05/28/2015 3:24PM

Harness: Takter has Maven ready for Elitlopp

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Nikki Sherman
Maven will start from post four in her Elitlopp elimination on Sunday.

Jimmy Takter knows the thrill of winning the Elitlopp. To this day the trainer still gets goosebumps when retelling the story of Moni Maker’s victory in the 1998 edition of Sweden’s elite invitational for older trotters. He hopes to experience the excitement again with Maven on Sunday.

Maven is one of the 16 trotters invited to the Elitlopp, which is held at Solvalla Raceway near Stockholm. The field was divided into two eight-horse eliminations, with Maven drawing post four in the second division. The 6-year-old mare will be driven by Takter’s brother, Johnny, and is the morning line second choice in her race.

B B S Sugarlight is the morning line favorite in Maven’s elimination and will start from post one. Mosaique Face is the choice in the first elim, which also includes another U.S. representative, Daryl Bier’s Wind Of The North, as well as former North American star Nuncio, who is owned and trained by Sweden’s Stefan Melander.

The top four finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the final.

“If you don’t get emotional, you’re not human,” Takter said when recounting Moni Maker’s triumph. “This is what we work for. It’s always exciting when you get in there. You put your game face on and feel the excitement all around you.”

It is one of the reasons Takter is looking forward to this year’s race. Takter is starting a horse in the Elitlopp for only the second time since Moni Maker’s victory; he also started Uncle Peter last year.

But it is not the only reason Takter is making the trip to Solvalla. He will spend four days in Sweden despite a busy schedule at home and hopes in the future races like the Elitlopp will be made the focal point of the racing calendar, thereby eliminating conflicts for trainers and drivers who want to participate in the event or simply travel to watch.

“There are three events in this sport – the Hambletonian, Elitlopp, and Prix d’Amerique – and I feel we are obligated to be there,” Takter said. “There aren’t that many fans left in this sport and the Elitlopp is by far the biggest one when it comes to fans and what they’re doing. People that haven’t been there can’t even imagine.

“The world is so small now. We have to start thinking about going together instead of going against each other. I spoke to (Meadowlands Racetrack Chairman) Jeff Gural and asked that next year there are no big conflicts, like the (New Jersey) sire stakes finals, the same weekend as the Elitlopp.

“If we don’t take care of those three events, they’re going to die out too. You see a lot of Europeans coming over here for the Hambletonian as a spectator, even trainers and people like that. The Elitlopp has unbelievable fan support. I have to be there.”

Moni Maker was the last U.S.-owned horse to win the Elitlopp. She also was the last female trotter to win the race. Maven -- who is owned by John Fielding, Herb Liverman, and Joyce McClelland -- will try to end both droughts. She heads to the Elitlopp off a second-place finish in the Copenhagen Cup, which was contested at 1-1/4 miles.

Last year, Maven finished third in her Elitlopp elimination and sixth in the final while in the stable of Jonas Czernyson. This year, she prepped for the Elitlopp by racing exclusively in Europe, where despite poor race luck and draws she has a win and three second-place finishes from nine starts.

Maven, who was the 2013 Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter, has won 29 of 52 North American races in her career, good for $1.74 million in purses.

“I think she’s ready,” Takter said. “I really think so. I think we have a heck of a shot. She’s probably much better prepared now than she was last year. She got adapted to the European system a little bit. Now she even handles a mile and a quarter better. I don’t think I could have her better than I have her right now.

“She can win it if the race goes her way. But it’s a wide open race. I would say out of 16 horses, 10 or 12 of them could be the winner.”

If Maven is unable to win, Takter would enjoy seeing Nuncio take the honor. Takter trained Nuncio last season and saw the horse win the Kentucky Futurity and Yonkers Trot and finish second in the Hambletonian.

Nuncio is 2-for-2 this year, but will have to overcome post seven in his elimination.

“I’m sure Stefan wishes he had another start in him, but you can never rule that horse out,” Takter said. “The race is going to be high pace and if he’s sitting third over I could see him coming very good in the last quarter (of a mile). He never gives up. I really hope that he’s going to race good. He deserves that, to show he’s a top horse, which he is.

“He’s a winner. If I don’t win the race, I would be very happy for him to win. They’re great people that own the horse and I’d have a little part of that Elitlopp too because I developed him as a 3-year-old.”

World champion Wind Of The North drew post eight in his elimination. Dave Palone – the winningest driver in harness racing history – will drive the 5-year-old gelding for Bier, who owns the horse with Joann Dombeck. Wind Of The North is coming off a second-place finish to Bee A Magician in the Cutler Memorial on May 16 at the Meadowlands. He has won three of 10 races this year and 16 of 61 in his career, earning $322,848.

Five horses have odds in single digits to be the overall Elitlopp champion: B B S Sugarlight, Mosaique Face, Nuncio, Timoko, and Maven. Timoko, who drew post seven in the second elimination, is the defending champion.

Here are the fields:

1st elimination:

1. Univers de Pan
2. Support Justice
3. Vincennes 
4. Mosaique Face
5. Ustinof du Vivier
6. Royal Fighter
7. Nuncio
8. Wind Of The North

 

2nd elimination:
1. B B S Sugarlight
2. Nahar
3. Brett Boko 
4. Maven
5. Magic Tonight
6. On Track Piraten
7. Timoko
8. Voltigeur de Myrt

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com