A Harness Racing Fairytale Story
“It didn’t take me long before I fell in love with him. It’s just the way he is. When he lets you get close to him, he’s got a great personality. There’s just no one like him. To everyone else, he just seems like an old grump, but he is very great, not only on the racetrack, but to be around in the barn as a horse."
From afar, he might not appear the easiest to love. But it didn’t take him long to steal Ida Nilsen’s heart.
Archie is just that way.
For the last five years, Nilsen has been the caretaker of world renowned trotter Arch Madness, aka Archie, in the stable of trainer Trond Smedshammer. On Saturday night, Nilsen and Arch Madness went to the races together for the final time. On Monday, Nilsen said an emotional goodbye.
Nilsen’s work visa expires this week and the 29-year-old native of Norway returned to her homeland Tuesday. She was undecided if she would remain there or come back to the U.S. sometime in the future.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Nilsen said Monday afternoon. “I’m just going to go home and see what kinds of opportunities are thrown at me.”
Her opportunity to work and travel with Arch Madness, she added, was “truly a fairytale.”
Nilsen arrived at Smedshammer’s stable seven years ago after deciding to leave Norway when friend Maria Kristensen – Arch Madness’ previous caretaker – told her how much she enjoyed working in the States.
“I always wanted to come here and when she told me how great it was I made up my mind,” Nilsen said. “It was the best decision I ever made.”
When Kristensen left the stable in 2009, Nilsen took over as Arch Madness’ caretaker.
But it wasn’t love at first sight.
“I didn’t really care much for him because I saw him in the barn with Maria and he was very spoiled,” Nilsen said, adding with a laugh, “Kind of like the way he is with me now – and everyone else probably sees it, but now I don’t see it."
Arch Madness won his first start, an elimination of the Maple Leaf Trot, with Nilsen by his side and finished second in the Maple Leaf Trot final.
“He knows people. He’s very smart like that. The way he acts when he sees me, I fell in love with that.”
During their ensuing time together, Nilsen saw Arch Madness win numerous races, but none more emotional than his triumph in the 2011 Oslo Grand Prix. Smedshammer, also from Norway, was unable to travel home for the race because of paperwork delays for his visa.
“It was a lot of pressure to race a horse in that race,” Nilsen said. “Everyone dreams of racing in that race, and I got to race in it – and we won it. Then I cried. I cried until after the winner’s circle.
“To bring a horse like him to my home country, that was really very special. Everyone expected us to do well, and he did great.”
For his career, Arch Madness has won 36 races and $4.32 million in purses for owners Marc Goldberg and Willow Pond LLC. The gelded son of Balanced Image-Armbro Archer ranks No. 6 in earnings among all trotters in history, and second to only Moni Maker among trotters that raced the majority of their careers in North America.
His top triumphs came in the 2007 Breeders Crown for three-year-olds, 2008 Maple Leaf Trot, 2011 Oslo Grand Prix, 2010 Cutler Memorial, 2009 Credit Winner, and 2013 Allerage Open Trot.
He finished second in Sweden’s Elitloppet in 2012 and 2013. He also finished second twice in the Breeders Crown Open, in 2008 and 2009, and twice in the Maple Leaf Trot, in 2009 and 2011.
“Not everyone gets the chance to take care of a horse like this,” Nilsen said. “I was really lucky. Thanks to him, I’ve seen so much and been to so many places.
“To see how special it is for Trond and the owners, and the way other people love him, is great. I love reading the comments on his Facebook page and seeing that people care about him too. He deserves that. He hasn’t been the best one every year, but he’s showed up for so many years. They don’t do that, the other ones. He’s just a really great horse and I love that people love him for it and see him that way.”
Ida Nilsen and Arch Madness (Ken Weingartner Photo)
But probably no one sees him the same way as Nilsen. As she prepared for Arch Madness’ start in last weekend’s TVG Free For All Series Championship for trotters at the Meadowlands, she posted the following on her own Facebook page:
“All fairytales have an ending, and this is ours! On our way to the Meadowlands for our last race together! Thank you for everything Arch, you have given me the time of my life and I have so many great memories. You will always be the love of my life and my everything.”
This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.
Haven been a groom, trainer,
Haven been a groom, trainer, driver and mentor, most of the caretakers of these fabulous equine athletics really deserve more recognition for the success of these animals by the love and care that these grooms give them day after day.It is sure nice to see that some owners and trainers now give a little percentage of their winnings to the caretakers now.( HAT OFF TO THEM). Safe return back home IDA.Come and see us soon. Have a good day.Ron