Archive Page 1
14th June 2009
A quick note on our race at Boden. Unfortunately not a win but a good 5 th. He drew wide and was a bit keen at the start. We worked forward to the death after 600 metres and then got cover at the bell. There was a galloper at the 800 who was nuisance value to us but we eventually got a clear run and he finished okay. His time of 1.56.0 was terrific considering the trip he got. He lost no friends and his performances here have won him much praise. Will return to Stockholm tomorrow, (Monday) and will then make further plans depending on how he recovers. More news will follow soon re our trip to the far North of Sweden where the sun doesn't set. Must also congratulate Junior and the team at home on their Group One, Victoria Oaks win, a super effort by all.
Cheers from Team Sweden.
7th June 2009
Finally coming back down to earth after what was the most incredible day of trotting we have ever known. It is a day that I think every harness racing enthusiast should make a point of experiencing at least once in there lifetime. It will be hard to describe what makes the Elitloppet a day that people talk about for months in advance and then reflect upon for weeks afterwards. Over here for many people trotting has been a large part of there lives, through direct involvement as an owner, strapper, trainer, driver, etc, or through someone they khow who has an involvement so therefore are exposed to it regularly. Through this involvement people are very well educated and not only know there favourite horses but also know many trainers and drivers and follow them passionately. Everyone over here dreams of winning the Elitlopp and if you are lucky enough to have a runner in the event then this is fairytale stuff and you are envied by all who dont have a runner. To be invited is an honour in itself and we were not aware of how lucky we were just to be invited.
The day starts very early for many as they wait for the gates to be opened at 8.00 am and then run to get the best vantage points along the home straight. All the way along the home straight there is a white line that extends out about 5 metres and inside this line you can set up your chairs and eskies and enjoy the days entertainment. You can also drink alcohol inside this line but if you step outside it then you are asked to leave the course very quickly so needless to say that everyone stays inside the line and respects this rule. As the track comes all the way to the outside fence, it feels like you can just reach out and touch the horses as they fly past, which is another reason why this is the most sought after real estate on the day. Groups also claim small sections in the stands where they get together and hang out flags of their country, their favoured horse, trainer or driver. Because people get to the track so early to get good viewing spots, the first race is run at 10.30 am and the second race, a monte or ridden trot is run at 1.05 pm.Each time an Elitlopp runner goes past they cheer and the respective drivers are expected to respond which of course makes everyone cheer more. If no response is forthcoming then you are booed until you do, but everyone gets into the spirit of the cheering and laps it up. As each Elitlopp runner normally warms up twice before the elimination heats, this adds up to a lot of cheering.
Being an actual participant on the day is like nothing I could have imagined. Having never attended an Elitlopp before, I had no idea of what went on. I might just add that there were meetings at Solvalla on the Wednesday evening, Friday, Saturday and of course the big one on Sunday. On the Friday after the last race at about 5.00 pm, everyone was given the opportunity to meet and get autographs from some of the overseas drivers. So straight after the last, myself along with 5 other drivers which included Luc Quellette and Tim Tetrick from America, Andrea Guzzinati from Italy, Hugo Langeweg Jr from Denmark and Peter Ingves from Sweden, stood in front of the presentation area near the winning post for about 40 minutes signing autographs and getting our photos taken with people from all over the world who had come to town for the Elitloppet. This was amazing in itself but nothing compared to what was to come on the big day.
On the big day, all the trainers and drivers participating in the Elitlopp were asked to assemble near the track at 11.45 am in our race colours where an open top double decker bus was waiting. It was painted in the Elitloppet '09 colours and as we boarded, we were given a flag of our respective countries and then the bus drove onto the track and the most surreal 40 or so minutes of my harness racing life started to unfold. By this time there were over 30,000 fans filling the grounds and stands all waiting for the action to begin. I felt that I had never seen so many people in one place in my life. As we were driven along the straight to the presentation area, everyone was clapping and cheering and you couldn't hear yourself think. It was literally a sea of people with flags and banners waving everywhere. It was almost impossible to distinguish anyone in the crowd but as the bus moved slowly along, a flag of a particular country would wave and there representative would acknowledge them and they would cheer even louder. It was great to see a Green and Gold flag of a boxing kangaroo amongst the thousands of other flags.
When we finally got to the presentation area we filed off the bus to where the official opening ceremony took place. There were fireworks and hundreds of balloons were released. Standing in front of all those cheering people was overwhelming and is a moment I will never forget. It was a pround moment to see the "Aussie" flag flying amongst all the other competing countries flags. Each trainer and driver was presented with flowers and then the official photos were taken. There were more photographers than I have ever seen before and I hope they got one good shot. The official Elitloppet group shot will be one I treasure for ever.
After all this we still had to get back to the stables. By this time the bus had miraculously reappeared ready to head back down the straight, so we got on board and slowly made our way along the sraight again with 30,000 fans still going crazy. As we made our way along the track, each driver and trainer threw their flowers into the crowd, which of course was a big hit. I spotted Mick and Freda Lombardo and lauched my flowers in their direction but another fan took a leap and claimed them for their own. Fortunately I was given another bouquet and made sure that the group with the boxing kangaroo flag got them. Eventually we made it back to the stable enclosure. I dont know how much time passed from when I got onto the bus till we got back to where we had started but it didn't seem like very long. I'm glad this was a couple of hours before the race because it took me awhile to come back to reality. .
