Day At The Track

Midnight Express S among Landmark hopefuls

02:30 AM 29 Jun 2018 NZST
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Midnight Express S, harness racing
Midnight Express S is ready for big mile in Landmark Stake at Goshen Historic Track
USTA photo

Olle Leven is no stranger to harness racing success in the U.S. and the Monaco resident hopes to add to his accomplishments with his Swedish-born homebred trotter Midnight Express.

Midnight Express, a son of 2014 Prix d'Amerique winner Maharajah out of Leven's mare Truly Devoted, is among the horses competing Friday at Historic Track in Goshen, N.Y., on Landmark Stakes Day, which kicks off the four-day Grand Circuit meet at the half-mile oval. Midnight Express is only the second Maharajah-sired horse to race in the U.S., following Swedish-born filly Unau in 2015.

Leven's previous triumphs in North America include winning the 1995 Hambletonian Oaks with Lookout Victory and capturing three Breeders Crown trophies, with Lookout Victory in 1994 and 1995 and with Dream Of Joy in 1999. Dream Of Joy received the 1999 Dan Patch Award for best 2-year-old female trotter.

"That was many years ago," Leven said with a laugh about those successes. "But never mind that. I have had it."

Leven also raced Credit Winner, who was the runner-up in the 2000 Hambletonian and is one of the sport's top trotting sires, producing the earners of more than $87 million. He remains a member of the Credit Winner Syndicate.

Midnight Express was foaled in Sweden, but raised at New York's Blue Chip Farm, where Credit Winner stands, before being sent to trainer Ake Svanstedt. Leven had purchased Midnight Express' dam, Brittany Farms-bred Truly Devoted, for $100,000 at the 2008 Lexington Selected Sale and, after two starts in the U.S., brought her to Sweden where she earned the equivalent of approximately $200,000 on the racetrack.

Truly Devoted's family includes stakes-winning females Cherished Victory, Keystone Profile and Act Of Grace, who is the grandam of 2010 Hambletonian winner Muscle Massive. Miss Marita, the dam of Dan Patch Award-winner Passionate Glide, also is a member of the family.

"I looked at Truly Devoted, I liked Truly Devoted, and we bought her," Leven said. "She was a good mare for me."

Midnight Express has won three of 13 career races and earned $26,081. He heads to the $13,600 Landmark Stakes for 3-year-old trotters with two wins and two second-place finishes in his past four starts, all at Yonkers Raceway. The colt is staked to the Yonkers Trot, Matron Stakes, Carl Erskine Trot, Bluegrass Stakes, and Reynolds Memorial.

"When Ake moved to the U.S., I said to myself, give my Swedish horse a chance," Leven said. "I like Midnight Express and I like to race in the United States and I wanted to use Ake because he was the absolutely best trainer in Sweden when he decided to move to the U.S., no doubt about that.

"I'm pleased so far. We have raced at Yonkers this year four times; two wins, two seconds. I'm pleased. More than that, I'm very pleased."

Leven, who owns two racehorses at the moment, watches Midnight Express' races on the Internet.

"I can't say exactly what I like most about him," Leven said. "He's not a horse with quick speed, but he is very, very strong."

It seems fitting that a son of Maharajah is racing at Historic Track during the Grand Circuit meet, which coincides with Sunday's Hall of Fame inductions at the adjacent Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. Among the inductees is Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg, the owner of Menhammar Stuteri, which bred, raced and stands Maharajah.

In addition to the Landmark Stakes for 3-year-old trotters, Historic Track hosts seven more Landmark Stakes on Friday, with events for 2- and 3-year-old male and female pacers and trotters.

Dawn Anderson's New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Take A Wish is competing in the Landmark for 3-year-old female trotters. Ray Schnittker's filly trotter Check Out Trixie, a daughter of 2014 Hambletonian winner Trixton out of Schnittker's two-time Dan Patch Award winner Check Me Out, is among the 2-year-olds making career debuts.

Racing begins at 1 p.m. at Historic Track. For Friday's complete entries, click here.

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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