Owners Relish Rivalry Rematch

Published: October 24, 2014 05:19 pm EDT

“We have had so many great battles over the years, especially in the summer of 2012 when Commander Crowe took all the early season honours and then Sebastian K won most of the late season battles. It was a great summer of racing.”

When the International Trot was last contested in 1995 at Yonkers Raceway, it was Sweden’s His Majesty who crossed the wire first.

On Saturday night, when the $250,000 International Trot Preview is contested, Sweden’s colours will once again be well represented with Commander Crowe and Sebastian K, the top two favourites in the field of eight trotters that will be racing at a distance of a mile and a quarter.

Commander Crowe, an 11-year-old gelding that has raced most of his career in Sweden, has won 60 of 106 career starts with nearly $5 million in earnings, but never started in the United States. He has been installed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line and will start from Post 1 with driver Orjan Kihlstrom.

“We are really looking forward to race in the International Trot, or as we call it in Sweden ‘The World Championship,’” said Joakim Wihlborg, owner of Commander Crowe. “It is going to be very exciting to meet Sebastian K again. They have had many good duels over the last couple of years in Scandinavia with wins and fantastic performances from both horses including the European record at Jagersro in Sweden that is held by Commander Crowe.”

Sebastian K, a winner of 34 races from 74 career starts, has won eight of 11 starts this year in North America, including setting a world record for the fastest mile on June 28. The eight-year-old will start from Post 6, He has been made the 3-1 morning line favourite. His trainer, Ake Svanstedt, will do the driving.

Before coming to North America, Sebastian K and Commander Crowe, battled each other in Sweden, trading decisions throughout 2012 before Sebastian K was named Sweden’s Horse of the Year that season.

“Meeting Commander Crowe is great!,” said Tristan Sjoberg, who is part owner of Sebastian K. “We have had so many great battles over the years, especially in the summer of 2012 when Commander Crowe took all the early season honours (Olympiatravet, Elitloppet and Hugo Åbergs Memorial) and then Sebastian K won most of the late-season battles (Åby Stora Pris, Sundsvall Open Trot and UET Masters). It was a great summer of racing. Someone said it is currently 7-6 in favour of Sebastian K, but I cannot vouch for that statistic (he said, laughing). Either way, it has been a very close-fought battle. With Commander Crowe now drawing Post 1, I think he must be considered the slight favourite. I predict another close battle!”

Both Commander Crowe and Sebastian K enter Saturday’s $250,000 Preview off of losses when each was second best; Commander Crowe in the Grade 1 Gran Premio Turilli from Rome on October 5, while Sebastian K was caught on the wire in the $173,000 Allerage Farm Open Trot at the Red Mile in Lexington, also on October 5.

“’Sebastian’ is doing great,” Sjoberg said. “He has shown a bit more alertness in training in the last week or so, which we take as a good sign.”

Natural Herbie appears the best of the American contingent, having won his last three starts. He has been made the early 4-1 third choice in the wagering and will start from Post 7.

Completing the field is the 2013 Horse of the Year, the filly, Bee a Magician (PP2, 8-1), Obrigado (PP4, 8-1), Arch Madness (PP5, 5-1), the 2012 Yonkers Trot winner Archangel (PP6, 6-1) and Not Afraid (PP8, 20-1).

“What a race it will be, the fastest horse in Europe, the fastest horse in the world and the best American trotters,” said Wihlborg.

The International Trot Preview has been carded a Race 9 on the 12-dash program. The race shares the card along with the final for the Messenger Stakes and the Yonkers Trot.

The International Trot, with its full pageantry, will return to Yonkers Raceway in 2015, where it will try to attract the top trotters from around the globe.

(With files from the Standardbred Owners Association of New York State)