Yesterday we saw the Elitlopp, one of the World's most interesting and watched harness races, for trotters. Nahar, owned in part by the Vancouver Canucks Sedin brothers, was a deserving winner.
Trotters are a unique breed of racehorse. Unlike today's ready made pacers, or thoroughbreds like a Shanghai Bobby (or it seems every Wes Ward trained two year old in April), trotters take some serious seasoning. There have been countless trotters who find their feet later on, and if they are not chewed from racing too hard too early, they can turn out to be world beaters.
In Sweden this occurs as a matter of course, which is why you see six and seven and eight year olds compete and win an Elitlopp. The horsemen, and the system, let's a horse develop.
In North America this is generally not the case. We go full boar from July of their two year old season onwards. By the end of the three year old campaign, with stud around the corner, some of North America's trotters have lost their edge. Dewey and Donato losing the Breeders Crown Final's at age three are prime examples.
For one horse this is not the case. Last year's Breeders Crown champion Intimidate.
He started his career very slowly, almost snail like. In his first start as a sophomore he went to the back, came home ok, and finished in 202.3. From there he was babied, until trying to show speed late in the year - when he got his feet under him - in the Simcoe, coming a good second in 151.4. He went on to win the Crown impressively.
This year we've seen similar. After a slow qualifier he made his debut for a $6000 purse in Quebec, winning in 203 or so. Last week he won again, in a pedestrian time.
Compare that to other North American trainers with stock inferior to this gelding. They're ready to go 154, off the shelf, and off the chooch.
Intimidate is better than probably any four year old trotter on the Continent. He might be better than any 5 or 6 or 7 year old trotter on the Continent. But don't ask these old school connections to show you that in May. Or June. Or maybe even July.
We'll probably see it late in the year and the next year and the next. For that we should be thankful, because when he does find his feet, and when he does season enough, his performances will likely be magical. If they do end up going to Sweden for the Elitlopp in coming years, you might start engraving the trophy now.
Intimidate's connections may be French Canadian, but they certainly speak some Swedish.
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