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For the third time in a row, Bilibili and harness racing jockey Alexandre Abrivard won the Prix de l’Ile de France, a Group I under saddle race, at Vincennes Sunday afternoon (Feb. 2) and was timed in a new world record 1.52.3 (mile rate). A 9-year old French trotter, Bilibili is under saddle specialist. In fact, all his lifetime earnings of more than $2 million were won in under saddle races. Bilibili was the 1-5 favorite to win this 1/5-16 mile event which has a standing start. A victory also added 100,000 Euro to as a bonus for Bilibili winning the three biggest under saddle races during the winter meeting. Although he won, Bilibili had to fight for the victory, as outsider Etonnant, with Eric Raffin in the saddle, was hard to get by. Etonnant was in command from start and with half-mile to go, it seemed that Bilibili would have a very tough task to catch him. But going down the stretch Etonnant started to fade and Bilibili was now flying. Bilibili trotted the last fraction in :27.3 and and won by a length. Bilibili is sired by Niky and his grandson is Viking’s Way, the grandsire of Ready Cash. He is owned by Jean-Pierre Barjon, recently elected chairman of the French Le Trot-organization, and is trained by Laurent-Claude Abrivard, the father of the his rider. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent

In 2015 the Finnish breeder Saku Mikkola bought the mare Captivation in foal to Muscle Mass at the mixed sale in Harrisburg for $3,500. Back in Finland Captivation foaled a filly, who was called Mascate Match. She has turned out to be perhaps the best 3-year-old filly in Scandinavia so far. Saturday afternoon (June 29) Mascate Match easily won the filly division in the E3 final at Eskilstuna with a purse for the winner of $107,500. Trainer/driver Pekka Kopri controlled the race every step and Mascate Match was an easy winner of the 1-5/16 mile event in 1:56.2f (mile rate). This was her eight start and seventh win. The colt division went faster; in fact, the winner Aetos Kronos trotted to a world record. Aetos Kronos, sired by top French trotter Bold Eagle  and driven by Ôrjan Kihlström, fought bravely to beat the leader Bythebook (sired by Googoo Gaagaa) with Erik Adielsson to win in 1:55.3f (mile rate). While the mile rate is the same, as reported when Aetos Kronos won at Solvalla on May 26, in Europe records are measured by an average of 1,000 meters and Aetos Kronos lowered his own record from 1.11.9 to 1.11.8. Aetos Kronos is trained by Jerry Riordan and is the richest 3-year-old in Sweden so far with winnings of $270,000. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent

Perfect Spirit, the 2017 Hambletonian winner, will have his first race in an International open race in the Oslo Grand Prix at Bjerke Sunday (June 9) afternoon. After his entrance at the Swedish trotting scene, last year Perfect Spirit was campaigned against other 4-year old trotters, but this year his trainer, Daniel Redén, has matched him against elder trotters. Perfect Spirit won his first two races this year – best timed in 1.52.4 – but third time out he made a break and was disqualified. In the Oslo Grand Prix, Perfect Spirit with regular driver Ôrjan Kihlström, will be among the favorites to win the event which has a purse of $175,000. Perfect Spirit will leave from post position two in the 1-5-16 mile event. Here are the post positions: 1. Slide So Easy (DK) – sired by Quite Easy (U.S.) 2. Perfect Spirit (US) – sired by Andover Hall (U.S.) 3. Ringostarr Treb (IT) – sired by Classic Photo (U.S.) 4. Vitruvio (IT) – sired by Adrian Chip (U.S.) 5. Bahia Quesnot (FR) sired by Scipion du Goutier (FR) 6. Gretzky BR (NO) – sired by Quite Easy (U.S.) 7. Valokaja Hindø (DK) – sired by Great Challenger (U.S.) 8. Uza Josselyn (DK) – sired by Love You (FR) 9. Nadal Broline (SE) -sired by Yankee Glide (U.S.) 10. Looking Superb (NO) – Scratched by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent

