23rd July 2009
Its Good To Be Home.
Well after 3 months and so many memorable experiences we would need a year to relate them to everyone. We are back and diving headlong into whatever will come our way back home. I know we should have written sooner but after so long away there is much to catch up on. It is my intention to update our news weekly with different things that we saw and learnt on our European adventure. Three months is a long time to spend living amongst what must be the best Trotting trainers and horses in the world, so we hope to be able to give everyone an insight into what makes Harness racing so popular in Sweden and France and also glimpses of what life is like for grooms, drivers etc. I will also write my thoughts on how things are done overseas and maybe we could adapt some of their ways and make our product better. One thing that stands out in my mind is that in France, the industry continues to thrive and grow on its own, so if they are the world leaders then they must be doing a lot right.
Sharon and myself arrived home after leaving Sundons Gift in the capable hands of Damian and Emma at Parsonage Farm at Newmarket in England where Bernie will go into Quarantine on the 21st (July) before his return home on the 13th of August. We transported Bernie from France with our lovely hosts, Anders Lindquist and his wife, Ionna, they had never been to England so took the opportunity to have a quick look around. We drove to the port of Calais in France then took a ferry to Dover (90 minutes) then by road again to Newmarket. The whole journey was about 10 hours long from stable to stable.
The white cliffs of Dover that we have heard about so much in books and movies were definately a sight to behold but the most amazing sight of our short stay in Newmarket had to be watching the gallopers work up the downs on the edge of town. On one side of the road was the town and on the other was what looked like a golf course but was a gently rising hill that was probably 1500 metres long and around 500 metres wide. There was a white running rail along one side next to a road where trainers, owners or whoever were interested could sit in there respective vehicles and enjoy the view of horses being ridden in single file at mostly moderate speeds up the rise. They would then just walk back down and either go home or do it again. Each day a different strip is designated so the going is always well prepared and safe and looking like you could play golf on. The number of beautiful studs and stables around the area is incredible and they are so neat and well groomed you slow as you drive past so as not to upset the karma that seems to surround them.
To everyone who sent us emails and have followed our story we appreciate it and hope you keep tuning in for a bit longer. To Junior, Ben Gledhill, Rocky and Lisa Fazzolari, Warren Beale, Simon Robinson and everyone at home who kept the flag flying with distinction while we were away, we are very grateful on the fantastic job that they did, in fact they did such a great job I intend to go back next year with or without a horse. The interest and feedback has been so positive from our adventure that we intend to organise a tour next year taking in the Elitloppet (of course) and France. So those of you that would like to go to Harness racing heaven need to start saving.
Cheers from the Globetrotting Team at Nagambie
10th July 2009
Heaven in France, Part 2.
Well still living the dream here in Paris. Another day at Grosbois and another day you have to pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming. The history surrounding the training centre is fascinating. The construction of the Chateau commenced in 1597 and is a sight to behold. You can view photos on our photos page. Napoleon Bonaparte gave the Chateau to one of his generals in 1805 for his services in battle. The general loved his horses and the original stables are still in use. The word Grosbois actually means big forest, so the name Le Chateau de Grosbois roughly translated is "the castle in the big forest". It was later decreed that the grounds surrounding the Chateau were to be kept as a forest for not only hunting but to help keep the air around Paris clean.
The trainers here literally live with their horses. The individual yards are set around a courtyard and house three rows of ten stables and to complete the quadrangle are the grooms quarters and also the main residence. These are both double storey so a lot of people can live in. You enter through a double gate and it is paved around the stables and in the centre is a giant willow tree. The horses are geared up in their stables and when it is time to go the grooms just lead them out and the horses stand while the sulky is attached, very well educated they are. Our host Mr Anders Lindquist is a very colorful character who has been in France for 15 years after being a leading trainer in Sweden. He has been very successful here and one day had horses running at ten different tracks, in four different countries. His wife Ioana does anything and everything around the stables and house and never stops. She can do everything from driving horses to preparing a feast for international guests and all the while making sure everyone is happy. It is also an experience to go driving with her through the streets of Paris, (its every man or woman for themselves).