When I got back to the stable the grooms, Sharon and Lisa had things well in hand. We were concerned in the lead up to the race that Bernie might not handle the atmosphere but as it turned out he did a great job. We warmed him up twice before the elimination and he felt like he was ready to explode but in a good way. It was nice in the warm ups to be able to again take in the atmosphere and the crowds. All day we had many well wishers and autograph hunters so this also kept us busy. I watched the first elimination and witnessed the fastest lead time ever, (1500 metre marker to the 1000 metre marker). I was not aware of the overall time but new it was very quick. Then suddenly it was time for our race. As I made my way out to the track it was very difficult to not be swept away by all that was going on and all that had gone on prior to us even getting there, I knew that the eyes of the harness racing world were upon each and every driver out there and the last thing you wanted was for something to go wrong. Considering that we were in amongst the worlds best horses and drivers, there was plenty that could happen.
The score up and start went very well. The 7 horse galloped shortly after release and we nearly locked wheels, a scary moment but no harm done and it trotted again quickly. Bernie got away well but as anticipated the 8 hole was still a long way from the inside of the track. Once I got to the inside though I stayed there. Bernie was travelling well at the bell and even though we were going fast he felt good. When the sprint came on down the back with about 600 metres to travel I felt we may still be able to qualify, especially when the favourite for the final, Buck I St Pat who had raced outside the leader started to give ground. On the final bend we were going as fast as we could and they wouldn't wait for us. We were not able to make any ground so ended up in 6 th position. I was very happy with the way Bernie went and when I learned that the winner, Jaded had just trotted the fastest mile ever in Sweden, a brilliant 1.52.2, then I felt even happier. Bernie went another personal best, his third in succession, an amazing 1.53.8. The feedback we got from other trainers and drivers after the event was very positive and they felt as we did that had Bernie drawn well then we could have made the final.
All in all it was just great to have been a part of what must be the greatest trotting race on the planet. Running 6 th in a race may not appear on face value to be much of an achievement but considering what we had to do to get there, I personally consider that it was almost on a par with winning the Inter. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the countless number of people involved in us getting here, and also for the emails and especially Junior and the crew who continue to fly the flag at home . Our next race on our Scandinavian adventure is at Böden on June 13th. Böden is about 1200 kms north of Stockholm and the sun apparently does not go down at this time of year.
Until next time, we are still living the dream in Sweden!
1st June 2009
Well, where do we begin? This was a day that in our wildest dreams you could not have imagined the feeling of just being there. It was a balmy 27 C, sun shining brightly and a slight breeze. The crowd was well over 30,000 people who seemed to be there not only for the party atmosphere but to watch the best trotters in the world. They were not disappointed.
In the first elimination we got to see what was described as the
fastest lead time ever seen in Sweden. The first 500 metres was run in
a blistering 1.47 . The first 1000 metres was covered in 1.51. This
must have been so as these horses did not figure in the final.
In Bernies heat the winner went 1.52.1 ( a swedish record) and Bernie
produced yet another P.B. of 1.53.8 ( knocking off 5 seconds from his
Aussie best time ). Unfortunately this was not enough to qualify as he
could only manage 6 th place. His time is reported to be the fastest
ever by a southern hemisphere horse in the Elitloppet and had he drawn
more favourably with the gate speed he showed today then qualifying
would have been almost assured. Bernie handled all the action and
excitement of the day in a relaxed and professional manner.
Overall we were proud of the job he did on the worlds biggest stage. We
couldn't have asked for any more and he gave everything he had and
some. We have never seen him as tired after a race but recovered well
and was tucking into his dinner when he got home. Tomorrow we will all
have a well earned rest and reflect on what has been the most amazing
experience of our lives. The winner, Torvald Palema, trained and driven
by Åke Svanstedt, Swedens leading trainer, won in a time of 1.53.1. At
the presentation ceremony emotions were running high as Åke was unable
to speak for tears, we can only imagine how he felt.
Through the course of the day we recieved numerous text and email
messages that were uplifting and heart felt. Being so far from home you
cannot imagine how much it means to know that everyone is supporting us
win lose or draw. Thank you from us all in Sweden. If all goes well
then Bernie will race again on the 13th in Boden in another Group 1
feature but this time over 2100 metres.
Its almost midnight here in Sweden and all the keys are starting to
look the sameeeeeeee!
31st May 2009
Well we are still here and the horse is great, the big day is tommorrow. As a trainer ( or his wife ) there is really not much we can do now but get him to the racetrack on time and in one piece. When they tell you that the atmosphere is electric they are not joking, there are a huge amount of well behaved and enthusiastic people,all very vocal and barracking for there personal favourite. We have been so well treated over here and have had so much support not only locally, but by emails, Texts, etc. The support we have received from all over the world has been terrific. Of course a lot of support has come from home and we hope we are able to give every one something to cheer about. There is a growing band of "Aussies" now so it all adds to the excitement.
We will be doing our utmost tomorrow but whatever the result we feel that we are already winners in so many ways, keep everything crossed for Team Swedish Lang...
AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE OI OI OI
Chris Sharon Lisa and BITE THE BULLET BERNIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
31st May 2009
More TV INterviews, Go to www.svt.se Go to svt play dated May 28th - then type in Chris Lang in the Sok section across the top and up comes CWL.
27 May 2009
If your interested there is a couple of interviews with a canadian magazine, the Harness Edge, one interview is with Klaus Koch the swedish administrator responsible for getting us over here on the Elittlopp heats. The other is with yours truly. www.theharnessedge.com
24th May 2009
Sixth place may not sound that good but bring on the ELITLOPPET ( as
long as we get a decent draw).
Hi guys, Burnie (his new spelt name) was wowing them today. The little Aussie supastar raced really nicely with no luck and a bad draw, (we are hoping all the bad draws bode well for a good draw in the big one). Bernie did another P.B. today, and with his new headgear was untroubled by the sand kicking up in his face. It seemed like if he had been able to get out he would have run a really nice placing. His fitness levels seem great and if we can keep him happy and healthy until next Sunday, and draw with a little luck, he will be competitive. In our opinion he earned his place with his run today, and showed he deserves to be here amongst the worlds best. Today there were horses from the US, France, Denmark and of course Sweden, these horses were competing for a spot in the Elitloppet so they were of a high standard. The race was a genuinely run affair but as we drew inside the second row and the pole horse, a noted quick beginner who was slow out and put us 5 back on the rail, meant we needed a lot of luck which was not forthcoming so we were held up but ran home strongly.
