Freehold, NJ --- Karoliina Oinonen has been around the world with trotting star Commander Crowe, but there is one more place she hopes to visit before returning to Europe next week. The Breeders Crown winner’s circle. Oinonen, from Finland, has been Commander Crowe’s caretaker since the chestnut gelding, known as “Le Grand Blond,” arrived in the stable of trainer Fabrice Souloy in 2010. Commander Crowe is the 3-1 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot at the Meadowlands. Commander Crowe will start from post nine, with driver Orjan Kihlstrom at the lines. Now an 11-year-old, Commander Crowe has started in two previous Breeders Crown finals, both at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, finishing third each time. A win this year would make Commander Crowe the oldest Breeders Crown champion in history. “That would be great. That would be really great,” Oinonen said about winning the Open Trot, which also includes past Breeders Crown champions Maven, Arch Madness, Intimidate and Market Share. “I know it’s the dream of my boss to win one big race here. It’s not easy with post nine. But I hope. I really hope.” According to the stats on the Meadowlands website, post nine wins at a rate of 8.4 percent. It is not much off from posts two, three and eight, which have better numbers but also are less than 10 percent. The Swedish-born Commander Crowe has won 60 of 105 career races, earning $4.84 million. His earnings rank No. 5 among all trotters in history and his triumphs include the Elitlopp Invitational, which he captured in 2012. Commander Crowe enters the Breeders Crown off a second-place finish to Natural Herbie in the International Trot Preview on Oct. 25 at Yonkers Raceway, which was his first start on U.S. soil. He tuned up for the Breeders Crown with a 1:54.1 qualifier on Nov. 15 at the Meadowlands. Prior to arriving in the States, he finished second in the Grade 1 Gran Premio Turilli in Rome on Oct. 5. In August, he raced three heats to win the Grade 1 Aby Stora Pris in Sweden. “It was a great opportunity to get a horse like him,” said Oinonen, who has visited nearly a dozen countries with Commander Crowe. “It’s just unbelievable. I was lucky, he could have gone to somebody else in the barn. Without the horse, I would have never traveled like this. The horse has paid for my ticket everywhere.” Commander Crowe, who didn’t begin racing until late in his 3-year-old season and won the first 23 starts of his career, is owned by the Snogarps Gard ownership group of Barbro Wihlborg, Ulf Wihlborg and Joakim Wihlborg. He is a son of Juliano Star, out of the Mack Lobell-sired mare Somack. Oinonen said her most memorable races with Commander Crowe were his world-record-equaling 1:50.4 mile in 2012, winning the Elitlopp, and competing in the Breeders Crown for the first time in 2011. San Pail won the 2011 Breeders Crown on his way to Horse of the Year honors. Commander Crowe raced on the outside for the entire mile and was a length behind in third place. “We were third,” Oinonen said, “but just the atmosphere and traveling that far with a horse and all that, it was so great.” Commander Crowe enjoys his work, but likes to relax as well. “My work is to keep him calm,” Oinonen said. “If he sees all the working horses, he wants to work too. He gets too excited. “But he likes to be in the paddock with the other horses. He has been with (10-year-old gelding) Arch Madness. He likes the company. He thinks he’s a wild horse living on the prairie, eating the grass there. Back home he is usually living outside all the summer season. He comes inside only to work; that’s what he likes.” Commander Crowe is finished with his training and jogging as he awaits the Breeders Crown. Friday was to be spent enjoying his paddock time. “We have done what we can,” Oinonen said, “and now we see if it’s enough.” * * * No matter what Maven accomplishes in Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot at the Meadowlands, she will always be special to driver Yannick Gingras. Gingras was with the now 5-year-old mare when she went to the track for her first qualifier, back in June 2011 at the Meadowlands. He was behind Maven for her first start, a winning effort in a division of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at the Meadows, less than a month later. They teamed with previous trainer Jonas Czernyson to win Breeders Crown trophies at ages 3 and 4, and picked up the 2013 Dan Patch Award for best older female trotter. All totaled, Gingras has raced Maven in 46 of her 52 career races, winning 26. Now they will try to become the first female trotter to beat the boys in the Breeders Crown Open Trot since Moni Maker in 1998. Maven won last week’s single elimination by a neck over Your So Vain in 1:52.2, starting from post 10 and racing on the outside for the entire mile. Maven, purchased earlier this month for $750,000 by Herb Liverman and turned over to trainer Jimmy Takter, will start the final from