by Peter Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor
"Oh, so you only visit us when there's a good horse in our barn?" said Marcus Johansson, a week ago Friday.
He said this (presumably) in jest, since he and wife Nancy Takter Johansson, proprietors of Team Johansson, currently have the reigning Horse of the Year, J.K. She'salady, in their shedrow.
But he had a point, we concede.
This WAS my first visit to the Johansson stable at White Birch Farm in New Jersey, and it was two trotters recently arrived from Sweden - well, recently arrived from quarantine in Maryland, after arriving from Sweden - I was specifically there to see.
One was Magic Tonight 1:52-1/5f ($1,344,081), winner of this year's Elitloppet at Solvalla in Sweden.
The other was D'One ($889,185), the daughter of two champions who both took world records of 1:50-1/5 on the very same day at Lexington, Kentucky's famed Red Mile in 2007, namely Donato Hanover and Giant Diablo (she by Supergill).
Trainer of record for Magic Tonight and D'One - who, if things work out as planned and hoped, will both campaign in North America until this autumn's Breeders Crowns - is Roger Walmann, but they'll be residing with Marcus and Nancy for the next several months.
A few brief notes on Roger Walmann ...
He races mostly in Sweden, despite being Norwegian, has been to the United States many times and has won several big races here, including the 1986 Roosevelt International Trot with Habib, the 2012 Breeders Crown mares trot with Tamla Celeber S., and the aforementioned world-record with Giant Diablo in that year's Allerage FFA.
The first stakes on Magic Tonight's and D'One's respective plates are both on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands, Saturday, Aug. 8, the John Cashman Jr. free-for-all trot and the Fresh Yankee mares FFA trot.
But before that, they needed to qualify, which they both did, in rein to Marcus Johansson, at Meadowlands this past Saturday.
Magic Tonight finished third, trotting in 1:54, home in :26-4/5, in a 1:53 mile won by Lindy's Tru Grit. (Interestingly, Wind Of The North, who also raced in this year's Elitlopp, finished second.)
D'One de-won her heat (sorry, couldn't resist) in 1:54-3/5, home in :27-1/5, by open lengths.
"Both were very impressive," says Marcus, who added, "I just raced them both conservatively."
It's expected that Orjan Kihlstrom - also no stranger to our shores; he won last year's Breeders Crown Open Trot at M'lands with Commander Crowe - will drive these Walmann trotters on Hambo Day, and beyond.
Will both horses be ready for top efforts in their U.S. debuts? Don't know, but it should be interesting to watch.
Magic Tonight (Andover Hall-Miss Possessed by Self Possessed), a 6YO horse, started his racing career in the U.S. before being exported in 2013. He earned almost $500,000 stateside, with a 1:52-4/5f mark racing for Adam Victor & Son and trainer Noel Daley. He was bred by the familiar pair of Marvin Katz & Al Libfeld, and he's owned by AOJ Konsult of Lidkoping, Sweden. Magic Tonight's groom is Viktor Flink Ideborn.
D'One, a 5YO mare conceived and foaled in the U.S., was bred by Thomas Persson Finans AB. She races for Stall Kenny (Kenny Thornblom, et al), and her groom is Malin Boman-Friberg. D'One has never started in the U.S., with the exception of her qualifying race.
And finally, J.K. She'salady, last year's undefeated Horse of the Year for the training Johanssons (and unrelated caretaker Lena Johansson)? According to Marcus, she's on the shelf, "With some small issues. We're going to take our time bringing her back."
(Photo of the author, holding Magic Tonight, by Marcus Johansson.)