The final Grand Slam event of the UET Masters Series, takes place this Sunday at the Oslo track of Bjerke, with the running of the Oslo Grand Prix, one of four UET Masters Series group races on the day.
The Oslo Grand Prix, over 2100m for a purse of 340,000 euros, has an illustrious honour roll, the last two events being won by Elitloppet champions of the previous year, in Sebastian K (Korean) and Commander Crowe (Juliano Star), while US warhorse Arch Madness a two-time Elitloppet runner up was the winner over the 2011 contest.
Students of European racing and breeding will recognize the names of Sugarcane Hanover (USA) , Ourasi (FRA), Giant Cat (FRA), Zoogin (SWE), Peace Corps (USA), Victory Tilly Zoogin (SWE), and Steinlager Zoogin (SWE), who are all past winners of the event as is a horse who has been available in Australia, Ganymede (FRA), the sire of rising NSW trotter Vincennes, the winner of 8 of his last 11 races.
Norwegian star Juliano Rags (Juliano Star), who missed the Elitloppet final by one position and Raja Mirchi (Viking Kronos) who set the blistering pace in the first heat, only to be caught on the line are the only two entrants who are making back to back Grand Slam starts.
But the big coup for Oslo is the appearance of genuine French heavyweights in Univers de Pan (Kenya du Pont) and Un Mec d’Heripre (Orlando Vici), two rising stars of the French scene.
Both are multiple group one winners, Philippe Daugear’s Univers de Pan the winner of this year’s Finlandia Ajo, while Un Mec d’Heripre is the Criterium des 4 Ans runner up and last year’s European five-year-old champion and comes from the barn of Fabrice Souloy.
Another French horse with serious credentials is Jean Paul Marmion’s Roi du Lupin, who being a gelding is ineligible for most of the big group races in France but has still amassed a credible 1.56million euros. He is the recent winner of the 150,000 euro Prix des Ducs de Normandie in the bike but is also one of the very best under saddle trotters in France.
The day also features the UET Masters Series group two Berke Cup, an Elitloppet style event with two heats and a final over a mile on the same day, for the region’s sprinters.
Prominent Swedish trainer Lutfi Kolgjini has good chances in both heats with Swedish 3YO Breeders Crown winner Barracuda River (Express It), who has won on this track before in the first heat and old warhorse, with a name that does not translate well down under, Kaffir Face, entered in the second and rated a good chance.
Top Norwegian trainer Frode Hamre has two in each heat, with two Credit Winner sons Winmecredit and the strongly fancied I’m the Answer in the first, and VC Chocoholic (Chocolatier) and Broadway Legs (Broadway Hall) in the second.
The favoured runners in the first heat are Herve Philippe Gautier’s French entrant Saphir de Fille (Ipsos de Montfort) and Finnish trainer Markku Nieminen’s Dutch-bred Bret Boko (Yankee Glide) while Reijo Liljendahl’s Angelo also has some strong support.
In the second heat Nieminen’s other entrant Finnish Derby winner Quite an Avenger and Swede Anders Pedersen’s US import MagicCarpet Ride are the two early favourites on the tote with the latter having the services of Bjorn Goop in the bike.
There are two other UET Masters Series group two races on the day, The Summer Meeting Stayers race (3140m) and the Europamatch, a 2100m race for four and five-year-olds.
The Europamatch features some of Europe’s top younger horses headed by Swedish legend Stig Johnasson’s German star Indigious, a son of French sire Prodigious who was second in Germany’s big race last year the Grosser Preis von Deutchland.
He will face stiff competition from former Dutch Derby winner Clint Boko (Abano As), former European and Norwegian Derby runner-up Thai Broadway (Thai Thanic) and Swedish group winner Stelton (Dream Vacation).
The Stayers race has attracted Pas Sans Toi a French horse who at 11-years-old has been pensioned off in France but is eligible for two more seasons in the rest of Europe. Lieven de Groote’s son of In Love With You is the winner of more than 550,000 euros but will be at long odds from a 60m handicap even with Jorma Kontio in the bike.
Bjorn Goop’s Swedish bred Roobois (Rotation) was a fast finishing second on Elitloppet weekend and will enjoy the extra distance here even with a 40m handicap, while Reijo Liljendahl’s Italian import Nescafe (Daguet Rapide) off 20m and Dutchman Hugo Langeweg Jnr’s Capitole (Offshore Dream) off the front will also be in the mix here.
by David Sanders
Harness Racing Victoria