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Nuncio Wins 2016 Elitlopp

Published: May 29, 2016 10:32 am ET

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Under a patient steer from driver Örjan Kihlström, Nuncio was victorious in the 2016 Elitlopp Final at Sweden's Solvalla Racecourse.

A crowd of nearly 29,000 was on hand to watch heat winner Un Mec d'Heripre (Jos Verbeeck) used his rail position to gain early control while Kihlström positioned Nuncio first over from post 4. Royal Fighter (Jennifer Tillman) floated into the pocket from post 6 as Kihlström allowed that one to clear.

The competition was stacked up on Nuncio's back as Timoko (Björn Goop) stalked from second over and Resolve (Åke Svanstedt) was third over. Around the three-quarter station of the mile, Svanstedt gave his charge three-wide marching orders and began to gain on the leaders. With the field maintaining this position heading into the stretch, it appeared to be a wide-open race.

As the field approached the wire, Nuncio found another gear and powered past Un Mec d'Heripre but wasn't closing as quickly as Resolve. Kihlström kept his horse on task and found the wire first with Resolve falling a quarter of a length short. Un Mec d'Heripre was less than a length back of the leader on his inside to complete the triactor. The time of the mile was a second heat stakes record of 1:51.2f.

Bred by Pennsylvania's Russell Williams and owned by Stefan Melander's Stall TZ, Nuncio (Andover Hall - Nicole Isabelle) was a $7,000 Harrisburg yearling purchase and has gone onto a tremendous International career. He has never finished worse than third in 46 lifetime starts, and now boasts a 31-13-2 summary and more than $2.8 million in earnings.

The Elitlopp victory is the second for trainer Melander, who also won in 2010 with Iceland. Kihlström is a back-to-back winner after capturing the 2015 edition with Magic Tonight, and now boasts three Elitlopp wins (From Above, 2003).

Favoured Timoko captured the first heat of the Elitlopp, guaranteeing him a draw of posts one or two in the final. After receiving a bit of a tussle from Oasis Bi (Johnny Takter), Timoko and driver Björn Goop cleared to the lead during the first turn. Volstead (Stefan Melander) pressured the leader through from the three-eighths mark on, with Mosaique Face (Lutfi Kolgjini) second over and North American invitee Resolve (Åke Svanstedt) positioned third over.

Past the three-quarter mark, Mosaique Face started to back away from that second over tow and forced Svanstedt to move Resolve three-wide around the final turn. Timoko was still strong on the lead but Resolve started to gain along with Propulsion (Örjan Kihlström), who was flying late four-wide. But the wire came in time for Timoko, who held off Resolve by a long neck in a blazingly fast 1:51.1f mile -- the second fastest mile in the history of the race behind Panne de Moteur's 1:50.4f.

"That's an incredible horse, but I say that always," trainer and owner Richard Westerink said after the win. "I have not many words, it's incredible."

Westerink told the crowd that at Solvalla that the nine-year-old stallion takes care of himself, and that makes his job easy. He also feels that his horse will be even better in the final.

"I have always said, in the final is better when he's warm. I think we have a good chance."

Timoko (Imoko - Kiss Me Coulonces) now boasts 30 wins from 84 lifetime starts.

In the second elimination all eyes were on local hero Nuncio but it was Un Mec d'Heripre springing the upset. Driver Jos Verbeeck had Un Mec d'Heripre out alertly from post 4 as Royal Fighter (Jennifer Tillman) sprinted away for the rail. B.B.S. Sugarlight (Peter Untersteiner) also had designs on being forwardly placed and made a three-wide challenge in front of the grandstand. Untersteiner found room in the pocket for B.B.S. Sugarlight, leaving Un Mec d'Heripre first up.

Call Me Keeper (Franck Nivard) was out three wide down the backstretch with Nuncio on his back. Around the three-quarter mark, Call Me Keeper broke stride, leaving Nuncio uncovered for the final quarter. Un Mec d'Heripre was still stalking the leader from first up and eventually wrestled the lead from Royal Fighter at the top the stretch. Nuncio closed stoutly but could not catch Un Mec d'Heripre, under the wire first in a time of 1:51.3f. Royal Fighter held on for third over Billie de Montfort (David Thomain).

Verbeeck puts Un Mec d'Heripre (Orlando Vici - I Love You Darling) horse in the top five of the horses he's driven. His trainer, Fabrice Souloy, had even higher praise saying he's the best horse he's trained -- even better than Commander Crowe -- but his luck isn't always the best in the big races. He's owned by Ecurie d' Heripre of France, and has now won 21 of his 42 lifetime starts.

Elitlopp Final
Post - Horse - Driver - Trainer
1. Un Mec d'Heripre - Jos Verbeeck - Fabrice Souloy
2. Timoko - Björn Goop - Richard Westerink
3. Resolve - Åke Svanstedt - Åke Svanstedt
4. Nuncio - Örjan Kihlström - Stefan Melander
5. Propulsion - Erik Adielsson - Daniel Redén
6. Royal Fighter - Jennifer Tillman - Per Eriksson
7. Billie de Montfort - David Thomain - Sebastien Guarato
8. Oasis Bi - Johnny Takter - Stefan Pettersson

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