From Italy with love: Warrawee Michelle wins 2yoft Breeders Crown for international connections

quotes by James Platz / race details by Ray Cotolo for the Breeders Crown

The long trip from Italy to Indiana was worth it for the father-son team behind Santandrea Inc.

Warrawee Michelle, the 2-year-old trotting filly they own in partnership, and just the second filly they have purchased in the U.S., won the $700,000 Breeders Crown 2-Year-Old Filly Trot at Harrah’s Hoosier Park on Friday night (Oct. 27) in 1:53.4.

“It’s three years now that we’ve started to have some horses in the U.S.,” said Pietro Eigenmann, who shares Santandrea with his father, Piero. “We started buying fillies at the auction and we also started to sell yearlings at the auction. So, we sell and buy. In Italy, we have a breeding farm. We just buy fillies because we have a breeding farm.”

Santandrea owns Warrawee Michelle with the filly’s trainer and driver, Ake Svanstedt and the Young Guns stable that includes Jeff Gural, owner of The Meadowlands.

“It’s a thrill,” Gural said. “This is really the biggest race I’ve won, purse-wise. I’m glad they keep raising the purse, which I actually thought was a bad idea until tonight.”

As for how he came to be part of the Warrawee Michelle’s ownership — along with his fellow Young Guns Richard Doolittle, Art Geiger and David Stolz — Gural said, “Basically, Ake goes and buys a bunch of horses and then he sends me a list of which ones he bought and then he tells me how much is available and then I try to figure out which ones I want to buy… and sometimes you guess right.

“Ake is on a roll, I hope people recognize what an unbelievable trainer he is.”

Svanstedt wound Warrawee Michelle off the pegs in the straightaway to collar her tempo-setting stablemate and held off a swarm of late pursuers to win the freshman trotting filly final.

Starting from post 4, Svanstedt settled Warrawee Michelle into a gap from third while her stablemate Senorita Palema raced keenly on the point to a :27.3 first quarter with Sugar Instead sitting the pocket. Senorita Palema managed to slow the tempo to a :57.2 half and the field began to bunch to the far turn, prompting Svanstedt to make his attack.

Warrawee Michelle motored first over through the final turn and loomed to match strides with Senorita Palema past three-quarters in 1:25.2. Senorita Palema folded into the eighth pole, leaving Warrawee Michelle to the lead as late bursts of speed came from Soiree Hanover and Buy A Round down the center of the track. The pair kept gaining to the beam, but Warrawee Michelle maintained the advantage to the finish by a head. Soiree Hanover finished second with Buy A Round taking third and Drawn Impression in fourth.

“She loves to fight, and she doesn’t give up until I tell her we’re done, then she’s done,” Svanstedt said. “I had a good position, and the speed was okay in the race, but she’s a great horse and can leave fast. She’s strong both mentally and physically.”

Collecting her fourth win from nine starts, Warrawee Michelle has now banked $478,125. The Warrawee Farm-bred daughter of Walner—Sound Check was a $200,000 yearling purchase from the 2022 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. Sent off as the 3-2 favorite, she paid $5 to win.

The victory by Warrawee Michelle gave Svanstedt back-to-back victories in the 2-Year-Old Filly Trot, which he won last year with eventual Dan Patch divisional winner Special Way. He is the first trainer to win this event in back-to-back years since Jimmy Takter’s three-peat in 2015 through 2017. Svanstedt is the first driver to win in back-to-back years since Yannick Gingras’ four straight wins from 2014 through 2017.