It is not often Ake Svanstedt can do something he’s never done before, but that might be the case on Saturday, June 3 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Svanstedt could have the race-time betting favourite in a Grand Circuit pacing race for the first time in his training career.
Long known for his prowess with trotters, first during a Hall of Fame career in his native Sweden and bolstered since arriving in the U.S. by two Hambletonian wins and five Dan Patch Award trophies, Svanstedt will send out 2-1 morning-line choice Stonebridge Helios in Saturday’s first of two $66,500 divisions of the Graduate Series for four-year-old pacers.
Stonebridge Helios, owned by John Fleischman and breeder Angie Stiller, will be making his first start of the season, as well as his debut for the Svanstedt Stable. The stallion has hit the board in 14 of 17 career races, winning 10. His victories include the Champlain Stakes at age two and eight triumphs on the Ontario stakes circuit.
The stallion qualified twice at The Meadowlands ahead of Saturday’s start, finishing third in both. In the most recent on May 19, he was timed in 1:50.4 with a :25.3 last quarter as he came home third behind millionaire Abuckabett Hanover and former O’Brien Award winner Tattoo Artist.
Svanstedt drove in both qualifiers, but Dexter Dunn will be in the sulky in the Graduate.
“I have never had a pacer like him,” Svanstedt said about the son of Sunshine Beach-Ken Doll J. “He’s a very nice horse, big and strong. He’s nice to drive, nice to handle and he’s a smart horse. I think he is the best pacer I’ve ever driven and trained.”
Svanstedt does not race many pacers, but enjoyed success last year with filly Valar Dohaeris, who won a division of the Empire Breeders Classic and finished second in the New York Sire Stakes championship and Courageous Lady. Male pacer Captain Cowboy was a multiple Grand Circuit winner in 2021 and third in last season’s MGM Messenger Stakes.
“It’s going to be fun to see [Stonebridge Helios] race,” said Svanstedt. “I’m excited to see what he can do.”
The second division of the Graduate for pacers finds Ron Burke-trained Birthday the 2-1 morning-line favourite in a field of seven. Birthday, who will start from post five with driver David Miller, won an elimination of the Charles Juravinski Memorial Cup and was seventh-placed-sixth in the final.
Saturday’s Mohawk card also includes the $99,750 Graduate Series opener for four-year-old trotters, where Svanstedt-trained millionaire mare Jiggy Jog S is the 7-5 morning line choice. She is the only female starter in the six-horse field. Dexter Dunn will drive, leaving from post two.
Last year, Jiggy Jog S hit the board in 11 of 13 races, winning eight. The daughter of Walner-Hot Mess Hanover won her final four starts of the campaign, including the Breeders Crown and Kentucky Filly Futurity. She took on the boys in the Hambletonian and finished fourth.
“She was good the whole season,” said Svanstedt, who trains Jiggy Jog S for owner Jorgen Sparredal Inc. “She was in tough races early in the season and she was in the toughest races at the end of the season. Not many horses can do that. She stayed good and had top form in the last race. That’s what I liked.”
Jiggy Jog S prepped for her seasonal debut by winning a qualifier on May 19 at The Meadowlands in 1:52.4 with a :26.3 last quarter.
“She has trained back good and qualified good,” said Svanstedt. “She didn’t change from last year. She is the same size; she was already a big mare. I’m looking forward to start racing with her.”
Three divisions of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes for three-year-old male pacers also are on tap on the road to the upcoming Pepsi North America Cup.
Racing begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) at Woodbine Mohawk Park.