Swedish National is a delight to watch

22-June-2022
22-June-2022 20:40
in General
by Peter McNeile

The Grand National is undoubtedly one of horseracing’s global highlights, a heady mix of high stakes racing, big gambles and gor blimey Liverpool fashion. Without exception, the result always produces a back story to force its way on to the front pages of the Sunday papers.

But look around, and you will find copycat events everywhere, from regional staying chases like the Midlands Grand National to equivalents at our more fashionable Point-to-Points. One such is the Swedish Grand National, which took place last weekend at Stromshölm Racecourse, in a card of chase and hurdle races worth £56,000.

It takes a peculiar type of trainer to travel their horses abroad. On the flat, this is generally in pursuit of black type to enhance the value of the horse; over jumps, where the residual value of the horse is largely the same after a race as before, travelling to foreign shores is motivated either by the thrill of beating foreigners in their own backyard, by local connections or sheer weight of prize money.

The attraction of the Punchestown Festival for example is largely on the back of a shopping spree to buy more horses, or because trainers like Nicky Henderson can wind down after the stress of Cheltenham in the company of old friends like the Harringtons. Despite the high value of many of the races at Punchestown, the number of British horses travelling is very slight.

On the other hand, initiatives like the Crystal Cup Cross Country Series have promoted international participation very successfully on the back of points gathering toward bonuses for participation outside your own country. Nick Williams, who campaigned several horses in the Crystal Cup for a number of years, identified this as a major factor in his thinking. And of course, whilst in France, his horses were also able to earn their passage through higher prize money, and he was able to scout for fresh bloodstock among owner-breeders anxious to sell into the UK market.

No such attractions exist in Sweden where the £20,000 prize fund (230,000KR) is not enough to attract horses other than from central Europe. German jumpers have been regular visitors, winners even, of this quirky race in a picturesque park that is open to the public for the other 364 days of the year. To cap it all, Stromshölm Royal Castle overlooks the course, and this year’s star guest was King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden who presented the trophy given by Mirabel Topham back in 1971 when the Swedes politely asked to use the Grand National title.

The 2m 5f course includes regulation fences dressed with spruce aprons, so has more in common with a standard steeplechase than the fearsome Aintree equivalent, but it is held in high regard in Sweden, not least among an audience for which jump racing is an anomaly. There are precious few Jump races in Scandinavia’s largest racing jurisdiction, and the crowd of 4,000 for this event is as many as you will find at their Group contests on the flat.

Sadly, you won’t find latest runners and odds on Swedish racing that easily in British web searches. The paucity of British or Irish runners means that the races receive no coverage over here, although they are listed on the Svensk Galop site. Rather like your first time on a racecourse, reading the form takes a little time to assimilate.

This year’s winner, Him Her, a 9 year old gelding, was previously with Bertran de Balanda before being exported to the Czech Republic, and provided owner trainer Ivana Porkatova and rider Henrik Engblom with a memory to savour. There’s a chance Ivana will run Him Her in that other Grand National lookalike in October, namely the Velka Pardubice. The seven starters in the race are in stark contrast to the 40 that line up for Aintree.

Henrik Engblom and Him Her - a first Swedish National

Clearly, it hasn’t been possible to campaign horses in Sweden through the pandemic lockdowns; indeed the steeplechase didn’t take place at all in 2020, and behind closed doors last year, but for those adventurers who like to see how UK horse racing compares to elsewhere, a trip to royal Stromshölm looks one for the bucket list.

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Swedish National is a delight to watch

22-June-2022
22-June-2022 20:40
in General
by Peter McNeile

The Grand National is undoubtedly one of horseracing’s global highlights, a heady mix of high stakes racing, big gambles and gor blimey Liverpool fashion. Without exception, the result always produces a back story to force its way on to the front pages of the Sunday papers.

But look around, and you will find copycat events everywhere, from regional staying chases like the Midlands Grand National to equivalents at our more fashionable Point-to-Points. One such is the Swedish Grand National, which took place last weekend at Stromshölm Racecourse, in a card of chase and hurdle races worth £56,000.

It takes a peculiar type of trainer to travel their horses abroad. On the flat, this is generally in pursuit of black type to enhance the value of the horse; over jumps, where the residual value of the horse is largely the same after a race as before, travelling to foreign shores is motivated either by the thrill of beating foreigners in their own backyard, by local connections or sheer weight of prize money.

The attraction of the Punchestown Festival for example is largely on the back of a shopping spree to buy more horses, or because trainers like Nicky Henderson can wind down after the stress of Cheltenham in the company of old friends like the Harringtons. Despite the high value of many of the races at Punchestown, the number of British horses travelling is very slight.

On the other hand, initiatives like the Crystal Cup Cross Country Series have promoted international participation very successfully on the back of points gathering toward bonuses for participation outside your own country. Nick Williams, who campaigned several horses in the Crystal Cup for a number of years, identified this as a major factor in his thinking. And of course, whilst in France, his horses were also able to earn their passage through higher prize money, and he was able to scout for fresh bloodstock among owner-breeders anxious to sell into the UK market.

No such attractions exist in Sweden where the £20,000 prize fund (230,000KR) is not enough to attract horses other than from central Europe. German jumpers have been regular visitors, winners even, of this quirky race in a picturesque park that is open to the public for the other 364 days of the year. To cap it all, Stromshölm Royal Castle overlooks the course, and this year’s star guest was King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden who presented the trophy given by Mirabel Topham back in 1971 when the Swedes politely asked to use the Grand National title.

The 2m 5f course includes regulation fences dressed with spruce aprons, so has more in common with a standard steeplechase than the fearsome Aintree equivalent, but it is held in high regard in Sweden, not least among an audience for which jump racing is an anomaly. There are precious few Jump races in Scandinavia’s largest racing jurisdiction, and the crowd of 4,000 for this event is as many as you will find at their Group contests on the flat.

Sadly, you won’t find latest runners and odds on Swedish racing that easily in British web searches. The paucity of British or Irish runners means that the races receive no coverage over here, although they are listed on the Svensk Galop site. Rather like your first time on a racecourse, reading the form takes a little time to assimilate.

This year’s winner, Him Her, a 9 year old gelding, was previously with Bertran de Balanda before being exported to the Czech Republic, and provided owner trainer Ivana Porkatova and rider Henrik Engblom with a memory to savour. There’s a chance Ivana will run Him Her in that other Grand National lookalike in October, namely the Velka Pardubice. The seven starters in the race are in stark contrast to the 40 that line up for Aintree.

Henrik Engblom and Him Her - a first Swedish National

Clearly, it hasn’t been possible to campaign horses in Sweden through the pandemic lockdowns; indeed the steeplechase didn’t take place at all in 2020, and behind closed doors last year, but for those adventurers who like to see how UK horse racing compares to elsewhere, a trip to royal Stromshölm looks one for the bucket list.

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