YONKERS, N.Y. --- Timoko heads to Saturday’s $1 million International Trot at Yonkers Raceway without having raced since the end of June, but his connections believe the 8-year-old French star is ready to roll.
Bjorn Goop, who drives Timoko regularly for owner/trainer Richard Westerink, said via email this morning that Timoko’s absence was because of stallion duty. The horse was scheduled to return to action in the UET Masters Trot final on Sept. 13 in Belgium, but was scratched because of a fever.
Timoko and Goop will start the International Trot, which returns to Yonkers after a 20-year hiatus, from post No. 4 and are 6-1 on the morning line. Bee A Magician is the 3-1 favorite from post five in the 10-horse invitational event, which will be raced at 1-1/4 miles rather than the traditional one-mile distance.
“They have trained him really hard and say he is very well prepared to race super good so expectations are higher now since we got a good post position,” Goop said.
Post time is 2 p.m. for Saturday’s first race at Yonkers, with the International Trot set for 3:10 p.m. approximately.
Timoko, the winner of the 2014 Elitloppet, has two Grade 1 victories this year in Europe and finished third in the Prix d’Amerique. He has won 19 of 57 career starts and earned $3.72 million.
“The horse has had a good training,” Westerink said following Tuesday’s International Trot draw in New York City. “He is a little light, but I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Westerink is looking forward to racing in the U.S. for the first time. He also is looking forward to a strong effort from Timoko, having told Paris-Turf.com writer Fabrice Theil, “I do not just come to visit Manhattan with my family.”
“It was a dream for me to race in the States as a child, so this is fantastic,” Westerink said Tuesday. “This is a really big race and it is good for the sport.”
The International Trot was first held in 1959 and was won by France’s Jamin. France has won 12 editions of the race, which trails only the 13 triumphs by U.S. horses. Sweden’s His Majesty won the most recent International Trot in 1995. The event was resurrected this year by Yonkers Raceway President and CEO Tim Rooney.
“With Yonkers now a major player in the overseas simulcast market, we feel this is the best time to showcase our track to the world by again inviting the best trotters in the world to race here,” Rooney said in a statement. “We have had tremendous cooperation from our horsemen and all of us are looking forward to it.”
Goop is no stranger to Yonkers, having raced at the Hilltop as part of the 2011 World Driving Championship. Goop, in fact, made his last start in the U.S. a winning one, with a triumph in a 1-1/16 mile race at Yonkers as part of that series.
“I have driven at Yonkers before and also several half-mile tracks in Sweden regularly, so I think and hope it’s an advantage,” said Goop, who turns 39 on Oct. 13.
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Sweden’s Mosaique Face, the winner of the UET Masters Trot final in September and runner-up in this year’s Elitloppet, drew post eight – the most outside spot on the starting gate – for the International Trot.
The 6-year-old stallion will be driven by Adrian Kolgjini for trainer Lutfi Kolgjini. Owned by Tommy Nilsson Holding AB, Mosaique Face has won 14 of 54 lifetime starts and earned $1.57 million.
“I think the biggest competition is Mosaique Face and Bee A Magician,” Westerink said. “If Mosaique Face is out in front, he can win. If he is not leading, he will not win.”
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BBS Sugarlight, a 6-year-old gelding from Norway, counts this year’s Oslo Grand Prix and Olympic Trot among his 19 career wins. He will start the International Trot from post nine – the trailing spot behind Creatine in post one – with Johan Untersteiner driving for trainer Fredrik Solberg.
The earner of $827,607 in lifetime purses, BBS Sugarlight is owned by Knut Groenlie and Gunnar Jarlsen.
“He started to be a really good horse one-and-a-half years ago and has been increasing all the time in his results,” Groenlie said. “Stability (is his best attribute). He is a speedy horse from the start.”
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Italy’s Oasis Bi, who finished second in the Oslo Grand Prix and third in the UET Masters Trot final, drew post 10 for trainer Stefan Pettersson and driver Orjan Kihlstrom. The 7-year-old stallion has earned $1.01 million in his career and is owned by P.G. Svard’s Frackstad Lantbruks AB.
“Expectations fall a little bit after the start position, but we are still optimistic,” said Svard, who has a farm that produces eggs from more than 500,000 chickens near Mantorp, Sweden. “But there is enormous happiness and we are very proud for the invitation. We are really happy to be invited and lucky to be here.”
Oasis Bi, bred by Italy’s Giuseppe Biasuzzi, is by Toss Out, who won a division of the 1993 Zweig Memorial at Syracuse, and out of the Self Possessed mare Up Front JM.
“I bought him as a 1-year-old,” Svard said. “He has the American blood to thank for his talent.”
Oasis Bi’s starting spot trails Papagayo E, who leaves from post No. 2.
“If Papagayo opens early and we come to the rail, I hope to follow him,” Svard said.
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Papagayo E, a 5-year-old stallion from Norway, will start the International Trot from post No. 2 for trainer Jan Waaler and driver Ulf Ohlsson. He has earned $508,624 lifetime and is owned by Tom Andersen and Claes Sjolin. He won this year’s Jarlsberg Grand Prix and was third in the Oslo Grand Prix.
“Fantastic,” Andersen said about Papagayo E’s draw for the International Trot. “That’s what we hoped for – one, two or three. We have a fast horse, strong horse, and it looks really promising. He has never been better than today, I would say. I’m really excited to be part of this race. As everyone, we gamble, but if we have a good start we can finish in the top three.”
The winner of 11 of 24 career starts, Papagayo E raced only in Norway until a year ago, when he began testing the international waters.
“We have a couple small tracks in Norway and he was racing on those, so I think he’s actually going to like this track,” Sjolin said about the half-mile oval at Yonkers.
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On Track Piraten, a 7-year-old gelding from Sweden with lifetime earnings of $1.31 million, will start from post six. Erik Adielsson will drive for trainer Hans Stromberg and owner Stall CK HB. The horse won the Prix du Luxembourg and finished fourth in the UET Trotting Masters final.
“He’s a very strong horse,” Stromberg said.
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Five-year-old Rod Stewart, from Italy, drew post three. He finished second in this season’s Grade 1 European Championship for 5-year-olds and is trained by Jerry Riordan, a Rhode Island native who has spent the past two decades in Europe. Enrico Bellei will drive the $467,260-earner for owner Graziano Ceccaroni.
Rounding out the International Trot field are U.S. representatives Creatine and Natural Herbie.
For more about the International Trot and its participants, please visit the event’s special website here.
Following is the field in post order for the International Trot with listed drivers, trainers and morning line odds:
1. Creatine, Johnny Takter, Jimmy Takter, 4-1 2. Papagayo E, Ulf Ohlsson, Jan Waaler, 5-1 3. Rod Stewart, Enrico Bellei, Jerry Riordan, 12-1 4. Timoko, Bjorn Goop, Richard Westerink, 6-1 5. Bee A Magician, Brian Sears, R. Nifty Norman, 3-1 6. On Track Piraten, Erik Adielsson, Hans Stromberg, 10-1 7. Natural Herbie, Verlin Yoder, Verlin Yoder, 8-1 8. Mosaique Face, Adrian Kolgjini, Adrian Kolgjini, 6-1 9. BBS Sugarlight, Johan Untersteiner, Fredrik Solberg, 6-1 10. Oasis Bi, Orjan Kihlstrom, Stefan Pettersson, 8-1
Note: BBS Sugarlight and Oasis Bi start from the second tier.