A field of 18 harness racing trotters will race in one of the world’s toughest trotting races, the Grand Prix d’Amerique, this Sunday afternoon (Jan. 27) at Vincennes. The home team dominates the field with 11 entries. Norway and Italy each have two, while Denmark, Sweden and the United States have one each. Readly Express of Sweden with Björn Goop in the bike is the defending champion. In France hopes are high for Bold Eagle, driven by Franck Nivard, and Belina Josselyn, driven by Jean Michel Bazire. This year the purse is 100,000 Euro less than last year because of the crisis in French horse racing, where the turnover at the betting company PMU has been declining. The total purse is 900,000 Euro ($1,020,000) and the purse for the winner is now 405,000 Euro, down from 450,000 Euro last year. The distance is 2,700 meters tape start (1-11/16th miles). Here is the start list with horse, nationality, driver and trainer 1. Looking Superb (NO) – Alexandre Abrivard (Jean-Michel Bazire) 2. Bahia Quesnot (FR) – Junior Guelpa (Junior Guelpa) 3. Eridan (FR) – Eric Raffin (Sébastien Guarato) 4. Davidson du Pont (FR) – Franck Ouvrie (Jean-Michel Bazire) 5. Delia du Pommereux (FR) – Damien Bonne (Sylvain Roger) 6. Charly du Noyer (FR) – Pierre Vercruysse (Philippe Allaire) 7. Urlo dei Venti (IT) – Anthony Greppi (Gennaro Casillo) 8. Uza Josselyn (DK) – Gabriele Gelormini (René Aebischer) 9. Carat Williams (FR) – David Thomain (Sébastien Guarato) 10. Valko Jenilat (FR) – Francois Lagadeuc (Sébastien Guarato) 11. Traders (IT) – Yoann Lebourgeois (Philippe Allaire) 12. Belina Josselyn (FR) – Jean-Michel Bazire (Jean-Michel Bazire) 13. Lionel (NO) – Göran Antonsen (Daniel Redén) 14. Billie de Montfort (FR) – Pierre-Yves Verva (Sébastien Guarato) 15. Readly Express (SE) – Björn Goop (Timo Nurmos) 16. Bird Parker (FR) – Jean-Philippe Monclin (Philippe Allaire) 17. Propulsion (US) – Örjan Kihlström (Daniel Redén) 18. Bold Eagle (FR) – Franck Nivard (Sébastien Guarato) by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent

After Bold Eagle finished a disappointing fourth in the first qualification race at Vincennes for the Prix d’Amerique, the winningest harness racing active French trotter will race again on Sunday (Dec. 9) in the second qualification race, the Prix du Bourbonnais. For the first time ever, Bold Eagle will race without all four shoes. Normally he races only with shoes behind, but trainer Sebastian Guarato has decided to try something new by removing the front shoes. Only 12 horses were entered in the Prix du Bourbonnais and just one is trained outside France, Uza Josselyn, a Danish registered mare owned and trained in Switzerland. Among the 12 starters, two have already qualified for the Prix d’Amerique, Delia du Pommereux and Bird Parker, who finished second and third, respectively, in the first qualifier. The three first finishers in the Prix du Bourbonnais will also qualify for a spot in the field for the Prix d’Amerique. Following are the entries for the $135,000 Prix du Bourbonnais: 1 Cash Gamble (SE) – Franck Ouvrie – Philippe Billard 2 Delia du Pommereux – Damien Bonné – Sebastian Roger 3 Briac Dark – Matthieu Abrivard – Thierry Duvaldestin 4 Charly du Noyer – Anthony Barier – Philippe Allaire 5 Uza Josselyn (DK) – Alexandre Abrivard – René Aebischer 6 Carat Williams – David Thomain – Sebastian Guarato 7 Traders – Yoann Lebourgeois – Philippe Allaire 8 Valko Jenilat -Eric Raffin – Sebastian Guarato 9 Voltigeur de Myrt – Lorenzo Donati – Roberto Donati 10 Belina Josselyn – Jean Michel Bazire 11 Bird Parker – Jean Philippe Monclin – Philippe Allaire 12 Bold Eagle – Franck Nivard – Sebastian Guarato. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent Courtesy of The United States Trotting Association

