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The World According To Dean: The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!


Published: January 17, 2009 12:20 am ET

Last Comment: January 19, 2009 7:55 am ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

Don't go rushing to the window and see if Russian tanks are in the streets of your hometown. That's not quite what I meant. I meant that the Russians are coming to the world of trotting and will be a force in the future.

Although even the Russian economy has been stalled by the worldwide crisis, horse owners in Russia are quietly snapping up some worthwhile trotters and some of their foals will be appearing on the international stage in coming decades.

The Russians wandered in the wilderness of the trotting world for many decades under communist rule. They didn't have the money to acquire horses of real merit and the sport fought tenaciously for survival under Soviet rule.

I was part of a six-man American delegation to Moscow in 1989 where the American Hall of Famers Delvin Miller, Howard Beissinger, and Doug Ackerman drove in competition against Russian and German drivers.

The big hero in Russian trotting then was a 4-year-old named Sorrento, who won the Russian Derby while we were there with disdainful ease. I later saw him win a race at Solvalla in Sweden and he was acknowledged as the best trotter Russia had produced in decades.

Sorrento was by Reprise, a gaunt son of Noble Victory bred by Stanley Dancer and raced by Tom Saint and Margaret Neal of Ontario. He went to Russia in the late 1970s and became a fabulously successful sire. Alas, his heralded son Sorrento was a failure as a sire.

Two years ago I was invited to Finland to give talks to horse owners and breeders and my friend Martti Ala-seppala, a knowledgeable breeder, told me, "The Russians will be competing in international trotting events soon. They are excellent horsemen. And now they have money."

The change from communism to capitalism began the year I visited Russia (although I modestly take no credit for destroying the communism and the Soviet Union...) made some people very rich. And rich people around the world like to own racehorses.

They certainly didn't have money when we were there 20 decades ago. The tote board was out at the Moscow Hippodrome on the week of the Russian Derby. It had been struck by lightning, we were told. We asked when it might be working again. The Russians shrugged their shoulders and told us they had no idea. Maybe they were hoping that lightning would strike it again and jump start it into operation.

Martti Ala-seppala told me recently that Russian interests purchased Power To Charm, the 1-2 favorite in the 2004 Hambletonian. This son of Malabar Man got a 1:53.1 mark as a sophomore and had recently been owned in Sweden.

Ala-seppala manages the large Kemppi farm in Finland and sold two stallions to Russia recently. They were Southwind Pinnacle and Stags Breath.

Southwind Pinnacle is a son of Valley Victory and was trained by Tom Haughton. He was second to Lindy Lane in the 1995 Valley Victory trot and also second to Armbro Officer in the Breeders Crown that year.

Stags Breath is by Supergill from an Arndon mare. Now 15, Stags Breath won the Champlain for Berndt Lindstedt as a 2-year-old and was third to Lord Stormont in the Yonkers Trot the following year.

Martti says that both stallions have been okay, but not great in Finland, but should hold their own against lesser competition in Russia.

If you've looked at the sale results from Harrisburg in the last few years, you've noticed many horses purchased by Russian interests.

I'll be revisiting the revival of trotting in Russia in the coming year. Stay tuned.

Dean Hoffman, one of North America's most prolific harness racing journalists and member of the U.S. Harness Racing Hall of Fame, offers SC website readers his weekly look at international standardbred racing through his eyes.

January 19, 2009 - 7:55 amDean, I can't remember the

Brooke (not verified) SAID...

Dean, I can't remember the year but my dad had a horse named TEN POUND BASS. He won the Beacon Course for three year olds about 2 weeks before the Hambletonian. After that race he broke his knee. We brought him back after a long rest and I got him ready to race in the next summer. My dad did not quaify him again and he was sold to Russian interests and taken to Russia to stand stud. I think after a few years they put him back in training and tried to race him. I am not sure how he did or even if he produced many foals.

January 17, 2009 - 12:05 pmHey Dean, The photo

Don Daniels (not verified) SAID...

Hey Dean,
The photo is captivating :)
I've some early photo's of nice quality from one of the Moscow tracks, although I currently don't recall the source.

"Marg Neal" is somebody who was quite active in the Standardbred industry and gets little mention. She was quite a remarkably active person and devoted person.
Ralph Sucee wrote an article on Marg (Marg Neal: Octogenarian Reflections), which was published in September 2001 Hoof Beats.
Communicating with Marg via email was a real joy and her insights and recollections into Canadian people and harness racing history are a void that will remain for eternity.
This morning somebody was searching the internet for "W. S. McCrea", which brought about the following coincidence as related to your article:

John Hervey article provides a very interesting insight regarding some folks (one of which was Mr. McCrea) visiting Moscow in 1912. ((Sep 15, 1937 Harness Horse):

Previously that season of 1912, the Billings horses had made their second exhibition tour of Europe. They arrived at Moscow, Russia, in early May and one of the objectives was to establish a Russian trotting record with Uhlan during the week of the great annual meeting at Moscow when the Trotting Derby was contested. The black gelding trained beautifully and shortly before the date when he was to appear worked the Moscow track in 2:04, going to the half in 1:00, flat, and being taken back to a slow jog before he finished. It seemed certain that he would trot in 2:00 or better on the appointed date, but just before it came around he was taken very sick and almost died.

It was then necessary to provide the Moscow trotting public with some new sensation from the stable of American champions—and Tanner, the resourceful, rose to the occasion. While harness racing was the national sport of the Czarist Empire, and had been for over a century, it appeared that team trotting was practically unknown there. So about mid-afternoon on Derby Day, Tanner drove out onto the Moscow track with Charley Mitchell and Louis Forrest hooked double. Their mere appearance caused the vast assemblage of spectators to bubble with excitement—and when he turned them around and drove them a mile in 2:121/2, there was more enthusiasm than the Derby itself had created—and the day was saved for America. Before they came out on the track for that mile the two geldings had never been driven at top
speed pole, but they behaved perfectly, going to the half in 1:08 and then coming home in 1:041/2. The merit of the performance may be better appreciated when it is stated that at that date (1912) no trotter had ever beaten 2:08 to single harness over the Moscow track and only two or three
had beaten 2:10.

The writer was among those who witnessed that brilliant feat of horsemanship and the other events of that day, which closed with a brilliant banquet given by Mr. and Mrs. Telegin, the owners of the Derby winner, at that
famous restaurant, "Yar's"' almost opposite the "bega," or race track. At this the American visitors were the guests of honor, they being headed by Mr. Billings and his cousin, the great physician Dr. Frank Billings, now also dead, and including Mr. Billings' brother-in-law, the late C. H.
Ruddock; Messrs. W. S. McCrea and Fred Stevenson, Mr. Tanner and the writer.

Two Americans then residents in Moscow were also among those seated at the long table, which was set in the open-air garden of the celebrated place, with fountains and flowers all about and the light of moon and stars shining down upon them-the late Frank Caton and his son Will, the latter now one of our leading American reinsmen. At that time he was training and driving for Mr. and Mrs. Telegin and that afternoon had won the Derby for them.

As I write I have the roster of the guests before me, it comprising many distinguished people, among them members of the high nobility of Romanoff Russia, men distinguished in official life, of high rank in the army, etc., etc., together with ladies both beautiful and beautifully gowned. The dinner served was the choicest that "Yar's" could devise, the wines were of the finest vintages, the toasts and speeches that punctuated the repast were many and full of the spirit of sportsmanship and good cheer, and it was a
late hour before all was over.

January 17, 2009 - 11:57 amMANIFINITY WAS SOLD TO

rosalind paul (not verified) SAID...


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