Yesterday (Tuesday) our kind hosts took us for a tour through the main breeding area of France, known as Normandy. The more we see of France the more you love it and Normandy was no exception. There were endless rolling hills of green lush grass and beautiful big trees surrounding fields of some of the best breeding stock you could find in the world. We saw more studs and training farms than I can remember as there is a concentration of farms in this area some 200 kms to the west of Paris. Two things that stand out though were the training tracks of champion french horseman and breeder Mr Jean Pierre Dubois. We stood on top of a rise and stretched out before us were not one but four straight training tracks, each 1500 metres long and each made up of a different material and consistency. We also saw what we think is perhaps the highest priced trotting stallion in the world and available to "Aussie" breeders, Love You. He is viewed very favourably over here and highly sought after.
There happened to be a meeting that night at Carboug which provided another high point which had very little to do with harness racing. The meeting didn't start till 8.00 pm which suited us as we were very late after being to visit so many farms. We sat down in the restaurant overlooking the track and sitting at the next table was none other than Hollywood superstar, Omar Sharif. If you dont recognise that name then ask your mum, she will. We naturally had to introduce ourselves and by the end of the evening were on a first name basis and were swapping tips. Anders told him he had a winner the next day, it won at 7 to 1 so we hope he backed it. Omar is a regular at the trots in France and is also an owner, I suggested he get a trotter in Australia so he could come and visit. He took my card so maybe! Of course Sharon was smitten and had to be dragged away from the course after getting to kiss him.
Of course you cannot come to France and not spend some time in Paris itself so Wednesday afternoon we wandered around the streets absorbing as much of the culture that we could. We saw the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Moulin Rouge, Sacre Couer, Notre Dame, the Champs de Ellysees, the river Seine, the Louvre. Anders took us into Paris one evening at midnight which meant the traffic was light and we could experience the Paris summer nights. The city has a real buzz to it and we could not believe the amount of people still out and about. We have also been to Chantilly, which is the thouroughbred equivalent of Grosbois and also the castle at Versaille. Unfortunately our time here in France is coming to an end as Thursday evening we set off for Newmarket in England with Bernie. He will quarantine there before returning to Australia on the 13 th of August and begin his quest for back to back Inter titles. Sharon and myself leave Heathrow on Sunday evening and are back in Melbourne on Tuesday. So see you soon.
Cheers, Chris, Sharon and Bernie
9th July 2009
I am so excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We went to Carboug trots last night and had dinner, and get this, we were eating in the company of Omar Sharif!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Being the shy little wall flowers that we are by the end of the night we were exchanging tips and of course had his autograph and I kissed him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Although we were in France it wasnt a French kiss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Eat your hearts out, it was Dr. Zhivago live!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Waiting for him to call me back!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love Shez Shaz
7 July 2009
Viva la France.
Well I know its been awhile but there has been plenty happening over here and thats my excuse for not catching up sooner. Firstly its congratulations to Junior and Ben Gledhill on Skyvalley's victory on the opening day of Tabcorp Park. I know we have missed out on some things at home but we have not missed out on anything here.
Last Monday morning, 30 th of June at 8-00am we departed the stables at Almunge which had been our home for the past 11 weeks. It was a sad moment when we drove out the driveway for the last time. Torbjörn and Eva had been the best hosts we could have hoped for and we miss them a lot. His grooms Lisa, Helena, Stina, and even Johnny, will also be missed but after a few tears and many hugs away we went on the first leg of the journey home. We travelled south from Torbjörn's through Stockholm to the southern tip of Sweden about 600 kms away to the port of Trelleborg, where we boarded a ferry bound for Travemunde in Germany. The ferry took 9 hours to cross the Baltic sea and arrived at 7.30 am Tuesday. It is a great way to travel as once you get on board, you can sit down for dinner at your choice of 3 restaurants and then take in a movie or have a nightcap at the cocktail bar. There was also Karaoke but for us after a long day on the road, we were happy to retire to our cabin where the gentle humming of the engines soon put us to sleep.
The next morning we started in Germany and drove through Holland, Belgium and then France. For someone who had only visited one other country (NZ) apart from Australia my whole life it was hard to believe that we had travelled through so many different countries in such a short space of time. On Sunday evening I had started in Finland and by Tuesday evening I was 6 countries away. Incredible but to everyone over here no big deal, truck drivers do it every week for instance. One thing I couldn't believe was that our passports were never required. We arrived late in the evening, (Tuesday) and after such a long journey we were all glad it was over. Bernie of course was happiest of all. The transport had been his home for 40 hours which sounds like an horrendously long time but the whole time he was in the truck he was in a space for 3 horses and was able to move around freely and had water and feed at all times. I had not travelled a horse like that before but it is done regularly here and Bernie was jumping out of his skin on Wednesday morning. Except for the time aboard the ferry, every 4 hours we would take him off the transport and walk him and he was always under observation via the CCTV.
