One of the best fields in recent years has fought its way through to the final of the Grand Prix de l’UET to be held at Solvalla on Sunday.
Despite the undoubted stature of the race, there is always the risk that either of the great powerhouses of European trotting, the French or the Swedes, will decide that the differing track conditions and travel is too great a hurdle for their stars, especially if they have already guaranteed a lucrative stud career with domestic glory.
Many years the best of the crop stay at home, with the TravDerby, or a high placing in the Criteriums secured, when they see a rival in the Euro Derby that looks so dominant – such as a Brad de Veluwe last year – that there is no advantage fronting up only to be shown to be vastly inferior.
The French, in particular, are wont to bypass European events, the status of their own events being more than enough for their purposes, and they are also mindful that the tight kilometre tracks of Scandinavia often do not compliment the style of horses suited to the unique demands of Vincennes, with its undulations and wide open spaces and the need for three or four bursts of acceleration.
The French are also rarely presented with a dominant champion, and the depth of their racing is such that upwards of a dozen or more have true claims of the type of genetic superiority needed to succeed on track and stud – which is the secondary purpose of group racing.
This year a sizeable group of their elite four-year-olds fronted up, even with the disadvantages of a final on Swedish soil, and the best of the Scandinavians, and a Belgian horse with true championship claims are also in one of the greatest fields in recent memory.
The two dominant horses in this Swedish crop, Lutfi Kolgjini’s Mosaique Face, the recent TravDerby winner and Timo Nurmos’ Chelsea Boko, who won the 3YO equivalent of this crop, the TravKriterium are both in the final as are the next three best credentialed Swedish colts who can all mount a serious challenge, Noble Knight (a former European 3YO champ) Indigious and Molle CD.
The Swedish Group I winning filly Your Highness is not without a chance either, although a filly has not won this race since the French superstar Qualita Bourbon in 2008, and she is nowhere near that good. Indeed she was the last French horse to win this event.
In fairness to the French, they often have to make a difficult choice, front up in the bike here on foreign soil, or take their chance at Group I glory at home under saddle in the Prix Des Elites held on the same day at Vincennes, and one of the biggest races on the French calendar, such is the equal status afforded monte racing in that part of the world.
In Varade d’Hermine (a winner of 11 of 16 and harshly disqualified – to non-French eyes – from second in the Criterium des 4 Ans), Vaux le Vicomte (second in the Criterium des 3 Ans) and with master reinsman Jean Michel Bazire in the cart, and to a lesser extent Vive Majyk, they have three highly credentialed participants, who fought their way to three of the four spots available in two heats at Vincennes a fortnight ago. The former two have great draws too and will be top chances.
Then there is a Dutch-bred son of a former German winner of this very event, (Abano As) who won the other heat at the Temple du Trot, Clint W Boko (the Dutch Derby winner), and even the French admit that this is a horse of rare quality – and he has drawn No 2, a great spot for the dominant front runner that he is.
And the dark horse in the field is a Norwegian, by US sire Broadway Hall, Thai Broadway (the Norwegian Derby third placegetter), who is also one who is suited to this style of racing, has impressive stats and has drawn the important pole position, from where he might be able to exert control.
Denmark’s entry Satisfied la Marc (4h Andover Hall) was a surprise qualifier, and has the breeding to keep on surprising.
So buckle yourself in, this is going to be a super race.
GRAND PRIX DE L'UET
Solvalla 2140m (G1) Int 4 YOm/f €400,000
1 Thai Broadway (4h Broadway Hall - Isabella Knick) Dr: Gunnar Austevoll Tr: Trond Anderssen
2 Clint W Boko (4h Abano As - Vantz Boko) Dr: Robin Bakker Tr: Paul Hagoort
3 Vaux le Vicomte (4h Nahar de Beval - Nina du Beauvoisin) Dr: Jean Michel Bazire Tr: Jean Michel Bazire
4 Mosaique Face (4h Classic Photo - Iona Lb) Dr: Lutfi Kolgjini Tr: Lutfi Kolgjini
5 Indigious (4h Prodigious - Indication) Dr: Erik Adielsson Tr: Stig H Johansson
6 Varade d'Hermine (4m Legs du Clos - Hotesse des Champs) Dr: Pierre Vercruysse Tr: Jean Michel Baudouin
7 Satisfied la Marc (4h Andover Hall - Loving Her Is Easy) Dr: Svante Ericsson Tr: Markus B Svedberg
8 Chelsea Boko (4h Chocolatier - Kelsea Boko) Dr: Jorma Kontio Tr: Timo Nurmos
9 Your Highness (4m Chocolatier - La Belle Lady) Dr: Björn Goop Tr: Ulf Stenströmer
10 Noble Knight (4h Scarlet Knight - Bruschetta) Dr: Örjan Kihlström Tr: Roger Walmann
11 Vive Majyc (4m Baccarat du Pont - Mammy Blue) Dr: Louis Baudron Tr: Louis Baudron
12 Molle C.D. (4h Scarlet Knight - Not in a Million) Dr: Daniel Redén Tr: Daniel Redén
by Dave Sanders for Harnesslink.com