05/27/2017 7:34PM

Harness: Bold Eagle chases history in Sunday’s Elitlopp

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JLL - Letrot
Bold Eagle starts outside of France for the first time in his career on Sunday.

Bold Eagle, widely regarded as the world's top trotter, will be seeking to join the likes of Varenne and Roquepine as horses that have won the Prix d'Amerique and Elitlopp in the same year when he competes in the latter event Sunday at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden.

The 6-year-old Bold Eagle (Ready Cash-Reethi Rah Jet-Love You), who has 34 victories from 39 lifetime starts and earnings of nearly 4 million Euros, won the Prix d'Amerique at Vincennes Racecourse in Paris in a record clocking on January 29 of this year, and he has remained in razor-sharp form since.  He went on to complete the French Trotting Triple Crown by taking the Grand Prix de France and Grand Prix de Paris in February, becoming the first horse to accomplish that feat since 1976 and only the fourth ever.  He then got nearly two months off before returning in the Prix de l'Atlantique at France's Hippodrome Enghien on April 22, winning that event as well. 

Bold Eagle also took a run at the Triple Crown in 2016, but fell short with a second-place finish in the Grand Prix de Paris after sweeping the first two legs.  That race concluded a long stretch of action for Bold Eagle, and that, along with the French breeding season, resulted in Bold Eagle passing on last year's Elitlopp.  With another year of seasoning and success under his belt now, owner Pierre Pilarski believes that Bold Eagle has reached the stage in his career that made a trip to Sweden a priority.

"The horse had no break for seven months. He was only 5 years old (still young in France) and had to do his breeding season at the stud farm," Pilarski said about the decision to give Bold Eagle time off between February and June 2016. "If we had wanted to participate in the Elitlopp we could not have given him rest.  In June 2016 we decided on the program for the next year and listed Solvalla as an important objective.  Bold Eagle has come to maturity now."

Trained by Sébastien Guarato, Bold Eagle has drawn post five in the first elimination heat and will be driven by regular pilot Franck Nivard.  He will face off against a field that includes Resolve (post eight, Ake Svanstedt), who won the A.J. Cutler Memorial at the Meadowlands in his first start of 2017, Delicious U.S. (post three, Örjan Kihlström), an 8-year-old Cantab Hall mare who enters with 13 straight victories, and Cruzado Dela Noche (post six, Björn Goop), a winner of three of his last five starts.  That elimination will also see an appearance by John Campbell as he drives Tjacko Zaz, a winner of five consecutive races, from post four. 

The other elimination contains defending champion Nuncio (post four, Kihlström), 2014 champion Timoko (post six, Goop), and Up And Quick (post one, Nivard), who has been receiving attention after winning the Critérium de Vitesse de Basse-Normandie at France's Hippodrome du Pays d'Argentan in a record 1:51 and change over the same mile journey they will face Sunday.  The top four finishers in each heat will return for the final, and the winner of the final will be declared the champion.  

"I know that if my horse is racing, the horse that beats him will have deserved to win the Elitlopp," Pilarski said.  "We will not look for excuses because Bold Eagle has never been so good. I think Delicious, like Timoko, can race very well in their respective eliminations, and I want Nuncio to qualify for the final so that the Swedish people will be happy."

In addition to facing off against a great field, this will be Bold Eagle's first start outside France and at a distance shorter than 2,100 meters, but Pilarski says his charge has the qualities that will help him overcome the unfamiliar surroundings and race conditions.

"Bold Eagle is a speed horse.  No horse has ever started as fast as him (1.04"6 the first 500 meters of the Prix de Selection (in 2015 at Vincennes) and finished as fast (1.06"8 the last 500 meters of the Grand Prix de Paris (4,150 meters)," said Pilarski. "He recovers like no other horse, and he will be better in the final if he qualifies."

If Pilarski is proven right, his horse should take his rightful place in the annals of harness racing history.