Two horse-racing meetings will be held at the Marsa racetrack during the coming weekend. The first meeting will take place on Friday starting at 6.30pm with the next on Sunday with the first race at 2pm. Friday’s meeting has 11 races on the card with Sunday’s including 12 races. These are all trot events except for one flat race in Sunday’s programme.
This weekend’s main attraction is the Skyparks championship final for Premier class trotters. Eight of Malta’s best Swedish trotters are expected to contest this final which will crown this year’s leading Swedish trotter. The finalists – seven geldings and a stallion – are as follows:
1. Belafonte, 9 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK904,000 and a best time of 1’13’5 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 25th March 2011, and holds a win and nine places in Malta, with a best time here of 1’14’5 per kilometre,
2. Bello Fratello, 15 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK1,063,350 and a best time of 1’12’0 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 27th January 2008, and holds eleven wins and nineteen places in Malta, with a best time here of 1’13’5 per kilometre,
3. Utah Hornline, 9 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK1,002,393 and a best time of 1’13’7 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 27th November 2011, and already has a couple of wins and a place to its credit in Malta, with a best time here of 1’15’1 per kilometre,
4. Skip Dimanche, 9 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK961,750 and a best time of 1’12’4 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 22nd May 2011, and has a win and three places so far in Malta, with a best time here of 1’15’5 per kilometre,
5. Wiss Night Hawk, 11 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK1,483,991 and a best time of 1’13’4 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 13th February 2011, and has a win and four places in Malta, with a best time here of 1’15’1 per kilometre,
6. Livi Cantona, 8 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK306,090 and a best time of 1’12’9 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 31st October 2010, and has thirteen wins and seven places in Malta, with a best time here of 1’13’8 per kilometre,
7. True Q, 11 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK1,380,088 and a best time of 1’12’2 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 25th September 2011, and already has five wins and three places in Malta, with a best time here of 1’15’0 per kilometre,
8. Think Yatzee, 13 year old, having overseas winnings of SEK2,796,286 and a best time of 1’11’6 per kilometre, which made its Malta debut on 2nd November 2008, and has fifteen wins (including all the previous three editions of the Swedish trotters’ Premier class championship) and seven places in Malta, with a best time here of 1’13’3 per kilometre.
Apart from this prestigious final, these programmes include also no less than 21 heats from the SECF championships reserved for French trotters.
A championship for each class will be held on a 2,140m distance, the Prix de Vincennes for the Premier class, the Prix d’Enghien for the Gold class, the Prix de Cabourg for Silver class horses, the Prix de Cagnes Sur Mer for the Bronze class, whilst Copper class trotters will compete in the Prix de Caen.
Four heats will be held from the Prix de Vincennes (a total of 38 trotters) and the Prix de Cagnes Sur Mer (50 trotters in all) with the first five from each making it to the respective semi-finals, whilst the Prix d’Enghien (56 registered participants) and the Prix de Cabourg (61 horses) will see the first four from each of the five heats qualifying for the semi-finals being held in the first weekend of June.
Straight semi-finals will be held in the Prix de Caen (31 trotters in total), with the first four from each of the three races making it to the final which will be held on the 17th June.
No less than eighteen new French trotters are registered to make their debut in these heats: Quel Eole Galbe (Bronze class), Pampero Maybe, Pascal d’Ablon, Passons d’Ortige and Prince d’Arcy in the Silver class, Nolic de la Merite (previously scratched), Nuts du Lyon (previously scratched), Okapi des Dimes, Oolong, Orion de Chapeau, Orion du Vaumicel, Oros de Reve, Ostheo d’Havetot and Ouistiti d’Anjou in the Gold class and Nick de Touchyvon, Nitesco d’Anthony, Op Le Cosseen and Ouf Boy in the Premier class.
We also have a Class A flat race on the sprint 1,250m distance, with a full field of eight thoroughbreds. Mayfair Princess is coming from a win, three others are coming from a good place – Mediterranean Derby winner Buttermilk, Capital Hill and Hollimac, Prince Yarraman and Nuage de la Tour are making a return to racing after a number of months’ absence, Bon Santos is looking to register further improvement, whilst Irish Little Anthony is scheduled to make its debut.
It is rare that a weekend contains so many championship races and that these include some of the best Swedish and French trotters racing against their respective compatriots at the same time. We are certainly in for a great racing weekend ... don’t miss it!
The highlights of last Sunday’s meeting were four finals from the Skyparks championships reserved for Swedish trotters on a 2,140m distance.
In Sunday’s main final, i.e. that for the Gold class, the lead changed hands a couple of times until Hulot went in front after about 700m and kept the lead until around 300m from the end, when Lover Boy Index which had been increasing its speed for some time, attacked forcefully.
The final straight saw a strong challenge between the said Lover Boy Index, Stefan Sufflor and Matador Knick. The win ultimately went to the former by about half a length from Stefan Sufflor which was in turn followed by Matador Knick and Magnific As.
Lover Boy Index (Noel Baldacchino) registered its second consecutive and seasonal win in a very good time of 1’15’5 per kilometre and retained this championship which it had also won last year.
