it seems like the 7-year-old Hard Livin son still is in good shape. The post position is a big advantage for him.
Önas Prince went off-stride in the last turn, under a three-wide attack in last year’s final of the Elitloppet. This Chocolatier son has stepped up a level this year and if he reaches the front in this heat, he will be hard to beat.
Stoletheshow is a quick starter who was best in Finland’s biggest race, the Finlandia-ajo earlier in May. Interesting with Dunn in the bike.
Etonnant, the title defender of the race, who managed to win even with a break in the middle of the final last year. After sickness during the winter, Etonnant has shown great condition in France this spring.
Vernissage Grif won the Lotteria in Naples on May 1 and showed that he can handle two heats without problems. The most experienced trotter in the 2023 Elitloppet with his 122 lifetime starts.
Go On Boy is the French dark horse this year. The talk about the 2023 Elitloppet is pretty much about how open the race is and Go On Boy is often mentioned as the fans’ winner. Trainer/driver Derieux succeeded in 2019 with Dijon.
Just Believe is the exotic element at Solvalla this year. The trotter from Australia has never seen horses like the ones he will face this weekend, but the audience of Solvalla will cheer and welcome this horse into their hearts. This is what the Elitloppet is, Just Believe.
Brother Bill finished second to Hail Mary in 1:51.1 in his 2023 debut and that performance gave him the ticket for this event. Quick finisher who will have to have luck from the bad post.
Best Ofdream Trio is the race’s least-merited trotter but he showed great capacity at several occasions the past season. A nice debut for the year is followed by an exciting entry in the Elitloppet.
Ultion Face has developed to become a stable horse for the big races in northern Europe and his performance prior to this start was impressive, as he held high pace in front and almost put his nose first.
Mister Hercules is the talent that still waits for the big breakthrough in his career. Claimed his ticket to the Elitloppet via an impressive, to say the least, win in the Prins Daniels lopp last weekend. Three wide almost the entire race didn’t stop him from winning in 1:52.1.
Hail Mary was runner up in the 2022 Elitloppet and judging by his two starts this season, he is in better shape now. Åke Svanstedt knows how to win the Elitloppet. He won in 2004 with Gidde Palema and 2009 with Torvald Palema.
Hohneck, trained by Allaire, has belonged in the top of the French “H-crop” since he started his career and the horse is used to competing against the best horses in Europe. Exciting news with a five-eighths mile track and an American bike.
San Moteur is the least experienced horse in the field with his 22 lifetime starts, but still, he is the probable favorite to win the 2023 Elitloppet. We remember his outstanding performance in the Jubileumspokalen last year, when San Moteur won in world record mile rate 1:52.1 over 1.3 miles.
Vivid Wise As, the 9-year-old Yankee Glide son that never gets old. This season already includes wins in big races in Turin and Cagnes-sur-Mer and Vivid Wise As is the Elitloppet’s most merited trotter this year.
Usain Töll went off-stride, on the lead, heading towards a possible win in the Prins Daniels lopp last Saturday and the Italian owned horse has shown super form in his starts during the spring. Interesting choice of driver in Alexandre Abrivard, one of the best drivers in France.
DEXTER DUNN’S DRIVES
As previously reported, four-time defending U.S. Driver of the Year will be driving this weekend at Solvalla. Here’s his racing schedule
Saturday, race 3 — Sweden Cup elimination — post 1 Synergy
Saturday, race 5 — Stoeliten — post 9 Riet Hazelaar
Saturday, race 13 — 4-year-olds race — post 4 Dareios di Poggio
Sunday, race 4 — Breeders Course, 3-year-old fillies — post 1 Kitty Hawk
Sunday, race 6 — Elitloppet elimination — post 3 Stoletheshow
Sunday, race 10 — Fyraåringseliten — post 7 Pure Muscle