Day At The Track
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Swedish-born horsewoman Sofia Arvidsson has lost count of the hours she's spent working on her "special project", harness racing square gaiter Gus An Maori - but recently, there was no doubt it was worth every minute. The rejuvenated trotter had one hoof on the road to retirement when Arvidsson took him on at the Ecklin South stable of her partner Mattie Craven, and by Arvidsson's admission, they've "come a long way together". "I used to ride him - a lot! And all I used to think of when I was riding him was that 'one day he's gonna win a metro race, this horse, and it will all be worth it'," she said. Last Friday night the pair finally achieved Arvidsson's dream of metro success - and a first group victory for both in the Schweppes Breeders Crown Graduate Trotters Free For All (Gr 2). To watch the video replay of this race click here. "He is my number one, and has been for a long time. He is just a lovable horse. A bit of a show pony, but just a lovely boy and I'm just so proud of him," an elated Arvidsson said. "We always thought if we could just win one or two more with him - and now this!" she laughed. On the face of it, the pair made an unlikely combination. Arvidsson admits she knew nothing about harness racing before joining the Craven team and eight-year-old Gus An Maori (Angus Hall - Sumthingaboutmaori (Pine Chip) had been dogged by long periods on the sidelines, largely the result of bad feet. Sofia Arvidsson and Gus are planning a tilt at some country cups after their Group Two success Gus An Maori was more than three years without a win before his comeback victory at Horsham. Almost 12 months later to the day he recorded his first Group Two success - and, in between, another seven victories. Arvidsson said undoubtedly the key to turning him around was a dramatic change in training approach. "Mattie came back with me to Sweden and he spent some time there with trainers who use straight tracks. Also, the European style of training is not to work them so much, but when they do, they work them quite hard," she said. "It was something we wanted to try, and Gus was the guinea pig on the straight track. It doesn't work for every horse, of course, but for him it's really been the key to him." Arvidsson said Gus An Maori's training regime was based a lot on "feel". "Before, he used to jog every day and fast work every second day on the round track. Then I started with riding him and working him the more European way - fast work, a couple of days off, then fast work," she said. "So, before he won this time, he ran on the previous Saturday night. He had nothing the next day, I might have swum him once, then I gave him a fast work on the Wednesday, and he raced and won on the Friday. "Before, he would chicken out or have a gallop, but he has a lot of confidence this season. He isn't sore and he's stronger, and he knows he can do it. "I'm so excited for the owners, as well, who are massive supporters of Mattie and breed some lovely horses. Gus had been battling for a long time and now they're just so thrilled to enjoy watching him race again." Winning team: Sofia and partner Mattie Craven Teaming with Gus An Maori has also undoubtedly built the confidence of the novice driver, who became licenced only in October last year. Arvidsson recorded 20 wins from 110 drives in the 2019-20 season, and so far in the extended season she's been flying, with 14 wins from 49 starts. Although she was accomplished in dressage and jumping before she arrived at the Craven stable, Arvidsson had no experience at all in the harness racing game. "I was backpacking, travelling and living in New Zealand for a bit, then spent time in Melbourne. I had to do some farm work to get my visa extension in Australia, so I went to Alice Springs. Then to finish it off Kima Frenning (another expat Swede having success in the sport in Australia) suggested I come down here," Arvidsson said. "I'd always had riding horses but had never driven a horse before. But as soon as I started fast working I thought: why haven't I been doing this all my life? "I am very fortunate that Mattie gives me a good go, but I am absolutely loving it. It's such hard work, but the highs are just such highs and it's easy to keep going when you are having success." Arvidsson said Gus An Maori's success now has them looking to target more feature races in the months ahead. "I'm so happy to be able to put look at some country cups - we've climbed the ladder together and to take that step together would be very exciting." Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

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