post four and is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line behind 3-1 favorite Commander Crowe and 7-2 Market Share. Commander Crowe and Market Share received byes to the final. “I think she’s only going to be better,” Gingras said. “It wasn’t the best of weeks last week, Jimmy didn’t really have much time to do anything. “But she was awesome last week. She was parked for every step and still was trotting at the wire. I think she can get a good mile in (1):51 this weekend. Whether it will be enough, I’m not sure, but I’m not afraid of anybody in the race, I can tell you that.” For her career, Maven has won 29 of 52 races and earned $1.60 million. She finished second to Market Share in last year’s American-National Stakes as the only mare in the race, and earlier this season went to Sweden for the Elitlopp Invitational, where she finished third in her elimination and sixth in the final. “It would definitely mean a lot to win this one, there’s no doubt about that,” Gingras said. “But she’s already been really special and is always going to be a very special horse to me. And the ride is not over. There’s a lot more left with her for sure.” by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications
A massive fire has destroyed several buildings at Solvalla trainer Timo Nurmos stables at Fituna last night. Luckily it appears that no people or horses were injured in the blaze which destroyed three stables and a corn silo, several Swedish news sources are reporting. Swedish harnessracing website TravNet reported that the fire alarm went off at 6pm on Wednesday evening . A dozen fire trucks rushed to Nurmos’ training facility at Fituna Farm outside Nynashamn, to the south of Stockholm. Sodertorn fire chief Per Delhage, said on Swedish TV that the fire was under control. Swedish police reported that no people were injured and that all the horses that were inside the burning building were evacuated and were unharmed. Horses in adjacent stables were also evacuated. Top Swedish racing paper TravRonden quoted neighbour Patrik Oscarsson as saying that it was inconceivable that the fierce blaze did not spread to other stables which were just metres away. He said it was too early to tell if any were damaged and that the district veterinarian was on the site inspecting horses. Neighbours helped capture and pen loose horses and traffic around Fituna was diverted. TravNet reports that what caused the fire was unclear and that other news sources claimed the fire may have started in a workshop building. Finnish national Nurmos trains 148 horses and currently leads Solvalla’s trainer’s championship. The hunt is already on for new stables for the trainer. Dave Sanders
Finland has punched above its weight for a long time in harness racing. Think of the great Commander Crowe, bred and originally owned and trained by Finn Petri Puro who has lived for many years in Halmstad Sweden, like many Finns do, to make a living out of the sport they love including until recently trainer Kari Lahdekorpi, from Huittenen, who was the champion Swedish trainer in 2007-8 and 2004 trainer of the year until his shock retirement this year. No one in Scandinavia has driven more winners then Swedish based Finn Jorma Kontio, while compatriot and long-time patron Timo Nurmos, is one of the top trainers in Sweden. Yet another Finn Tuomas Korvenoja is the breeder and owner of one of the rising superstars Brad de Veluwe, the European Derby winner last year, and runner up in the European Championship for five year-olds last week. Brad de Veluwe is by Andover Hall, himself owned by a Finn Erkki Laakkonen, although resident in the United States. Finland is also home to two champion US sires in Donerail and Like A Prayer, among others, and the rapid improvement of Finnish horses can be seen by the likes of She Loves You, who won the elite mares race at Solvalla on Elitloppet weekend last year. And on Sunday, the next crop of 3YOS will line up for the Finnish Trav Kriterium, where perhaps the next Brad de Veluwe will emerge triumphant, including his trainer Korvenoja who will present the promising Muscles Yankee colt Jonesy. Jonesy ran second to rising Italian star Rori Axe (Ready Cash) in the Group II Prix Emile Wendling at Vincennes two starts ago, beating the highly touted Jean Pierre Dubois Donato Hanover filly Tast Of Bourbon into third place. He was good enough to make the Group I E3 Final against the top Swedish 3YOs, where he was beaten into sixth place, following by one place last weekend’s Swedish Kriterium winner, Rokkakudo. He also has the fastest record in the field, 1.11.8 (1.55.2MR) which he acquired in Sweden. Brad de Veluwe’s sire Andover Hall is represented this year by Greenleaf Slim, who was one of the early favourites for the race and has won six of his nine starts, and he will be driven by Mika Forss for trainer Heuikki Korhonen. Nurmos will have Kontio (who has won this race five times, the first in 1979) aboard his Yankee