After a good nights sleep we arose on Wedneday morning and found we had gone to heaven! Well almost, it certainly is a trotting trainers heaven. We were at the stables of Mr Anders Lindquist and his wife Johanna,our new hosts. There barn is a part of the most amazing training farm you could imagine at Le Chateau de Grobois, situated only 22 kms from the heart of Paris and is another destination all harness racing enthusiasts must see. I think maybe next year we should have a tour to the Elitloppet and return home via here. There are some 900 horses in training here at present and this is the quiet time and when it is in full swing there are 1700 horses trained here each day.
Its hard to know where to start in trying to describe Grobois as there is so much here, not only in facilities but as a part of history. There is a magnificent 3 metre high stone wall that surrounds the 1000, yes 1000 hectare site. There are 3 circular training tracks. One is 1500 metres and is used for qualifying trials and has a 1000 metre warm up track in the centre. There is also another 1000 metre training track of the highest standard. There are 2 straight tracks, one is 1500 metres in length and runs along side the stone wall the entire way with the forest on the other side. I will never forget my first view when we came around the bend and the track just stretched out in front of us, as far as we could see. The other straight track is 1000 metres long and is really 2 tracks, side by side about 20 metres apart so you go in one direction on one side and the other direction the other side.
Then there are the jogging tracks which are possibly the high point of the training facilities. There are almost fifty (50) kilometres of trails that take you through a magnificent forest with trees towering overhead. If you think you might get lost out there your right, many grooms have said it takes months to get to know each trail. The trails are of varying sand depths and go up gently rising slopes and criss cross through the forest. Deer and pheasant are a common sight and you need to remind yourself that you have a job to do and are still training a horse to win races not just on a pleasure drive.
Around the many barns there are roads and tracks side by side and all traffic gives way to the horses. You literally drive across the roads without looking, knowing that if anyone is coming they will stop. A couple of times I have been walking on the road at the end of a workout talking with Anders when you realise that there is a car behind you wanting to pass. But in Grobois the horse rules. There is also a covered jog track about 450 metres around in case its raining and you dont want to get wet. The riding hall is also enormous and many trotters are ridden on a regular basis to help there suppleness and manners. When Teresa, Anders head groom found out Sharon was an accomplished dressage rider she was quick to get her on a trotter to help educate it. Perhaps what Sharon might remember most though will be the day we took out an 8 year old stallion in the double seater sulky just to walk through the forest with him as he was only just back in work. He was feeling a bit fresh and shied and took off and left Sharon behind on the track. No harm done just a tender bottom for a day or two. Even in heaven not everything is perfect!
The design of the barns and houses also are stunning and just blend in with the grandeur of the whole setup. As I have said there is a lot of history surrounding Grobois so we will follow up with part 2. Our European adventure is nearly over but there is much we will be seeing over here before we fly out of London on Sunday for the return home. And of course we are looking forward to seeing everyone at home again.
Team Lang, France.
3rd July 2009
Here's the interview...
I sliced it up like a big tomato, but there is also the long version (31 minutes).
Hope you'll enjoy France!
27th June 2009
Still In Sweden.
Well another week has gone by and we find ourselves still in Sweden but not for much longer. Due to a cry for help and transport issues with Bernie we have had to re-organise ourselves a bit. The cry for help came from a very unexpected place...........right here. Apparently every year around this time there is an invitational drivers challenge between Finland and Sweden and for some as yet unknown reason I have been invited to represent Sweden. It wasn't really a cry for help, I think I am the comedy relief, and our host Torbjörn Jansson had a lot to do with this. I am not sure who is happier, Sweden or Finland. I guess time will tell but on Saturday a group of 6 male drivers and 5 female drivers will fly to Finland to do battle the day after, in six (6) different races.
The first race takes place a long way from the trotting track but is just as important. We meet at a go-cart track and under race conditions all competing drivers will battle to take line honors as the points gained on the go-cart track are added to the horse racing points. So a keen race with no stewards present sounds scary. Those that survive the go-cart racing then head to the horse racing track to once again do battle. The girls do battle in a monte race (ridden trot) and also a driven pony race. The guys do battle in another 5 races. This will be no easier as one of the events is a cold blood race. We have seen them race here quite often and as wonderful as they are, there temperaments can be very stubborn. Then the easy bit of the competition comes when we just drive in 4 normal trotting races. The winners I suppose will have bragging rights for a year. To be invited is a great honor for me but just in case things dont go to plan we are booked to travel to France early on Monday morning. I better play it safe!
