Even as the triumphant announcement last week of the fields for the re-scheduled Gran Premio della Lotteria gave Italian trotting a shot in the arm, the timing of the announcement, on the weekend left empty by the postponement of the Italian Derby only served to highlight the parlous state of the sport on the boot-shaped peninsula.
For in the middle of busy European Derby season, the Italian Derby was the Jewel in the crown, and not just because it was the richest age-group race of any kind in Europe being €700,000 until cut to €550,000 last year as part of the drastic cuts to purses imposed by the Italian government in response to its political and economic crisis.
Even so, this still trumps any of the French Classiques (the richest is €240,000) and dwarfing all the other European kriterium/derbies such as the Finnish (€165K) and Danish (€100K) equivalents which were also raced last weekend. Even the next richest the Swedish Trav-Derby (for 4YOs) is still less (€470K).
It was also because the Italian graduates, drawn from the world’s best bloodlines from both US and French lines that such riches attact, still reign supreme on the continent despite almost blanket access to all the top US sires.
Varenne, the 1998 Italian Derby winner has been Italy’s Leading sire for the past three seasons while Viking Kronos (who was fifth in the same race) was the leading sire in the other non-Franco powerhouse, Sweden in 2010 and 2011.
Varenne has sired four of the last five Italian Derby winners, and Derby or Kriterium winners in three other countries while Viking Kronos has sired 2 Swedish Trav-Derby winners, but has also sired 3 or 4YO classic winners in Denmark, Germany and Norway, plus European champions in all 3 age groups.
Other former Italian Derby winning sires include Uronometro, Daguet Rapide and Infinitv who more than hold their own on their better known US contemporaries.
The Derby Italiano has been postponed because its home, Rome’s historic Tor di Valle, was the latest in a series of tracks to be closed, in this instance to make way for the building of a soccer stadium.
It is supposed to be re-scheduled to take place next month but one trainer dismissed the chances of the event going ahead. “It is supposed to be raced at a new track to be built at the Rome thoroughbred track,” the trainer emailed on condition of anonymity.
“One of the turf tracks will be converted to a trotting track.
“The racing direction will be clockwise, the same as the thoroughbreds.
“It is a joke. And the racetrack - people claim the price tag is 3 million euros – only work has yet to begin and the elims are scheduled for 23 Nov.”
“Only in Italy.”
Another racetrack to close was Naples’ Agnano track earlier in the year - which led to the postponement of the Gran Premio della Lotteria to this weekend - as criminal investigations were conducted.
A new administration is now in place, and the track reopened to much fanfare two weekends ago, as was the rescheduling of the Lotteria, for which a field of 24 will line up for in three “batteries” of eight which will decide the eight finalists, the same day on October 13.
They have scored something of a coup in attracting Swedish superstar Commander Crowe and his Italian-bred stablemates Marielles and Napoleon Bar (who was third last year) but their mentor Fabrice Solouy is the only international trainer with enough faith in their ability to get paid to have made the trip, despite it being a quiet spot in the international schedule. There is a boycott of Italian thoroughbred racing by European trainers because of unpaid stakes.
But the Lotteria which will run on the weekend is far from the event that once lived up to its billing as one of the four Grand Slams of European trotting and attracted the best trotters in the world in the 1980s and 90s.
This event looks like a dual between Italian heavyweight Mack Grace Sm (CC’s Chucky T) and his Swedish behemoth Commander Crowe, who although getting well into veteran class at 10 years old, is still footing it with the younger brigade. Fabrice Souloy’s champ has the class to win this although he faces a local legend who is going for his second win in a row, and has a record unrivalled in Italy.
Lucio Colletti’s Mack Grace Sm is almost unbeatable in Italy, with seven wins in a row and 10 out of 12 this year but has never fired away from the peninsula and has had the luxury of racing against fields devoid of any international quality this year.
The major competition should come from Owen’s Club (Duke of York), Look Mp (Sugarcane Hanover) and Napoleon Bar(Varenne) in battery one, Looney Tunes (Ganymede) and Marielles (Kick Tail) in battery two and Linda de Casei (Uronometro) and Newyork Newyork (Supergill) in battery three.
GRAN PREMIO DELLA LOTTERIA
(3 BATTERY+ FINALE+CONSOLATION)
2013-10-13 Group I Int 4-10 €406 000 1600m
BATTERY 1 €20 900
1 Lawyer As (8h S J's Photo - Ima Quick Luca Fierro Luca Fierro
2 Owen's Club (5h Duke Of York - Duse Tab Pietro Gubellini Pietro Gubellini
3 Marlon Om (7g S J's Photo - Zelata Om Roberto Vecchione Pietro Gubellini
4 Look Mp (8h Sugarcane Hanover - Atlantis Gar kusk ej klar Giorgio d'Alessandro S:r
5 Iper Roc (9h Lemon Dra - Banner Roc Michela Racca Giorgio Carini
6 Oibambam Effe (5m Classic Photo - Etna Sec Salvatore Carro Salvatore Carro
7 Lotar Bi (8h Toss Out - Laforet Park Alessandro Raspante Sabina Breccia
8 Napoleon Bar (6h Varenne - Dalmazia Enrico Bellei Fabrice Souloy
BATTERY 2 €20 900
1 Mururoa As (7m Lemon Dra - Jade's Tiara) Dr: Giuseppe Pietro Maisto Tr: Giuseppe Pietro Maisto
2 Moses Rob (7h Ganymede - Etoile Rob) Dr: Giuseppe Luongo Tr: Salvatore Carro
3 Looney Tunes (8h Ganymede - Defi' de la Roche) Dr: Alessandro Gocciadoro Tr: Alessandro Gocciadoro
4 Mack Grace Sm (7h CC's Chuckie T - Ambro Grace Sm) Dr: Roberto Andreghetti Tr: Lucio Colletti
5 Marielles (7m Kick Tail - Egida Play) Dr: Franck Nivard Tr: Fabrice Souloy
6 Negresco Milar (6h CC's Chuckie T - Birmaniaz) Dr: Marco Guzzinati Tr: Marco Guzzinati
7 Orsia (5m Angus Hall - Tigre Om) Dr: TBA Tr: Holger Ehlert
8 Osasco di Ruggi (5h Varenne - Papaia Ral) Dr: TBA Tr: Holger Ehlert
BATTERY 3 €20 900
1 Novarica (6m Allison Hollow - Bagutta Ok) Dr: Davide di Stefano Tr: Biagio Lo Verde
2 Linda di Casei (8m Uronometro - Comtesse Ferm) Dr/tr: Alessandro Gocciadoro
3 Maestrale Spin (7h Lindy Lane - Princess Godiva) Dr: Mario Minopoli J:r Tr: Team Minopoli
4 Orleans Om (5m Sj's Caviar - Deux de Mai) Dr: Giuseppe Lombardo J:r Tr: Lucio Colletti
5 Commander Crowe (10g Juliano Star - Somack) Dr: Franck Nivard Tr: Fabrice Souloy
6 Langdon Grif (8h Varenne - Meadowbranch Nan) Dr: Gaetano di Nardo Tr: Guiseppe Citarella
7 Newyork Newyork (6h Supergill - Viola d'Amore) Dr: TBA Tr: Holger Ehlert
8 Owen Cr (5h Cantab Hall - Boemia Cr) Dr: Pietro Gubellini Tr: Pietro Gubellini
by Dave Sanders for Harnesslink.com