As today was treated by us as just a lead up run, it was a good result and we will be better again next week. It was a confidence boosting run not only for the horse but for us humans as well. Considering the fact Bernie has never been a miler he is adjusting very quickly to these short races and proves that if you are a good horse in Australia you are competitive on the world stage. We wonder how many European horses could travel half way round the world and be able to race over 2600 metres and still be competitive?
Well time for us to get some sleep before the "In The Gig" crew ring at 6.00 am Sunday morning for an update on our adventure here, so if we dont sound that chirpy on the show tomorrow (Sunday) night, you will understand why. But you need to watch the show to hear the latest.
Bye for now,
National Langpoons European Vacation.
20th May 2009
Plenty going on over here. Bernie will be racing on Saturday at Solvalla again, another mile race of a very high standard with some Elitlop hopefuls engaged including the winner of our last race. He has drawn barrier 9 which is the inside of the second row. The horse drawn the pole is apparently a quick beginner but we are going to need a few things to go our way from in there. We hope that this run will bring his fitness up another level for the big one, 8 days later.
We heard a funny story from Torbjörn the other day. He was telling us that when the lake near the training track at Seglinge where we are staying freezes over during winter, it becomes a nice surface to train on. Apparently ice with a covering of snow is very good, it just sounds cold to us! This track on the lake needs upkeep as any track in use does. One day when Torbjörn was on his way to the races he stopped to chat to the fellow who was grooming the track in his tractor with the drag following behind. An hour later he recieved a phone call from the same gentleman, who was a little distressed as he was watching the tractor sink into the lake after the ice broke under the weight of the vehicle!!!!!!!!!!!! The really amazing thing was that after sitting at the bottom of the lake for two months the tractor was recovered, given a fuel and oil change, and was in perfect working order. Needless to say the training of horses on the lake was suspended that year!!!!!!!!!!!!
Torbjörn was telling us this story on the way to one of the many studs that have made us more than welcome. We visited Västerbo Stuteri, which is owned by Michael Demmers, he was kind enough to let us see his elite auction yearlings ( he´s got a really special Love You colt, moves like a superstar ) and then took us through the colt barn, what a smorgasboard of breeding, and through his filly barn and to the lovely foals. The highlight though was seeing his stallions, Mr Pine Chip (S J's Caviar, Miss Pine Chip), Kiss Francias (Reve d'Udon, Soiree Bleu), and Good As Gold (Sugarcane Hanover, Theiza). When we saw the yearling colts they were all standing around the edge of a large shed tied to the walls, side by side. There would have been about 25 colts in total and they all had individual feeders and as we were shown each horse it was brought into the centre of the shed and paraded. At each stud we went to, from the foals right through to the yearlings, we have been amazed at how these horses confidently approach you and allow you to handle them even though you could be in in a 20 acre paddock. (Not unlike the Aldebaran Park foals!!!!!) When they were let free to return to their paddock the colts didn't want to leave, they much preferred to continue checking out the visitors.
We also went to Boko Stables where we met John and Annika, who run a incredibly professional stud. Again it was a beautiful stud where all the horses are so well cared for and kept in picture postcard surroundings. Wandering through the lush green paddocks and having the breeding explained to us just makes you drool with envy. There was a forest in the background and a golf course also on one side of the stud. John is a very progressive thinker and regularly goes to America and buys classic winning race mares to supplement his breeding stock. He also sells progeny in utero, or when they are only a couple days old, as yearlings or whenever. If you go there and like something, if it hasn't already been sold then you know you can buy it if you like. One example was a beautiful yearling colt who was sold at 7 days old for an amount in excess of a million swedish kroner!
Then we went around the corner to Menhammer Stuteri (Stud), as it was late in the day we couldn't see the young ones but were shown there Stud stallions. The first was From Above who won the Criterium at 3 years, the Derby at 4 years (which is when they have their Derby in Sweden) and the ELITLOPPET at 5 years. These are the 3 grand slam races in Sweden. Viking Kronos who had only 14 starts for 12 wins and 6.1 million sek in stakes. He is one of the leading sires and very popular at present. Going Kronos is a son of Viking Kronos, he is his fastest son to date and has earnt 6.7 million sek. Then we had the ultimate experience when we met VARRENE. The highest stake earning trotter in history (6.038.417 million EURO, 12 MILLION Aud, 66 million Sek). He won the Elitlop twice, Sweden, Prix d'Amerique x 2 France, the highest stakemoney race in Europe. He won the Breeders Crown in America in world record time, he had 73 lifetime starts for 62 wins, 6 seconds and 2 thirds, and we patted him!!!!!!!!!
Dont you just wish you were here!!!! Next time you are thinking about buying a yearling, perhaps you should buy a trotter as you might end up over here with us, having the experience of a lifetime!!!!!
Bye for now, Team Sweden.
18th May 2009
A quiet few days over here, which has been nice. Time for us to reflect on Bernies first run over here. After viewing the replay a few times, and taking into consideration the fact he gave away a few lengths in the back stretch when he decided he didn't like the dirt thrown in his face, we think it was a good run first up after 2 months and intend to run him again in a mile race at Solvalla next Saturday (23 rd).
