The summer party for Swedish trotting racing continues this week to Årjäng, where the Årjängs Stora Sprinterlopp is the big race of the day.
A sprint race over 1640m, contested by the best horses around, it is a particular highlight on the harness racing calendar.
What usually makes the race even more special is its location. Located in the north-west of the country, Årjäng’s racetrack is different in that instead of big grandstands, the crowds gather on natural banks around the track to witness the spectacle.
Of course, this year there will be no crowd due to the Coronavirus, which is a real shame as we usually enjoy a big crowd for this meeting making it a special event.
Big race invitation at stake
The winner of Saturday's big race will be invited to Hugo Åberg's Memorial with SEK 1.6 million to the winner, a race which takes place at the end of the month in Malmö at Jägersro.
Entry to that contest is particularly revered as it is the second largest sprint race to be run in Sweden after the Elitloppet.
The big race double has been done a number of times, most recently by Propulsion, a horse we have spoken about a lot recently, and will undoubtedly mention further, even in this blog.
My thoughts on the race
In this year's edition at Årjäng there is SEK 500,000 to the winner, and we line up with many horses in with a chance of success.
However my choice in the race would be number 2, Mellby Free, trained and driven by Björn Goop. He’s been given a great starting position in the number two slot, and comes into this race in great form.
What is particularly interesting is that he has been running with shoes for his two runs this season, when finishing second, but his trainer has chosen to take those shoes off for this race.
Bjorn Goop is one of the best tactical drivers around, and I expect him to know exactly how to deliver this horse to win the big race of the weekend.
As for the opponents, we have four horses that participated in the Elitloppet back in May, namely Disco Volante, Sorbet, Racing Mange and Milliondollarrhyme.
Of these, only Disco Volante, has been handed a good starting position, allocated number four for the race, which will undoubtedly increase his chances.
The horses in the race look so closely matched that the starting number can have a massive effect on their chance to win.
I would say that of the named quartet, Sorbet is probably the best horse. He often played second to Propulsion who was trained in the same stable. This year could be the one for him to do well, but from his starting position on Saturday, he needs some luck.
Another twist in the Propulsion saga
Talking of this year’s Elitloppet winner, Propulsion, we discussed the ongoing case around his ‘nerving’ operation in a previous blog.
This week it has transpired that a top security official at Svensk Travsport, assigned to investigate the situation has been fired.
It is still unclear as to the exact reasons, but it is another major development in a story that has gripped our sport.
The investigation continues and is expected to be completed in mid-August.
My best bet in Sweden this weekend
Back at Årjäng this Saturday, a horse by the name of Civilion lines up in race nine on the card at 4:50pm. Last year he was to be aimed at the biggest three-year-old contest of the season, the Svenskt Travkriterium, but failed to qualify for the final race.
After that he didn’t race again as a three-year-old, but he returned recently for his first start of the year at Örebro. He won in good style, in what was an excellent return to the track.
He remains an excellent horse for the class of race he tackles this week, and with improvement expected from his run last time, he looks like a top chance to me, and merit my best bet of the weekend in Sweden.