Because of the dire situations economically in Italy and its effects on the harness racing industry, some of Italy’s top trainers, including American Jerry Riordan, are leaving the country and will be moving their stables to Sweden.
On September 18 there is a two-day special course in Sweden for trainers from other countries that they must take in order to be considered for an “A” trainer’s license. They also must undergo intensive background checks before being allowed to be a Swedish trainer.
Joining Riordan in the exodus from Italy are Erwin Bot, Holger Ehlert, Allesandro Goccidoro and Claus Hollman.
“It’s a disaster in Italy,” Jerry Riordan said in an interview today. “And it’s not just racing, it’s the whole country. Businesses are closing down and it is impossible to work.”
Riordan and his wife, Lisa (Leonard) made the move to Italy with support from owner Lou Guida in 1993 and have enjoyed living and working in Italy the past 20 years.
“”It has been a great place to live,” Riordan explained, “Good weather, wonderful people and the food is out of this world. It’s just a shame what is happening.
“There are lessons to be learned from the problems in Italy,” Riordan said. “Half of the world’s culture is in Italy, yet the government has allowed itself to fall into major debt and randomly takes money from different groups to pay other debts and it just gets worse and worse. There is a hospital near where I live and they allowed slot machines in their coffee shop. They have gambling throughout the country including horse racing but only a fraction of profits go for the horse industry unlike other countries. And what money is to support racing seems to disappear and horsemen are going broke. The government is not paying out purse money that horsemen have already won.
“It’s so sad,” Riordan explained, “I see more and horses racing in Italy without shoes because the trainers and owners cannot afford a blacksmith. I was fortunate to see the handing writing on the wall and started moving horses from my stable to Sweden this past year and will be ready to leave Italy as soon as I get my license.”
While Swedish trainers can move freely and compete anywhere in the world where there is organized harness racing, the Swedish racing officials make it very difficult to get a license to train and race horses in their own country according to Riordan.
“It’s tough to get a license,” Riordan explained, “The officials in Sweden are very protective and that’s a good thing. I won’t have to worry about racing against drug users because they are so strict in their rules. And the weather may not be so great in Sweden but they take such great care of their tracks. You race every week at this track and this track and they are all in superb condition.
.It’s different in Europe,” Riordan said, “you cannot be a licensed trainer in more than one country at a time unlike in the United States. I’m just hopeful that after the two-day program that on September 20 I will be an “A” licensed trainer in Sweden.”
By Steve Wolf and David Sanders for Harnesslink.com