We have not yet mentioned that last Friday (19th) was Midsummers Day in Sweden. It is a public holiday here and is eagerly looked for to by all ages. It celebrates the longest day of the year and everyone has a party or goes to one. During the day it is traditional to pick wild flowers, make them into a head band and at about 3.00 pm, everyone dances around the Maypole. We were still driving back from our adventure down south at this time but fortunately made it back in time for the dinner party at Torbjörn and Eva's. We ate the traditional herring and many other dishes while everyone sang swedish songs and at the end of each song........ the familiar "skol" or for us simply "skull" or bottoms up. Not to be left out after each swedish song we would sing an Aussie song, good old waltzing matilda forever was a favourite. The next day Lisa Fazz the stable spokesperson who has been over here since the Elitlopp finally gave in to her husband's demands and sadly for all went home.
On Monday we were in for another amazing couple of days. Torbjörn had a horse racing at a track called Visby, not that amazing until you realise that it is situated on the island of Gotland. The island is about 60 kms off the eastern coast of Sweden and is known as Swedens paradise. To get there we left the stables with Lisa, Torbjörns groom and headed about an hour south of Stockholm to where the Gotland ferry departs. The ferry journey takes 3 hours and the ferries are like floating hotels. You can have a room but most just get either an armchair and watch the inhouse movie or just sit and enjoy the food or the view. On arrival at Visby, we took the horse to the racetrack and bedded her down. It was nearly midnight by then so we went straight back to the motel.
It was a glorious summer day the next morning, about 25 degrees C, so a great day to explore the town. The town was founded in the early 1100's and being somewhat isolated there was a massive wall constructed of stone built around the entire city to protect it from invasion. Most of the wall stands today and is still just as strong as when it was built. The town has grown beyond the walls today but you can purchase a house inside the walls and live there if you want, many people do. Probably what left the biggest impression on me was the ruins of St. Katherines Cathedral. Built in around 1250 there is no roof but most of the walls and parts of the stone arches still remain. We were able to walk around in the ruins and you cant help but be moved by how old the building is and how many people have passed this way before you.
So after more exploring and some retail therapy for Sharon it was off to the trots. There was probably a crowd of around 1500 there and 10 races. It was a very interesting day at the races and one of the best was the pony race. Ponies still live untamed on Gotland and have for hundreds of years so it is no surprise that their descendants are a big event on race day. They race for money and are handicapped on there earnings. The race we saw was over a mile and the winner came off 50 metres and won by an amazing 100 metres, they normally have closer finishes than that. The racing was as always very competitive and in one mobile race a horse took control of the driver after 2 false starts, so the driver just took him straight off the track and he was scratched! In another volt start race, there were 2 false starts caused by the same driver so that was instant disqualification for them. Visby is a summer track only and have about 10 meetings between May and July but there are at least 200 horses that are trained there all year round so when they race its a big day for them. Some people actually move to the island with their few trotters over summer and stay. It would be great. After the race we flew back to Stockholm with Torbjörn and left Lisa on her own for the ferry ride home. It was a 30 minute flight back over the Archipelago which again was a great sight and showed the amazing expanse of the islands off Stockholm.
So next Monday the 29th it's off to France. We will travel with Bernie to Malmo on the first leg of his homeward journey. Malmo is about 700 kms south of Stockholm on the southern tip of Sweden, here we will board a ferry for a 6 hour trip to Germany and then about a 12 hour road trip to Paris. I have been looking forward to going to France for many reasons but the main reason is that we are going to stay at the world famous training centre at Grobois. The training centre is about 30 kms out of Paris and is by all reports one of those places that you have to see to believe, (kind of like the Elitlopp). There are about 1500 horses in training there. We will be staying with a former Swede who has been training there for the last 15 years, Mr Anders Lindquist. More on this next week.for what should be another huge learning experience for us. I cant wait. Talk to you again soon.
Cheers from Sweden.
21st June 2009
Back to School.
Dont want anyone thinking that we are now on holidays over here just because Bernie now is. I was able to spend 2 mornings working with Mr. Åke Svanstedt, Swedens number 1 trainer and considered by many to be the leading trainer of trotters in the world. He won the Elitlopp for the second time this year. Some people at home think I am a little soft in the head for training around 20 trotters, try training 170 of them because thats how many Åke has in work at his property at Kvänum about 400 kms south west of Stockholm.