Villiam, a 3-year-old Swedish colt sired by Muscle Hill, won the Kriterium, raced over the 1-5/8th mile distance at Solvalla, Sunday afternoon (Oct. 1) in a harness racing world record of 1:55.4f (mile rate), driven by Jorma Kontio. The Kriterium is the biggest race in Sweden for 3-year-old trotters and carried a purse for the winner of $244,000. However, in Sweden an owner can choose between a premium of $2,400, when his youngster qualifies, or double the prize money in some future big stakes races such as the Kriterium. The owner, breeder and trainer of Villiam, Timo Nurmos, forfeited the premium and therefore got twice the prize money -- $488,000. Add in a breeder’s premium of 30 percent ($146,000) and Nurmos' total winnings this Sunday was $634,000. Nurmos also owned and trained the dam of Villiam, Gold Strike, she by Striking Sahbra. Gold Strike took a mark of 1:54f and earned $236,000. Villiam, who is named after Nurmos' grandfather, is the first foal out of Gold Strike to hit the track. Villiam has raced seven times and won six races and has one second. The Oaks, with a purse for the winner of $171,000, was won by Candy la Marc, driven by Erik Adielsson. Candy La Marc enjoyed a pocket trip behind the favorite Dibaba, driven by Ôrjan Kihlström, and found racing room just 100 yards before the finish line. She won the 1-5/16th mile event in 1:56.3f. Candy la Marc was bred, raised and is trained by Lars Marcussen from Denmark, who took the premium out for Candy la Marc when she was a 2-year-old. Candy la Marc is sired by Scarlet Knight and out of Oiseau, she by Andover Hall. Oiseau was bred by Russell C. Williams and is a full sister to Clerk Magistrate, who has been at stud in Sweden. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

Today the Norwegian Trotting Association published the verdict in the doping case against French harness racing trainer Fabrice Souloy, who had four trotters test positive for Cobalt in June 2016 at Bjerke, Oslo. Souloy was banned from training and driving for 15 years and fined $60,000. The association had wanted Souloy banned for life and fined $25,000. Souloy is still awaiting a verdict from the Swedish Trotting Association regarding a positive test from the Elitlopp 2016 -- also for Cobalt -- and it was thought that the two Scandinavian associations would have published their verdicts together. However, due to vacation the Swedish verdict is first expected to be known around July 5. At present Souloy is serving a one year ban in France after a positive test for Cobalt. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent

Nuncio was named Horse of the Year in Sweden Friday night (Feb. 10) at the Swedish Galla night in Stockholm. Unbeaten in 11 races last year, the North American bred son of  Andover Hall-Nicole Isabelle, received 86 percent of the votes. Nuncio has not raced since Sept. 18, but is in training and Stefan Melander expects to bring the now 6-year old trotter back in action in late March. The first big target for Nuncio could be the Olympic Trot to be raced in Gothenburg late April. While Nuncio has been resting another top trotter, Bold Eagle is busy at the racetracks and on Sunday (Feb. 12) Bold Eagle, driven by regular driver Franck Nivard, will race in the Prix de France at Vincennes. The Prix de France is raced over 1-5/16 miles, which is the shortest distance races are carried out at Vincennes. The total purse is $425,000. Bold Eagle won this race last year when he beat Timoko, driven by Bjorn Goop, to second. Timoko will also race tomorrow. Bold Eagle will also take on North American breds Propulsion, driven by Ôrjan Kihlström and Wild Honey, driven by David Thomain. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Internet Correspondent

Harness racing 6-year-old Swedish mare D’One, winner of the 2015 Breeders Crown Mare Trot, has been sold as a broodmare at a public auction for $345,000. Two leading breeders from each side of the Atlantic, Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farm and John Bootsman of Boko Stable of The Netherlands and Sweden, have bought the mare in company. The plan is to breed D’One in Europe in 2017 to the French stallion Ready Cash and register the foal in Sweden, while in 2018 she will go to Hunterton Farm to be bred to Muscle Hill. D’One, who actually was born and raised at Hunterton Farm, is by Donato Hanover and out of Giant Diablo, who both took marks of 1.50.1. D’One 5,1:51.3 has raced 38 times and besides winning the Breeders Crown, she won the Fresh Yankee, Muscle Hill and Allerage Farm Mare Trot in the United States. In Sweden she is the winner of The Swedish Oaks and the final in Summer Meeting Mares. D’One has earnings of $1.26 million. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Senior Newsroom Correspondent 