Our host Torbjörn Jansson has just been awarded a really wonderful award. This award is from the Animal Humane Society and is awarded to a person who is seen to be fair and kind to their animals and always gentle. It has only been awarded to one other harness person ever ( Stig Johansson) and would be an absolute priviledge to win. As always T.J. was very humble about the award and said that it was a really good reflection on trotting in general but I must say that Torbjorn has an amazing quietness and patience around the horses and uses the whip about as often as the Western Bulldogs win the premiership.
On the subject of our hosts, Eva , Torbjörns wife, has been really successful with her dogs. Eva trains Border Collies and after they are obedience trained they go on to agility competition and then sheep trial competition. Eva is the most respected trainer in Sweden and always has several people and dogs at her farm for lessons. One of her young dogs, Knut, today, Sunday, won his first competition at agility. This entails completing a course of ladders, jumps, weaving between poles, running through tubes, etc, all the time against the clock and with points for style and correctness. Apparently Knut is incredibly fast which does not surprise us as he is a bundle of positive energy and Eva may have to under go some fitness training of her own to keep up with him!!!!!
We have been having some very interesting conversations with Peter, who is the husband of Lisa (Torbjörns head groom), about shoeing trotters to develop their mechanics in movement. Peter was Stig's farrier in the 90's and has spent 8 years in America as well. Lisa has had an amazing life in harness racing as she followed the European grand circuit for 3 years continually with the great horse Express Ride as her charge. She can speak 5 languages which makes us feel pretty inadequate as we only speak 1, not very well!! One of Torbjörns other grooms, Helena has her own Italian trotter in work and is also widely travelled and a great source of information. Helena also speaks really good English and we are not sure how many other languages. Johnnie is T.J.s last full time staff person and he is also one of the leading junior drivers. Johnnie has a great sense of humor and is always ribbing me if one of the trotters gallop while I work it, for instance, and I quote, " Chris that horse has only ever been seen to gallop when you drive her or the day when a plane crashed in her paddock".
Tomorrow, Monday, Swedish national TV are coming to the farm to do a documentary on the travelling Aussie trotter trying to win the Elitlooppet. We know Bernie is sure to pose in a professional manner as he gets plenty of practise. Soon he will want his own make-up filly! Sharon, Neven and myself will be the extras for the show. This week we intend to start visiting some of the leading studs to inspect their yearlings to be sold in the elite auction during the carnival.
Bye for now.
Swedish Team Lang
16th May 2009
You can look at Chris and Bernie from last Thursday's race at http://anytime.tv4.se/webtv/?treeId=9091, click on Vinnare Plus 09-05-13 at the left side and fast forward to minutes 00:30-01.40 for Chris before the race, for the race and Chris comments after, minutes 07:00-10:30.
You can also see a post race interview at Travnet, try http://www.travnet.se/Web-TV/Senaste/ and find Chris Lang om Sundons Gifts Sverigedebut posted at May 13.
13th May 2009
Well we made it half way round the world and turned up at Solvalla for our first race. We draw outside of the front and never really got into the race and ended up finishing 6th in 1.55.3. The winners kilometre rate was 1.11.2 and Bernies kilometre rate was 1.11.9, which equates to the 1.55.3. We would have liked to finish a lot closer obviously but there was a lot that we gained from the run. He lost ground in the race a couple of times, when he didn't like the sand being kicked in his face, something that he has done most of his career. When the horses up front are running 1.54 speed then losing a length is extremely hard to make up again and down the back straight the final time he almost galloped when he threw his head in the air. We haven't needed to wear his mesh goggles for a fair while at home but will be using them again now. Bernie handled the night well but pulled up a bit fat and blew a bit after the race but considering it was his first start for 2 months and only his third real hit-out since we arrived, we felt that it was a good run. It was also a personal best run, being 3 seconds quicker than he has gone before.
Also had a message from one of the leading journalists over here, Bjorn Ekmark, telling us that the great Lyell Creek went 1.12.5 at his first run here so that is also interesting. We are considering running him again before the Elitloppet in maybe ten days as the match practise can probably only help. Sitting here in front of the computer at nearly 1.00 am after what was a long night its time for me to sign off. I know I have had better nights but I have also had a lot worse and have to remind myself we are trying to beat the best at what they do best so we will just have to try harder!!!!!!
The Swedish Crew
11th May 2009
Things going well over here and hoping all is going well back home. I cannot believe that it is over 3 weeks since I arrived. Plenty happening still, Neven Botica (Bernies Owner) arrived yesterday so the "Aussie" contingent is starting to grow. There is going to be quite a number from down under, including Trainer/Driver John Justice, Mr Seelite Windows and Doors, Michael Taranto, Mr Aldebaran, Duncan McPherson and his wife Lyn and I better not forget our son Michael and "Daddy" or better known as G.A, are also coming over. I remember Michael Taranto saying how magnificent it was last year when he was here and he would be back again this year. When he told me that I had no idea I would be here as well and with the race still 3 weeks away, I am beginning to understand why he was blown away by the experience. Anyone thinking about coming should just book and get here it is definately the "Mecca" for trotting.
Some of the emails we get here are great and we appreciate them all. Received one from a grand old gentleman last week saying that the "Men at Work" song, "I Come From a Land Down Under", was played for him every time he went to the races as well, we all remember him as "Knight Pistol" and are hoping we can emulate his success over here. Another interesting one was from Lou Tricarico, who I had not heard from for over ten years but is now working in London and comes to Stockholm on business occasionally, he and I were on my first stint in the media, being a "Professor of Pace" on 3SR FM Radio in Shepparton about 15 years ago.