On his farm there are 5 barns each housing up to 42 horses. Each barn is divided into 6 sections which have 7 stables, washbay and Tack room. A feed room is shared between 2 sections. Attached to each barn there is a large self contained area with change rooms, tea rooms, toilets, showers and sleeping quarters even though the grooms live off the property. There are 5 grooms in each barn and each groom is responsible for 8 or 9 horses and have there own section in each barn and share 1 section. The training tracks comprise a 1000 metre circular track, two 800 metre straight tracks and a idyllic 8 km jog track that winds through a nearby forest.
At 7.00 am Åke starts his rounds of the stables with his second trainer, Glenn Persson. Loosely speaking each horse is fast worked twice a week and 50 % are fast worked Monday and Thursday and 50 % Tuesday and Friday. Together with the groom, each horse is discussed and it is decided which horses work with who and how many heats etc. Amazing as it sounds but Åke knows each horse. There are 3 trips a day, at 7.45, 9.45, and 11.15 am. At precisely 7.45 the first horses start making there way toward the jog track and when everyone is in line they start jogging. It is an amazing sight to see 27 horses jogging along in single file through the forest and a sight I will never forget. The horses do 1 lap of the forest track before making there way to the fast work tracks with Åke and Glenn all the while in front and behind and inspecting each horse as they go. If there are any concerns with a horse then it is handled long before they get to do any hard work.
Most of the fast work is done on the straight tracks and the first drive I had was amongst about 20 other horses. They work 4 abreast with Äke up front setting the tempo each time. It is no small wonder that working amongst that many other horses they become good racehorses. You can log onto Åkes web site, www.akesvanstedt.se and go to the Galleri. There are a lot of pictures and it is well worth a look. I think it would take me a week to put down in print what I saw and tried to take in during the 2 mornings I was there and this short account goes no where near doing justice to the magnitude and professionalism of this amazing operation. Each individual horse is cared for and any of the grooms would be an asset to any stable anywhere in the world. The horses welfare and contentment are paramount at all times and this is reflected in their results.
Visiting Åke's is no doubt a highlight of the trip. The facilities, the training methods, the quality of his staff, just have to be seen to be appreciated. But the most amazing thing that happened while I was there I have saved for last. On the first morning as I tagged along trying not to be in the way, we eventually got to Torvald Palemo's stable and Åke proudly pointed him out as you would expect. I thought it would be great if I could watch him work but I got a hell of a lot more than I could have dreamed about when Åke said that I could drive him. Unbelievable, I thought that he and Glenn were joking but no one was laughing so 25 minutes later there I was sitting behind the Elitlopp winner. Never before have I been so nervous in trackwork but thankfully all went to plan. We may not have won the Elitlopp but I now know what it feels like to drive an Elitlopp winner. There have been many times lately when I have had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming and this was one of those times.
Take care, Team Lang, Sweden
18th June 2009
Southern Swedish Travels.
Well we might not be racing over here anymore but thanks to the generosity of our host, Torbjörn and his capable staff we are able to continue our education in Sweden. Wednesday finds us 350 kms south west of Stockholm at Broline Stuteri, (Stud) with our new host Jonas Carlen. We were able to watch him collect 4 stallions in the morning before being shown mares, foals and the facilities of the 1,000 hectare stuteri. First cab off the rank for semen collection was Quite Easy, an Andover Hall stallion. This stallion collected with no mare present, he was gentle, polite and knew his job. The next stallion we saw collected was the 19 year old Pine Chip. This magnificent stallion had his girlfriend present, who he treated to a most romantic interlude before fullfilling his duties on the dummy mare. Jonas displayes an affinity with his horses that we have rarely witnessed. The stallions are quiet and incredibly well behaved, resulting in time efficiency. At no stage did we feel that time was an issue, although obviously the stuteri had lots of orders to fill.
The next star in the arena was Lindy Lane, whom we have idolised from afar because of Kyvalley Road and our two brood mares at Aldebaran Park, who are by him. Again this champion was a true gentleman and appeared to be a pleasure to work with. The last stallion we witnessed collected was a young import from America, who was collected from a live mare. She was secured with kicking hobbles and wore a vinyl quarter rug (not very sexy unless you are into plastic!). Interestingly we observed Jonas in very close contact with the horses's chest, face and neck using his hands and voice to stimulate the stallion's response. When we asked him later why he did this he replied that he is trying to keep the horses's focus on him as they are trying to swap the youngster onto a dummy mare by the end of the season. Again the stallion was collected with extreme efficiency and no fuss.