Fabrice Souloy, who is one of the leading harness racing trainers in France, is one of five trainers who have been suspended and fined after findings of Cobalt in tests. It was after a race in Cabourg, Normandy, in July, that Lover Face trained by Souloy came up with a positive test for Cobalt. Some weeks after it was announced that four more trotters trained by Souloy had tested positive for Cobalt in Sweden and Norway in races like the Elitlopp and Oslo Grand Prix. However, these cases are still under investigation. On Monday (Dec. 26) the French Trotting Association Le Trot made it public that five trainers -- including Souloy -- each had been fined $15,500 and their licenses were revoked for one year, starting Jan. 2, 2017. Souloy is nicknamed Mr. Group 1 as he has trained the winners of more than 70 Group 1 races all over Europe. In France horses trained by Souloy earned around $4 million this year. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Newsroom Senior Correspondent

Italian filmmakers are planning a movie to tell the story of the world’s richest harness racing trotter, Varenne. The Swedish newspaper Expressen, interviewed Jori Turja, who trained Varenne. "As I understand it, it is not a documentary, but a movie like the one that told the story of Seabiscuit," Turja told Expressen. Varenne, who is 20-years-old and the leading sire in Italy, took a mark of 1.51.1 and earned $6.8 million in his career, the most ever by any trotter. Varenne stands at stud in Italy for $13,500, live foal. by Karsten Bønsdorf, , USTA Newsroom Senior Correspondent 

The 4-year-old Nuncio, who last year was one of the leading 3-year-old trotters in North America, has been approved as a stallion in his new home country of Sweden. In that country every trotting stallion who is going to be used for breeding must be presented to a committee named by Svensk Travsport the Swedish equivalent to the United States Trotting Association. Nuncio, who is sired by Andover Hall, was awarded 82 points and along with Swedish bred Yarrah Boko (by the French sire Coktail Jet), who also was awarded 82 points, this was the highest between the 21 stallions who were presented. Points are awarded for career, pedigree, stamina and exterior and the maximum points is 100. The Danish-bred Tumble Dust, sired by Crazed, came third with 81 points. Nuncio is not going to be bred this year, but will return to action within a month, his owner/trainer Stefan “Tarzan” Melander said. by Karsten Bønsdorf, USTA Newsroom Senior Correspondent  Courtesy of the United States Trotting Association Web Newsroom

Muscle Boy AS, a yearling colt sired by Muscle Hill and out of the Italian mare Zelda Per, fetched the top price of $175,000 at the annual harness racing Derby Sale, held at the Mariendorf Racetrack in Berlin. Muscle Boy AS was raised and bred by Alwin Schockemühle, who for many years was the leading breeder in Germany, but he has now scaled down and has only eight mares at his stud farm. Muscle Buy AS was bought by the Austrian Serena Hamberg, who owns an elder brother to Muscle Buy AS named Istogramma SAS (sired by Diamond Way), who has a mark of 1:55.3 and earnings of $200,000. The average price at the Derby sale, dropped 18 percent to $13,710. The German Trotting Derby, the 119 Deutsches Traber Derby raced over the 1-3/16th mile distance, was won by the favorite, Expo Express, driven by his breeder and trainer Arnold Mollema from The Netherlands. Expo Express had to trot outside without cover for most of the trip, but was an easy winner in 2:01 (mile rate). The purse for the winner was $145,000. Expo Express is sired by the Italian stallion Expo Bi (he by Toss Out) and out of Pine Spirit (she by Pine Chip). Pine Spirit is also the dam of Unforgettable (sired by Diamond Way), who Mollema guided to victory in the Derby in 2005. The filly division, raced over the same distance and with a purse for the winner of $65,000, was won by another Dutchman, Hugo Langeweg Jr., who was in the bike behind Pippi Barosso (she by Goetmals Wood). Pippi Barosso was timed in a new race record of 1:58.2 (mile rate). By Karsten Bensdorf USTA Newsroom Senior Correspondent  

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