World Cup action continues at Balmoral

07:42 AM 18 May 2008 NZST
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Bjorn Steinseth of Norway New Zealand’s Gavin Cook
Bjorn Steinseth of Norway - Prevailing by a neck over Germany’s Hans Jorgen Von Holdt
New Zealand’s Gavin Cook - Steered Western Jet to a 1:54.2 clocking

The World Cup of Amateur Racing continued with a pair of races taking center stage Saturday night at Balmoral Park. The first two events on the 14-race program featured two full fields of drivers from Spain, Norway, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and the USA’s own David Siegel.

When the dust cleared, Bjorn Steinseth of Norway emerged victorious with the Dee Cozzi conditioned Wake Up Mike in 1:54.1, prevailing by a neck over Germany’s Hans Jorgen Von Holdt who was behind the Monique Bernardi trained Ranking Officer.

This is quite a thrill,” said Steinseth, 32, a banker and financial adviser in his native Norway. “My horse was very strong in the lane and he just never stopped digging in. I was very impressed with his determination.”

teinseth was crowned the Norwegian Amateur Champion of 2007, and this event marks the first time he has competed over American soil. Von Holdt, 38, is a blacksmith in his native Germany, and works there for top horsemen and harness racing’s all-time winningest driver, Heinz Wevering. David Siegel of the USA finished fifth to Steinseth, after capturing the first two events in the series Friday night at Maywood Park.

n the second race, New Zealand’s Gavin Cook steered Western Jet to a 1:54.2 clocking for trainer Kimberly Roth, besting rival Fred Handelaar of the Netherlands—behind Catpure The Magic—by two and a quarter lengths. It was the seventh drive for Cook on North American soil, and his first win in the United States.

The horse was really outstanding, and this is just one win, but he has a ton more left in him,” said the affable Cook, a former owner of over 50 pizzerias Down Under. “The horse showed that he was very sharp in the program lines, and while I probably pulled him out a little earlier than I would have liked, he responded very well and really dug in hard in the homestretch.”

ook, 51, won the New Zealand Amateur Championship in 2007, and is very active in the New Zealand Amateur Driver’s Association.

he totals after the first four races are as follows: David Siegel of the USA leads with 34 points; Gavin Cook of New Zealand is second with 28 points; Canada’s Antonia Valente is third with 27 points; Fred Handelaar of The Netherlands is fourth with 26 points; Teddy Wang of Denmark and Bjorn Seinseth of Norway are tied for fifth with 24 points each; Spain’s Andreu Oliva Suau and German’s Jurgen Von Holdt are tied for sixth with 23 points each; Alle Loman of the Czech Republic is seventh (20 points); Hungary’s Tamas Keleman is eighth (18 points); Christian Mayr of Austria is ninth (17 points) and Australia’s Bob Mellsop is tenth (16 points).

he drivers will fly to New York Sunday morning, where they will compete at Monticello (May 19th), Yonkers (May 20th), and at Freehold (in the afternoon) and at The Meadowlands (at night) on May 21.

By Kimberly Rinker for Balmoral Park

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