We were then taken on a tour of the stuteri where we were shown some beautiful mares and foals and were in awe of the fabulous facilities. At Broline they have some 140 mares, together with visting mares that are kept separately for health reasons. All the young stock were confident and friendly which is a direct result of the handling they receive from birth. Upon commenting about this Jonas told us that there are two people who's full time job is to go into the field and check and record every foal's temperature. In the afternoon any foal recording a slightly high temperature is rechecked. All the horses we saw on the property are in amazingly good condition and were allowed to have their own personalities. The horses seemed to be genuinely happy as they were kept outside in a very social enviornment. In particular we were blown away by the condition of the two old boys Pine Chip and Lindy Lane. Pine Chip looked like polished ebony and Lindy Lane's dapples would be the envy of any "showie".
In the afternoon we made our way to Bjertorp Slott (a Swedish castle), a further 100 kms west. This old and elegant lady with her formal gardens has been refurbished in the style of Art Nouveau. The modern versus old is a very interesting contrast and the service and comfort is 5 star, of which classy Sharon and Lisa fit right in!!!! After a superb 3 course meal with accompanying wines we spent a very relaxed evening and I'm off to Åke Svanstedt's in the morning, who just happens to live only 4 kms from the castle and the main reason for our 2 night stay. Åke is the leading trainer in Sweden and just happened to train this years Elitlopp winner, Torvald Palerma.
Ciao for now Team Sweden
18th June 2009
Hej Hej thought we would make your day.
The world has become our new stage everyone thinks Bernie, Fazz and Shaz are the latest craze.
Shaz's Swedish is very wonky she accidently called a Journo a donkey. This went down like a lead balloon but we made friends again real soon.
The scenery is a delight you can even see at night. As the sun does not go down it makes for good window shopping whilst in town.
The hospitality here has been great but our horses are now not going to be able to hold our weight.
Fazz and Shaz have double in size but we still have a craving for Aussie pies.
Vegemite had to be shipped across cause there is nothing here to replace the loss.
Potatoes are the most popular dish but vegies we surely do miss.
A new drink we have discovered which has to be kept in a very high cupboard. The power of Calvados is very deceptive and it makes us females very receptive!!!!!
Chris trained with leading Swede man of whom he is a great fan, but did make a huge impression cause into a drain he ran.
Learning continues at every turn and to practice our new knowledge we do yearn.
Bernie stayed healthy and well, shiney coat, bright eye and feeling swell.
Blingy breast plate we did buy sparkling brightly it took your eye. It did'nt make the horse go quicker but in the sun it surely did glitter.
Tears in our eyes on many occassions when they played Bernie's home wins in front of the nations. We did'nt run last proved Aussie horses are fast.
Friends and contacts have been made our stable at home will now be a world stage.
A mare we have purchased with Italian, French and American blood and a stallon is arriving as well, who is no dud, we will fly lots of European flags at our stud.
Horses of all caliber we have viewed and we now know Aussie horses are just as goooood!!!
Cheers Fazz and Shaz (International Globe Trotters extrordinaires!)
17th June 2009
16th June 2009
The Trip To Boden
On Thursday morning we set off on our trip to Boden (to the race briefly described in our previous email). Boden is approximately 1000 kms north of Stockholm, towards the artic circle. Boden is only 150 kms from the world famous ice hotel. The journey north took 11 hours from stable to stable. We followed the E4 highway which is flanked either side by green rolling hills covered in pine and silver birch interspersed with many picturesque lakes. The highlight of the drive was travelling over one of the longest bridges in all of Sweden. As we approached the bridge, which in our minds resembled the Brooklyn Bridge, (although none of us have actuallly been to America!), the tops of the pylons disappeared into the low hanging mist, which was eerie in appearance, but very beautiful. The girls' jaws dropped open when we entered a roundabout in the town of Umeå as a ski jump on the side of the road ascended into the clouds, I of course missed it as I was negotiating the trials of driving on the wrong (right) side of the road. If you think the Eureka Tower is tall you should have seen this! The jump is a man made synthetic ski jump built for the purpose of aerial distance jumping, that seemed to us to be horribly close to the road.