Today, Monday, Sharon and I had to get up early, 5.30 am so as we could get finished early. The reason being that Torbjörn Jansson had organised a drive for me at a track about 2.5 hours away. The Track, Lindesberg, is another very picturesque track (I think they all are) but Lindesberg is a summer track, so races during the warmer months only. Again we were greeted as VIP's and recieved a Sculpture of a trotting horse which is the symbol for that track. The horse I drove, Qincy Jet, a 5 year old having only his 6th start. He had previously had a win and a second placing. Torbjörn felt he should run a forward race so when he was the rank outsider in the betting I wasn't sure what to think but believe that perhaps it was a reflection of the drivers past swedish performances! Fortunately it was an Autostart (mobile) and we finished a nice second placing. Again the experience is invaluable and it was good to get a return for the connections.
The other drivers have been very helpful and patient and we are getting to know some of them. During the World driving championships in 2007 when they came to Moonee Valley we were lucky enough to have a couple of runners and one being Right Interest who won when being driven by Swedens no. 1 driver in Bjorn Goop, so he has been good to us. A funny thing happened during the race when I went around the field and looked like getting the "death seat" but the driver kicked up and held me out, luckily I was able to drop onto its back, his horse dropped out at the finish, but after the race as we were slowing down he came up on my inside and starting saying something that I could not understand and wasn't sure if it was good or bad, so just smiled shrugged my shoulders and acted innocent. He realised after a short time that he was getting no-where so drove off with me not knowing what was said. Lucky for me Bjorn Goop was just behind me and later came and told me that it was a Norwegian driver trying to talk to me in swedish as he thought I was a Swede?? He apparently was apologising for keeping me out. But is an example of the communication problems that we have to overcome often.
You may have noticed that I have not mentioned Bernie. I am trying not to think about the fact that Wednesday evening (Swedish time) he makes his European debut. He has drawn barrier 8, of 8 starters, the visitors draw! The race is over a mile and there are about 4 very good horses engaged and are trying to impress selectors for a birth in the "ELITLOPPET" It will be his first start for 2 months so he will be a bit underdone. We are just hoping for a good run and build on that up to the Big One. The race is named after a great Swedish horse called Meadow Road, who has much interest to the Lang family. Not only was he trained by the great Swedish trainer/driver Mr. Torbjörn Jansson where we are staying and won the "Elitloppet back in 1985, he also went to America that year and raced in and won the Statue of Liberty Trot series against Australia's greatest ever trotter, (my opinion!) "Scotch Notch" So I think G A and Torbjörn will have plenty to talk about. Torbjörn has told us that after winning both races in the series when he returned to Stockholm airport he was greeted by a crowd of TV, Press and many well wishers. Sharon thinks maybe a ticket tape parade for Bernie if he can just get qualify for the final!!
Will speak to you again after Wednesday night, I hope with something positive, Go Bernie!!!!
From Team Sweden.
8th May 2009
Another BIG week for us in Sweden. On Tuesday afternoon we were flown to Malmo, which is on the southern end of Sweden about 750 kms from Stockholm. We arrived there mid afternoon and were picked up at the airport by Mats Ahlkvist, who is the General Manager of Jägersro racetrack, which is the third largest club in Sweden. Jägersbro is one of only 2 tracks in Sweden that have both Gallops and Trots. Gallops are not as big in Sweden as they are in Australia. The Gallops track is an all weather sand surface around the outside of the trotting track, similiar to Australia. On the track there are many barns, and trotters, gallopers, harness ponies (huge over here), riding horses, and riding ponies are all trained together harmoniously. When you consider that most of the male horses are stallions, we find this incredible.
Mats was our host for the evening and showed us all round the track and training facilities on the course. The horse that I drove that evening was a 8 year old stallion named "Scarly". He has earnt just over 500,000 Kr from 85 starts and is a son of Lindys Crown. He is a lovely big and stong looking stallion with a wonderful nature. He is owned by one of the characters of the sport, a cigar toting swede called "Bobban" and trained by his daughter, Natalie Boberg. We of course just call him "Bob"!! The race was a 2600 metre Voltstart and the horse went very well and finished a good sixth but had the driver been able to get him away better he could have finished much closer. It was the first time that I was in amongst the field and that was great. Other than almost locking wheels at one point, as the sulkies are so much wider, it felt good. These voltstarts look crazy and are equally as difficult to master and I still have a long way to go! Thank God the Elitloppett is a Autostart. The experience though is invaluable and I thank "Team Bobban AB" For allowing me drive to their horse and being so understanding afterwards. I have another drive on Monday at a place called Almstad, which is about 2 hours drive from the stable and is only a summer racetrack but apparently very beautiful.
We took Bernie to Solvalla raceway for a serious workout on Wednesday afternoon, this was the first day we have had rain here. Of course it was raining heavily when we went out for our first session but the tracks have such huge gradients they handle the rain very well. The first heat was just run at a leisurely speed, but as there was a meeting there that evening, Bernie still had to contend with many distractions, he still can't get used to ridden trotters. For the second trip we had asked for him to be able to look at the mobile so after following it around for a lap, we were released at race speed and away we went. The track was very wet but in good condition. I followed his work partner, Cool Clipper, and covered the first half in a comfortable 70 seconds, we then started running as I got Bernie outside the leader at the 700 metre mark. We sat outside the leader around the last bend and he got up the straight well covering the last 600 metres in 42 seconds. Over here everything is in kilometre rates so it is confusing for us. TJ, Torbjörn, clocked him to go 1.10 his last 500 metres which was considered a good run.
After being washed and groomed etc, Bernie went back into his stable where he had feed and water. This made him very happy and contented. Each horse has a stable inside a barn that houses about 10 horses. These stables are disinfected and sealed after each use. When you arrive for a meeting, you go to your allocated stable which is freshly bedded down with wood shavings and security sealed, so it is a very clean environment. As each barn has a heated toilet, shower and TV room with table and chairs, each groom, trainer and driver as well as the horses can spend the night in comfort. There is also a hot wash for the horses and the harness, which Bernie thinks is heavenly.
