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Monday, May 30, 2016

Nuncio Wins Elitlopp in 1:09.2 KM Rate

by Pete Lawrence, VFTRG Contributor

... which is a 1:51-2/5 mile.

(Ironically, the Elitlopp IS raced at a mile, then converted to a kilometer rate, then converted back to a mile rate.)

The historic Elitloppet ("Elite Race") is raced, in case it needs to be said, at Solvalla in Stockholm, Sweden.

Anyway, driver Orjan Kihlstrom raced Nuncio first-over from post four as Un Mec d'Heripre and teamster Joseph Verbeeck set the fractions, whatever they were, from the rail, before fading to third at the wire.

Resolve, Ake Svanstedt up, came from off the pace (well, trot) to be a very narrow second.

I judged the winning margin to be a neck.

The elimination winners, earlier Sunday, were Timoko (Bjorn Goop, 1:09.1), over Resolve (Svanstedt), Propulsion (Kihlstrom) and Oasis Bi (Johnny Takter) ... and Un Mec d'Heripre (Verbeeck, 1:09.3), over Nuncio (Kihlstrom), Royal Fighter (Jennifer Tillman) and Billie de Montfort (David Thomain).

Several other good trotters, including On Track Piraten, B.B.S. Sugarlight and Mosaique Face, did not qualify for the final.

Also, last year's Elitloppet champ, Magic Tonight.

Nuncio, a 5YO U.S.-bred son of Andover Hall-Nicole Isabelle by Lindy Lane, is owned, as he has been throughout his racing career, by Stefan Melander's Stall T.Z.

Melander, a top trainer AND a top photographer (as "Foto Tarzan") waited patiently to take over Nuncio's training as Jim Oscarsson conditioned and drove the ultra-consistent horse at age two, before returning to Sweden himself, and Jimmy Takter trained Nuncio at three, with John Campbell doing the driving.

Nuncio did quite well in the U.S., despite having the misfortune of not only being the same age, but also being the Takter stablemate, of Hambletonian-winner Trixton AND the great Father Patrick.

Nuncio himself won both the Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity at three.

Now 31-for-46 lifetime (and never out of the top three), my rough figuring is that Nuncio has earned about $2,570,000, including his take from yesterday's Elitlopp, which I'm guessing was worth about $800,000 in total, including the elims.

The undercard at Solvalla on Sunday, included several other tasty races, too.

Wild Honey, a great trotting filly here in the U.S. for Team Takter (Hambletonian Oaks and Kentucky Futurity Filly champ, etc.) won the Rune Stolt Lopp for trainer Daniel Reden, owner Stall Zet and driver Orjan Kihlstrom (that name again).

And last year's Hambletonian champion, Pinkman, regular driver Yannick Gingras in the bike, won a 4YO race named for the late horseman Tommy Hanne in 1:09.9 KM rate, though it was another one-mile contest (these conversions give me a headache).

Trained by Jimmy Takter for wife Christina Takter, et al, Pinkman beat his former barn-mate Uncle Lasse, who is now owned by Melander's Stall T.Z. and driven by Mr. Kihlstrom. And yet another Takter graduate, French Laundry, was in there, too.

Also of note from the excellent live TV feed were interviews with the enigmatic driving ace Joseph Verbeeck and trainer Fabrice Souloy, which, for some reason I'm not complaining about, were conducted in English.

It wasn't so much what the interviewees said, it was that they were comfortable enough to speak on-camera in our tongue.

So, it was quite a day for Stefan Melander (who won the 2001 Hambletonian on our shores at the Meadowlands with Scarlet Knight, it should be remembered), Orjan Kihlstrom (who has had great success in the U.S., too, with very few opportunities; think Commander Crowe and D'One), the Solvalla track, Team Takter ... and a great day for trotting and the overall sport of harness racing.

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