05/23/2014 7:05PM

Harness: Maven carries Czernyson’s Elitlopp dream

Christine Cone-Czernyson
Maven will start from post 6 in the first Elitlopp elimination on Sunday morning.

Trainer Jonas Czernyson is returning home to Sweden, and he’s going there in a big way.

The 41-year-old native of Ystad, a tiny fishing and tourist hamlet located in the southern tip of Sweden, has one of two American horses invited to participate in this year’s Elitlopp, set for Sunday, May 25 at the historic Solvalla racetrack in Stockholm.

Czernyson’s  Maven, a winner of $1,453,969 lifetime, has been assigned post six in the first of two eight-horse Elitlopp eliminations at Solvalla.  Unlike many Scandinavian trotting tests, the Elitlopp is contested at a distance of one mile.  Many European diagonally-gaited events are contested at distances of a mile and a half or longer.

The first of 16 horses invited to participate in this year’s Elitlopp, Maven arrived on Monday, May 19 and has been training at the Erikssund Training Stable near Stockholm.  The 5-year-old daughter of Glidemaster, who is owned by Bill Donovan of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, arrives fresh off a 1:53 3/5 victory in a $60,000 Miami Valley Raceway (Ohio) distaff test on May 4.

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“She’s a tough little horse and being invited to the Elitlopp is a dream come true for me,” said Czernyson.  “After all, I was here 20 years ago, working as a groom, and travelling with a horse who was competing throughout Europe for an American-based trainer.”

Czernyson didn’t come up through the Standardbred trotting ranks in the usual fashion.  His parents were not involved in the harness racing industry, and he received a degree in welding through a local college in 1991.  Then, in January of 1992, his life changed forever.

“I got a chance to come to the States and work for trainer Don Swick,” Czernyson remembered. “He had a stable at the South Florida Trotting Center.  I was planning on staying in North America for just six months, and obviously, that plan didn’t work out.  The time turned into a year, and then 15 years, and now I don’t leave except to visit my family or for an opportunity like this.”

Later, Czernyson went to work for famed Swedish trainer Per Eriksson, and was paired with the top trotter Giant Force, accompanying him over the European continent’s finest raceways.

“He was a terrific horse and we traveled throughout Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark,” Czernyson recalled. “It was great being partnered with a horse of his caliber. And Per taught me a lot.  He was tough and I wouldn’t be where I am today if he hadn’t been a very demanding person to work for. He was an outstanding horseman with an outstanding work ethic.”

Eventually, Czernyson went out on his own, opening a public stable in November 2001. His numbers morphed quickly from just eight horses in January 2002 to over five times that today.

“In this business, the only way to showcase your talent and convince people you are capable is by the results you get on the track,” he said.

Those words certainly hold true for his mare Maven, who has 26 wins, eight seconds and a third in 41 career starts, and won both of harness racing’ s highest awards in 2013 for older female trotters—the O’Brien Award (Canada) and the Dan Patch Award (in the USA).

Throughout her stellar career, Maven has captured a plethora of solid trotting stakes that earned her a starting berth in this year’s Elitlopp, including the $250,000 Breeders Crown Mare Final last fall at Pocono Downs in 1:52 3/5 and the $500,000 Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Filly Final in 2012 in 1:54 at Woodbine. 

“I still pinch myself sometimes,” Czernyson laughed. “To be invited to the Elitlopp is such a treat, especially with Maven.  She’s done everything we’ve asked of her.”

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As a trainer, Czernyson posted his best season ever in 2013, with 56 wins, 39 seconds and 42 thirds after harnessing 326 starters to earn $2,655,588.  Lifetime, he’s amassed $16,429,572 from 377 career winners, and has posted $1 million-earning seasons or better each year since 2007.

“I hope that I can stay in this sport for a long time and hopefully, win some of harness racing’s biggest events—like the Elitlopp and Hambletonian,” he said. “I didn’t come to the states with any pre-conceived notions.  I just love what I do and I think that comes across to people.”

It apparently also comes across to Maven.