The Silver class final saw another strong challenge in the final straight between the first three participants. The win went to Victory Farming (its second seasonal win) driven by Frank Portelli which launched its attack from the outside lanes. Its time was a good 1’15’9 per kilometre and its margin was just over a length from Bankir Zon, followed by Delvin Brodde and Ironbar.
The crucial moment in the Bronze class final arrived a few hundred metres from the end when Nicole L.H. (Clint Vassallo) attacked strongly on the outside lanes, took the lead and maintained it until the end, to claim its second consecutive and local win. Mr King, Family’s Moonlight and Rally Simb took the places.
In the Copper class final, Uptillbevis went in front with around a lap to go and maintained the lead until the end. However this horse was disqualified with Trick The Lind (Noel Baldacchino) taking its first seasonal win in front of Emil Brebro, Pine Wood Harry and Dollar As.
Interestingly, the finals were won by two relatively recent imports, i.e. eight and nine year old horses Nicole L.H. and Victory Farming respectively, and two veterans, i.e. fourteen and fifteen year olds Lover Boy Index and Trick The Lind respectively.
The best time of the day of 1’15’3 per kilometre was registered in a “normal” Gold class race when Nagano Phedo went in front with around half a lap to go and went on to register its second seasonal win by over four lengths from runner-up Veikko Hornline, followed by Energy Launcher and Imbra d’Alfa.
The other races which were also “normal” ones for Gold class horses, were won by Soren Sufflor (third seasonal win), Side Spin (first win in Malta) and She’s Dreamlike (also at its third seasonal win).
Dr Joe Mifsud and other volunteers from the Puttinu Cares annual marathon which took place at the Marsa grounds visited the racecourse during Sunday’s programme. An impromptu collection resulted in a donation by racegoers of €1767.68, a contribution which was extremely appreciated.
Driver of the Month Award – April
The Driver of the Month Award for April has been won by Julian Farrugia (the second Gozitan driver to win this award) on the basis of the six wins he registered during that month. He also managed to win no less than three of these races in the meeting held on the 22nd April.
Congratulations Julian – well done! Many thanks also to P&M Farrugia Tan-Niger for supporting our sport by sponsoring April’s award.
Shaun Portelli represents Malta in Agnano
The second leg of the Mediterranean Horse Racing Union drivers’ championship was held last Sunday in the historic Agnano racetrack in Naples on a 1,600m distance.
Shaun Portelli represented Malta in this leg and took an optimal second place (driving Igor d’Asolo) among eight participants from different countries, after the Slovenian representative P. Zadel who finished first on Levante Laser. He followed Raymond Clifton’s footsteps after the latter’s win in the Malta leg on 31st March.
Well done Shaun for representing Malta so honourably in this international competition.
Another win for Michael Sultana in Belgium
Our congratulations go once again to jockey Michael Sultana for the win he registered at Mons racetrack in Belgium on Friday 4th May. Well done Michael, keep it up.
The Trotteur Francais
Ultimately the SECF championships are a celebration of what is known in French as the “Trotteur Francais”. But what does this French term refer to?
The Trotteur Francais is one of the leading trotters’ breeds worldwide. The other main trot breeds are the Orlov (Russia), the Standardbred (United States) and the Kallblod (Scandinavia).
Originating in Normandy, this breed started to be selectively developed in the first half of the 19th century at the time when the first trot races were being organised in France.
The Trotteur Francais involves a cross between Norman horses (main component) with British thoroughbreds and Norfolk trotters and with an infusion of some American trotters’ blood.
Compared to the other trot breeds, the Trotteur Francais tends to be the biggest in size. The original Norman horses were even bigger and coarser, but the infusion of a certain amount of foreign blood (particularly from the British thoroughbred) helped to refine it.
On the other hand, the insertion of some American standardbred blood helped to give the French Trotter more speed without effecting its specific characteristics and character.
As in other breeds, there is no one precise standard in terms of size and other breed characteristics. Typically the Trotteur Francais stands at about 1.55m to 1.75m up to the horse’s withers. However, there are always some extremes at both ends.
The famous Ideal du Gazeau, winner of two Prix d’Amerique and half-brother from the sire’s side among others to Kalex, winner of 20 races in Malta, was known as the “petit bonhomme” (“small fellow”) and was only 1.53m tall, whilst another double Prix d’Amerique winner, Tidalium Pelo (sire among others of Jalium, which won a number of championships in Malta) was no less than 1.73m tall.
Typically, the Trotteur Francais weighs between around 500kg and 600kg (sometimes slightly more), but naturally weight tends to vary even in the same horse from time to time. One may note the efforts done to bring even famous horses back to their normal racing weight, say after the breeding season.
It races successfully both in sulky as well as “monte’”, with the latter requiring stronger and typically bigger horses because they need to carry their jockey on their back instead of dragging him in a sulky – pity that we do not see much of this great discipline in Malta!.
It will be a pleasure to follow once again so many fine examples of Trotteur Francais in action in our national racetrack during the forthcoming SECF championships.
We take the opportunity of thanking the SECF – Societe’ d’Encouragement a’ l’elevage du Cheval Francais – not just for sponsoring this championship but also for the information on the Trotteur Francais contained in its publications, which was extremely useful in compiling this note.
We wish you all two exciting meetings this weekend.