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Sjoberg On Sebastian K’s Centaur Mile

Published: September 29, 2014 3:22 pm ET

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One of Sebastian K’s co-owners, European casino executive Tristan Sjoberg, has explained why the world’s fastest trotter faded from first to seventh in the $238,500 Centaur Trotting Classic on September 20 at Indiana’s Hoosier Park.

Sebastian K’s sub-par performance was quite an anomaly, as it was the first time that the career winner of $2.9 million finished off the board in a North American pari-mutuel start.

“We put down his lackluster performance to dehydration and the thunderstorm that rolled in,” said Sjoberg, who noted that Sebastian K, who is eight years of age, scoped clean after the race. “He does not like high humidity.”

Sjoberg has Sebastian K’s sights set on Yonkers Raceway’s International Trot. The owner remembers listening to the event on the radio while growing up as a teenager in Sweden.

He would be rooting for his favourites, Callit and Legolas, during the early ‘80s when the International Trot was held at the now defunct Roosevelt Raceway.

Sjoberg is now proud to be part of the return of the International Trot Preview to Yonkers when it returns to the half-mile oval on October 25.

“To have a horse in this race means the world to my brother and I,” said Sjoberg, who is part owner of Sebastian K along with Michael Knutsson (together they comprise Knutsson Trotting Inc., of Vero Beach, Florida). “Our father would be proud.”

The International Trot, with all its pageantry and worldwide participation, will return in 2015 to Yonkers after last being run in 1995.

“As for the sport, I think the reinstatement of the race is very good for harness racing in the United States,” Sjoberg said. “When the race was cancelled (in 1988) I think the sport in North America lost a bit of its soul and became more isolated. It is important to have overseas horses compete in the United States as it is brings fresh ideas and keeps the interest up when international marauders come to race in North America.

“One of the main problems in the last 10 years or so has been the focus on retiring successful horses too quickly and the lack of international races on American soil,” Sjoberg said. “I hope with the reinstatement of the International Trot, or the World Championship as we call the race in Sweden, and the implementation of the ‘Gural rule’ (keeping horses racing into their four-year-old season) should revitalize the sport.”

Sebastian K or ‘Sebbe’ as he’s known around the barn, has won eight of 10 starts since coming to the United States from Sweden and appears to be one of the top choices in the $250,000 (estimated) International Trot Preview.

On June 28 at Pocono Downs, Sebastian K set the world record for trotting the fastest mile in harness racing, when he stopped the clock in 1:49 in the $100,000 Sun Invitational.

“He’s an amazing horse,” said Bjorn (Bernie) Noren, the assistant to trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt. “He’s a phenomenal animal.”

In 2012, Sebastian K was named Sweden’s Horse of the Year. Having started his career in Sweden, Sebastian K races barefoot (without shoes), unlike many of his American counterparts.

“Most horses over there race without shoes,” Noren said. “I think it makes them go a little faster. You must have a good surface to race barefoot on or it could sting the horse’s foot. Yonkers has a very good surface. We try to race him every time without shoes because he doesn’t like to wear them.”

The International Trot Preview is also expected to attract Market Share, Bee a Magician and Archangel and is part of a strong evening of racing from the Old Hilltop featuring the Messenger Stakes and the Yonkers Trot.

Yonkers Raceway will keep the international flavour going on Sundays, beginning on November 9 through December 14, when it will host an all-trotting card that will be simulcast to Europe beginning at 11 a.m. The track will offer fans many promotions for the special Sunday cards. More details about the promotions will be available as the time draws closer.

(With files from the SOA of New York)

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