Of course when we returned to the stable after working there were many media, If you log onto www.travnet.se then click on Webb-TV at the top of the page, you can see footage of his workout and an interview. We are due to race next Wednesday evening at Solvalla Raceway. This is when we will know where we are at with Bernie's preparation and suddenly its getting serious over here. As this was Bernie's first real hit-out for a month, whatever we do in the race should be improved on come the day for the Big One (May 31 st). We are told that it will be a strong field on Wednesday, which is probably a good thing, I think!
Cheers from Sweden.
4th May 2009
Today we fast worked Bernie in preparation for his race on the 13th. He will do a little more next Monday but not much, todays work was all good. He will have another look at Solvalla on Wednesday night before the races there. If you want to train your horse before the race meeting in the evening you are able to, as long as you are there early. The first race is about 6.30 pm, so training ends at about 4.00 pm. We have asked for special permission for Bernie to have a look at there Autostart (mobile), in preparation for his first race the following week.
After Bernie was worked, washed, and put away, Torbjorn and Eva Jansson took us sightseeing to Stockholm. They are very knowledgable about their city and its history, we watched the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, walked through the shopping district and walked down the narrowest street in Stockholm. You could touch the walls on either side easily at the same time. We walked through churches and buildings that dated back to the 16 th century, amazing! We ate a beautiful lunch in part of the Old Town city square and later went to the zoo! We saw our first moose as well as native brown bears, the cubs came right up to the glass partition and tried to sniff our hands and we saw many other animals. They had a history of old farm buildings that dated back many hundreds of years and had moved examples to the site. These were fantastic, all wood and thatched roofs and stone. I could have moved right in, I love all this type of architecture, the ultimate in old world charm.
On the way home we stopped at a wonderful restaurant where we ate extremely good food and drank lots of fine wine. We continued our journey where we saw a wild moose in the field beside the road. We stopped, disembarked the car and took photos, only to terrify the poor moose and send it trotting elegantly into the forest being followed by the sound of inebriated tourists. "Pull up you mongrel". Poor Torbjorn felt sorry for his fellow country-man/woman!
We appreciate any feedback. Its good to get news from home as all the news here is in Swedish, which we still have not mastered.
Cheers, Sharon, Chris and Bernie.
2nd May 2009
Things rolling along well over here. I went to a place about 100 kms north of Stockholm last night, (Thursday), to a track called Gavle, and had a drive in a European version of a stand start, called a voltstart here. Very interesting, it seems to just involve going in circles till everyone tries to lead to the first corner. I will try to explain what actually happens, but even after having a drive and watching a number of times I still find it confusing! There are no barriers only marker posts and referees and starter assistants standing in small elevated platforms about a metre off the ground. Handicaps are decided on prizemoney earnt and are done in 20 metre increments. There are a maximum of 7 runners on each line but if there are more than 7 horses off a handicap, which there nearly always is on the front line then a second line is required from 8 to whatever is the widest runner. On each track there is a countdown clock which not only lets the general public know when the race will start but also the participants. As a driver you need to watch the clock. when race time is reached you start going around in right handed circles from number 1 on each line, to the outside runner. So we have a circle for each handicap. The starter then virtually says, ready, 1, 2, go, I think. The first command from the starter is ready, then about 12 ceconds later 1, then maybe 3 seconds till the third command 2, then only 2 seconds, GO! There are sensors that set off an alarm if any runners break the line and this forces a recall. If you cause 2 recalls you are disqualified.
The horses also have to circle in order relative to there barrier number, number 1 is followed by number 2, number 3 circles beside number1, number 4 follows number 3, etc and when the driver thinks the time is right, you take off as fast as you can and in a perfect world cross the start a milisecond after the final command. As we all know it is not always a perfect world though. We are told that numbers 4 and 5 are the worst draws as you have to circle very quickly and in a tight circle to stay with the other runners and this causes a lot of horses to break stride.
If a driver causes 2 recalls in a week then he or she can be fined and or suspended. In France they have a similiar system in place except the drivers jostle for positions as there are no set barrier draws. That sounds scary. In regard to myself I just tried to stay with the horse inside me as I had drawn the outside draw on 20 metres. I think I was a little slow away but went at the right time. The horse I drove was a 7 year old mare named Emma Flower. She has won 450,000 kr and is loved by the couple who own and train her. We did our best and trotted the whole way but finished at the back of the field. The experience though is invaluable and we are very thankful for the opportunity. The constant theme here seems to be how much people love and respect their horses. Makes Sharon feel at home.
In regard to Bernie he seems to be very well and is getting stronger each day. Still havn´t seen a moose but one was spotted near the farm 2 days ago. We will keep looking.
All the best,
Swedish Team Lang.
30th April 2009
We went to Romme on Mon night, boy what a reception! They fly the local and Swedish flags in a circle at one end of the track and there in the middle of them was the Aussie flag just for us! When Chris went to warm up his horse, a lovely 11 y.o. called Good as Dollar who had had 10 lifetime wins for 1.9 MILLION odd prizemoney, they started playing the Men at Work song " I come from the land downunder" all across the course! We presented the first two winning drivers with there trophies ( plus owners, plus GROOMS!) and were given gifts that related to the areas history. Romme is about 2 hours north of where we are staying, has lots of forests, lakes and beautiful scenery and is a little colder. There are wild bear in these forests that pull down moose (moose being approximately 2 metres at the wither) and have been known to kill people- about 4 hunters. The problem seems to be that the dogs of the hunters upset the bears and then come running back to the owners (this is when you seriously disown your dog) and the enraged bear attacks whatever is slowest!!!!!!