We were greeted in Boden by Per and Katerina Larsson, whom provided accommodation for Bernie. An example of their generous and welcoming natures was that a name plate with his breeding had been prepared and mounted on his stable door. On race day when we arrived at the track we were again blown away by the atmosphere. At the entrance to the track there is a much larger than life statue of a renowned local trainer and driver and horse. The crowd was in excess of 7000, a record breaking attendance and Sven (course administrator) accorded this to the appearance by Sundons Gift. It was the first time a horse from down under had ever raced that far north. The Aussie flag was flying at full mast and we felt very patriotic. An emotional time was had by Sharon and Lisa as Bernie entered the track, the crowd cheered and clapped him enthusiastically. It was nice to hear an Aussie voice when the final moments of the Interdominion were played over the speakers as Bernie began his warm up lap. At this point tears were flowing!! All involved on the day, Aussies and Swedes alike, were very proud of Bernies achievements.
That night after the race we were invited to the traditional "After Party", which is held at Western Farm. What started out a few years ago as a night to unwind for the harness racing fraternity after Boden's biggest day of the year has developed into a not to be missed event. Boy what a night, Western Farm is a fantasy wildwest town, resembling an American film set. The authentic timber buildings consist of a jail, bank and rawhide saloon. There was even an outdoor rave party in an American frontier setting. Inside the rawhide saloon we danced to the live western band, where table top dancing is permitted and encouraged. I had my first ride on a mechanical bucking bull, which I rode for 7.85 seconds before being "dumped", to the amusement of the crowd. I have the bruises to prove it!! Our hosts were very impressed by the Aussie Party Animals. Of course by this time it was well after midnight and to our amazment on leaving the indoor venue we were greeted by the midnight sun, which is incomprehensible for us southern hemisphere dwellers. The standard joke whilst in Boden was that we were not going to do anything until the sun went down (which of course never happened!!).
Sunday morning we experienced some good Swedish weather and it never stopped raining all day, but this never detracted from the wonderful place that we visited. Per took time out to take us to one of the natural wonders of Sweden, a waterfall called Storforsen. The waterfall at Storforsen is the biggest in Scandinavia and we were able to get so close to it we could touch it. It is very difficult to describe how we felt when face to face with the ferocity and power of this river. The noise is thunderous, the fine mist spray soaks you from head to foot, the sight is overwhelming and the taste of the water is pure as the source comes directly from the snow melt. Altogether the experience was awesome and a memory that will last forever.
The next morning (Monday) the weary travellers loaded up for the 11 hour return journey to our home base at Torbjörn and Eva Jansson, Seglinge. Bernie handled the trip much better than his human counterparts, but we feel that to continue racing him would adversley effect his future, so we have decided not to race him again in Europe. We feel though that he has come though all his many challenges with flying colours. He has had 4 starts for 4 personal bests and we feel we can ask no more of him. Our next important task is to return him safely to Australia to defend his Interdominion title and come back and do it all again next year.
Hej Do from Team Sweden.
15th June 2009
Well done, picked the below up from quite a good international website: http://www.121s.com/viewtopic.php?t=39583
Boden Sweden Saturday June 13
In what was a very strong lineup this was a pretty good run by Sundons Gift who once again as he has in all his starts in Sweden drew a poor gate and was forced to race with little luck from the outset being trapped very wide Chris Lang had little choice but to press on sitting parked before getting cover in the final lap.Moved into 3rd at the top of the lane and although the earlier effort had taken it`s toll he still battled on really well.Starting to look more settled now and only needs to draw a decent gate if they decide to take in one or two more races before heading home, could very well pick up something.
For Race Replay Open Link below - click on 3 in the following V75 races displayed
(look for him with the white bandages on both front feet if you are having troubling picking him out)
V75 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
R6SEK600,000 G2 Norrbottens Stora Pris-Gulddivisionen,forsok 3 2140m
1ST 8 GLOBAL GLIDE A Svanstedt
2ND 5 SCARLETS AINO H Sundberg
3RD 10 INTOXICATED U Ohlsson
2 GIANT SUPERMAN F Larsson
7 SUNDONS GIFT C Lang
6 EVIDENCE ÅS E Adielsson
9 D.J.SEABROOK R Bergh
1 BORN TO DANCE T Jansson
3 ACCLAIM H Eriksson
4 SHORTHANDED GOAL M Jaara