Glide colt Zo Zo Hoss who has 4 wins from 8 starts in Sweden while he has another colt by dual Prix d’Amerique winning sire Offshore Dream in Dream Run who has had two wins from 4 starts in Sweden. Pekka Korpi, who first won a Finnish Kritierium with Guiding Star in 1981, has four entrants with Express Duo (Express Ride), who has won the most money in the field, and was second in the Ulf Thorensen Minnelop. Korpi also has Arctic Shot who is by Classic Photo, who sired the recent European Derby winner Mosaique Face, while he also has the filly Eden Duo by Orlando Vici who sired the European Championship for 5YOs winner Un Mec d’Heripre, while he also a colt by Finnish resident US sire Donerail in Good Dynamite. Markku Nieminen’s Kadabra colt Harmi's Frido has won 61,000 euros from eight wins in 15 starts, has a good draw at 2 and also has the third fastest record at 1.13.8kr (1.58.4MR). FINSKT TRAV KRITERIUM Teivo, 2013-10-05 Group I 3YOs 2600m 1 Big Headache (3g E L Mikko - Southwind Roselle) Dr: Tommi Kylliäinen Tr: Riikka Kosonen 2 Harmi's Frido (3c Kadabra - Glamour Jet) Dr: Markku Nieminen Tr: Markku Nieminen 3 Jonesy (3c Muscles Yankee - Ripley) Dr: Tuomas Korvenoja Tr: Tuomas Korvenoja 4 Greenleaf Slim (3c Andover Hall - Mabelese) Dr: Mika Forss Tr: Heikki Korhonen 5 Express Duo (3c Express It - Dolce Merett) Dr: Ari Moilanen Tr: Pekka Korpi 6 Good Dynamite (3c Donerail - Good Leasing) Dr: Kari Venäläinen Tr: Pekka Korpi 7 Arctic Shot (3c Classic Photo - Snowdeo Lynn) Dr: Antti Teivainen Tr: Pekka Korpi 8 Vice President (3g Oiseau de Feux - R.Sweet Hush) Dr: Peter Ingves Tr: Emma Bjerkås 9 Eden Duo (3f Orlando Vici - Irene Merett) Dr: Hannu-Pekka Korpi Tr: Pekka Korpi 10 Zo Zo Hoss (3c Yankee Glide - Decadent Pagan) Dr: Jorma Kontio Tr: Timo Nurmos 11 Moonlight Love (3f Love You - El Itsmadetoorder) Dr: Harri Koivunen Tr: Olli Lähtinen 12 Dream Run (3c Offshore Dream - Golden Harvest) Dr: Esa Holopainen Tr: Timo Nurmos Dave Sanders for harnesslink
The weekend's feature trots took place at multiple harness racing venues, some with predictable results. The Prix Saint Michel at Mekkeli (Finland) went to the 'Pippo' Gubellini trained and driven Owens Club (5m Duke Of York-Duse Tab) in a sharp 1.10.10kr (1:52.8) over the 1609 meter autostart course.
Last weekend provided much harness racing action at Paris-Vincennes, Kouvola and Boden, so much that other interesting development were too easily overlooked.
Saturday brings out many of the better currently racing European trotters as they contest the Gr. I International Norrbottens Stora Pris at Boden and the Kymi Grand Prix at Kuovola, Finland.
Nesta Effe (6m Naglo-Etna Sec-Viking Kronos) and Roberto Vecchione scored a come from behind harness racing win in the first Elitloppet heat, scoring in 1.10.7kr to defeat the hard fighting pacesetters Raja Mirchi (6m Viking Kronos-Dame Lavec-Quito de Talonay) for Lutfi Kolgjini and third finishing Timoko (6m Imoko-Kiss me Coulonces) and Joseph Verbeeck.
Benefitting from a head to head speed duel between Traveling Man (Untersteiner) and Monster Drive (Svanstedt), patient harness racing trainer/driver Pietro Gubellini sat second on the pylons with Italy's Owen's Club (5m Duke of York-Duse Tab-Sugarcane Hanover) until past the three quarter mile mark.
Today's top European trots, both mile heats (autostart), produced victories by well-respected six year-old harness racing campaigners.
Mack Grace SM (7m CC's Chuckie T-Ambro Grace SM) today won the 132,000 euro Gr. I Gran Premio Della Azzura at Torino Italy.
Beckman (6g Turbo Sund-Nina Palema-Alf Palema) with harness racing trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt up, held off a determined Raja Mirchi (6h Viking Kronos-Dame Lavec-Quito de Talonay) to win V-75 Gold Olympiatravet Last Chance event at Farjestad and with it secured the last entry to the April 20 Olympic Trot at Aby.
Meatballs have been withdrawn from stores throughout Europe as the international horse meat scare, which could include former harness racing horses, takes another turn - but shops in Canada and the USA are apparently not affected.
The border guard is probably still shaking her head. After all, she had just talked to a middle-aged sideburned person who told her he was in the return leg of a 1,000-plus-mile trip from Harrisburg, Pa., to watch his favorite harness racing horse race in Montreal.
European trotting is experiencing a turbulent time. France remains the leading nation in Europe. Swedish trotting is now facing a rough road ahead, having been a success story for the last three decades.
Ready Cash, the two-time winner of the prestigious Prix d'Amerique, returned to harness racing action on Saturday afternoon (July 21) in the French marathon race Prix de Buenos Aires at Enghien over the 2-3/8th mile distance.
The 9-year-old Swedish trotter Commander Crowe continued his winning streak on Saturday afternoon (June 16) in the Kymi Grand Prix at the Kouvola harness racing track in Finland.