We were very fortunate to witness Europes greatest ever cold blood trotter in Järvsöfaks. Now a 15 year old stallion, he was having his 218 th start and recorded his 190 th career win, no that is not a misprint, it was his 190 th win. This lifted his stakes won to over 20,25 million kroner. He has served a full book of mares for the last 10 years as well as fitting in his race commitments.
Chris finished last on his lovely old campaigner but he had galloped his previous 2 starts so he was happy and relieved that he trotted the whole way and he didn´t hit any wheels. We were extremely appreciative that he was given the drive on the horse as no one knows us from a bar of soap. The old fellow was not expected to win,(the Horse not driver). The trainer,Peter, told me that his 4 year old daughter rides Good As Dollar around unassisted and he will retire next season to be much loved by Peters wife and kids.
We worked Bernie at Solvalla Raceway this morning, this attracted much press. He wore his Victorian Harness Racing rugs, (cant be seen in the same outfit twice!!), and looked super.He handled the track really well and finished his very slow couple of laps fastwork with his last 400 metres in 28.9 seconds. He stretched out nicely and worked well within himself. The track, the sulkies and the very little wind in this country really add to the speed you can go.
Tonight, (Wednesday), we are going to Solvalla trots and there are some Elitloppet hopefulls going around, so will be interesting to watch them. Chris has another drive tomorrow in a Volt start race, European version of a stand, (not like in Adelaide), but equally chaotic!!! Will keep you posted.
Sharon, Chris and Bernie
30th April 2009
Quick note if you log onto www.travronden.se You can see photos of Bernie´s first visit to Solvalla. I think you click on sundons gift BILDSPEL, (photos).
28th April 2009
My Swedish connection emailed me this from today with Chris during the lunch races. Check it out here: http://anytime.tv4.se/webtv/?treeId=909101&progId=752809 and fast forward - it's between minutes 13:50 - 17:35.
25th April 2009
Just wanted you to know we can still talk like an "Aussie". Things coming along well here, Bernie seems to be over his tying up and we have started fast working him. He had his first taste of the sulky that he will race in and he handled it better than I did. To sit right behind the horse and be able to pat there rump and pull there tail is scary, it goes against the conditioning from a lifetime of not putting yourself in the danger zone of their hind legs. That said, the benefits of the style of bike are immediately obvious. As you are so close there is no wind resistance, the wheels being further apart mean it is more stable on the ground. As the driver you can see so much more in relation to not only where you are going, but also to how the horse is going, where his legs are landing, if he is touching, etc. In our first workout, which was only at a moderate tempo, Bernie was brushing my calves with his hocks, I think that means we bring the sulky closer! So his legs pass underneath.
Where we are staying, at the property of Torbjörn and Eva Jansson, we are very well looked after. Torbjörn has 18 horses in work and spends a lot of time travelling to meetings all over Sweden. His grooms are very competent. Lisa is from Finland and spent 3 years with a stallion called Express Ride in the early 90's just travelling the European Grand Circuit. Helena is in her early 20's and can do everything including shoeing horses. Johnny is a 25 year old and is one of the leading junior drivers. They each look after 6 horses and they never lead horses to work them, they are either in the bike or put on the walking machine or the incline treadmill. Male horses here are rarely gelded so co-exist with the mares and are normally very well behaved. Because of the extreme weather, the horses are always stabled overnight.
The weather here has been a pleasant surprise. Other than one morning when it was 6 below, the temperature has ranged between zero overnight and up to 16 C during the day. Normally there is little wind, just sunny and clear. Obviously a good time of year to visit.
Racebooks here are sent out to the trainers and drivers as soon as the fields are finalised, about 4 days before the meeting. At Romme, on Monday where I am to have my first drive here, they put in a photo and a message saying, "Very welcome to Romme, Mr Lang!". Sharon and I are treated as VIP guests where ever we go! We dont tell them anything different.
Cheers for now,
Chris, Sharon and Bernie.
24th April 2009
Hej from Sweden,
Finally getting ourselves organised. We now have a computer and mobile phone, (+46 736946673). I arrived at Arlanda airport, Stockholm at about 8.30 am local time on Friday after leaving Tullamarine about 25 hours earlier. Unfortunately the luggage was not as lucky, it turned up 2 days later. Better late than never! It was straight to the stables then to work Sundons Gift. Even though he had travelled well and seems to have had no ill effects from the EI vaccine he had started tying up, after travelling 61 hours it was not unexpected. We are working him twice a day and each day he seems better than the day before.
His overall health seems excellent thanks to plenty of TLC from Sharon, which included walking up to ten kilometres a day.
The response from the local media has been amazing. Bernie now believes he is the Brad Pitt of the horse world. Everything he does is being scrutinised including his tying up problems. So far there have been two live TV interviews and everyday a member of a paper or magazine will ring or visit.
We attended our first race meeting on Wednesday night at Solvalla. It was an amazing experience. To say that we have never experienced a race meeting like it before is an understatement. Races are run every 25 minutes, but in between races there are horses warming up in both directions, the track is being groomed, water trucks are watering the track, it seems like bedlam but everything works. The horses all have individual stables inside a large barn which house about 12 horses each. There are about 20 Barns. Torbjörn Jansson, whose property Bernie is staying at drove us there and he has his own car park with his name on it, (Impressive). You have to watch where you are going as horses are coming and going in every direction.
The grandstands were equally impressive, it didnt matter where you were, you had a great view of the course. We had dinner overlooking the track and it also was lovely. The track is 1000 metres but unlike our tracks the camber only extends to about halfway up the track and then it flattens out. Hard to picture but the mobile gate arm slants down until they get near release point in the straight then returns to a more normal position. We met Stig Johansson, who is revered over here as a great trainer and driver, he has his own room in the stabling area. We hope to visit and spend a morning with him training horses, he has some 150 horses in work.
This Monday I am driving at a place called Romme. It will be the first time I have driven in their sulkies and will be an experience for not only me but the other drivers as well. I may also be driving at Solvalla next Wednesday. At Romme on Monday the freakish Swedish cold blood, "Järvsöfaks" will also be racing. He is a 15 year old stallion, who has a full breeding book every year. He has had 217 starts for 189 wins, 12 seconds, 4 thirds and 20,222.165 million kroner in stakes. This is his last few months of racing before compulsory retirement. He is an absolute legend of racing in this part of the world.
Cheers for now,
Chris, Sharon and Bernie.
23rd April 2009
Click on the link below and see Chris in a recent TV interview.
Good to hear from you again. Chris Lang seems to be a real Aussie (just like our touring days with the band downunder) - and the papers are starting to write about him. My Secretary found out that he was on national TV on Sunday and made so good PR that he's been invited to drive in a race on Monday at Romme.
If you want to watch his swedish TV-debut, go to http://anytime.tv4.se/webtv/?treeId=9091, click on Vinnare: V65 09-04-19 on the left side and fast forward to minutes 23 - 30, and he will be back to answer text-messages from the audience at minutes 37 - 39. There might be some english interviews with Chris at www.elitloppet.se - or the English site on www.atg.se
20th April 2009
Getting settled over here. Weather is fine but cold at times, overnight low of -5c was coldest we have had. Bernie of course cant feel this as there is under floor heating in the stables to keep his toes toasty. His overall health has been very good thanks to plenty of TLC from Sharon And Simon.
Bernie has had his second EI Vaccine and seems to have had no ill effects. The only issue we have had is that he is tying up. He seems to be getting better each day and feels very well but has not had a lot of training yet.
While on some of his 5 kilometre walks he has seen deer, foxes, strange looking birds of the feathered variety, but was most afraid of the grey andulusian being ridden bare-back in the field next to the trotting track.
The training facilities are excellent, including uphill treadmill, walking machine, 800 metre straight track, 1000 metre circular track and trails that we have not yet explored but will soon. Torbjorn the trainer used to have upwards of 150 horses in training but now trains 18 at his new facility where we are based.
The most amazing thing has been the country roads. They virtually go through all the barn yards and back gardens of the houses, you feel like you are driving through their property. It is a beautiful country and the people are as polite as anyone we have met. They have done all they can to make us feel very welcome.
We are missing you all heaps, (njet!).
Chris; Sharon and Bernie.
11th April 2009
Have arrived in Sweden after 61 hours travel from Melbourne to Singapore - Abu Dhabi - London - Copenhagen and finally Almunge (30 mins north of Stockholm). Sundons Gift was a star! He ate his hay the entire journey and was very quiet and calm, even when it got noisy and we were doing the shifting around inside the freighter. He didn´t drink very well, so Simon stomach-tubed him some water at Abu Dhabi, and after that he drank really well. He has been the centre of attention wherever we have gone and looks really smart in his KER sponsorship rugs. We arrived late at TJ`´s stable and put him to bed. In the morning, he had eaten his entire hay net, a small grain feed and had drunk all his water. We booted and rugged him and Simon walked him whilst I did his box etc. (women´s work apparently). He went into a lovely post and rail field and rolled and rolled and rolled! We have introduced him to the haylage that TJ feeds (very low protein) and he loves it. The stables are beautiful with automatic feeders so the horses are fed in the morning automatically before anyone arrives. He is bedded in deep shavings and has a waterer that he has to learn to switch on himself with his nose (no, he cant do it yet)!. Everone has been very helpful and friendly and they all speak English (thank god). The car we have been given has an alco-start (a reflection on the Australians) - you have to be under .00 to start the car. But there is a cooler in the glove box full of Heinekin. Frequently Simon and I walk home).
Love to all,
Sharon, Simon and whats his name (Bernie)
10th April 2009
Bernie arrived in Sweden at Copenhagan this morning About 6 am AEST, after spending about 30 hours in his shipping compartment. The containers are made to accomadate 3 horses abreast but fortunately for us he was the only horse enroute to Sweden so had the whole thing to himself, which meant he was able to move around a little. His trusty and tired grooms have informed me that he is in good order after his flight and has spent the last 10 hours at Jagersro Racecourse in Copenhagen to rest after the flight.
As I write this email at 7.00 pm AEST, Sundons Gift and his entourage are embarking on the last leg of their journey which is an 8 hour road trip to the stables at Almunge, 75 Kilometres north of Stockholm, where we will launch the Aussie assault on the ELITLOPP.
So far so good.
God Kvall, (Good Evening)
Elitlopp…here we come!
Champion trotter Sundon’s Gift will begin his Scandinavian adventure on April 8.
The reigning Australian Trotter of the Year will be flown across to Sweden on this date to tackle the world’s best trotters on the European Grand Circuit.
“From stable to stable it will take about 50 hours,” Chris Lang said.
He will be accompanied on the trip by Chris’s wife, Sharon, an accomplished equestrienne.
Sundons Gift will have the $880,000 Elitlopp, an invitational event to be run at Solvalla racetrack, Stockholm on May 31, as his main mission.
“If he handles the trip well and settles in, we have time for two lead-up runs. There’s suitable races for him at Solvalla on April 29 and May 13.
Sundon’s Gift will be stabled at the new facility of Torbjorn Jansson at Almunge, 70 kilomotres north of Stockholm. The complex has a 1000 metre Solvalla-shaped round track, a 1000 metre straight track, miles of jogging roads in the surrounding forest, a horse walker and a riding hall.
Jansson hosted all the previous ‘Down Under’ invaders including Lyell Creek, Knight Pistol, Pride Of Petite and Special Force at his former training centre.
Chris Lang will handle the brilliant Sundon gelding in all his European engagements.