Trainer Trond Smedshammer understandably has a special fondness for the charismatic trotter Arch Madness.
Smedshammer expects the eight-year-old gelding with career earnings of $3,581,971 to improve in his second start since shipping back from Europe in Friday’s $201,700 Titan Cup final at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Arch Madness is the defending champion and will make his fifth straight appearance in the event, which is race six on the 12-race card.
Smedshammer will drive his other trainee in the race, Dejarmbro, from post eight, while Arch Madness will be reunited with his regular pilot Brian Sears. Smedshammer and Sears teamed up to win the 2006 Titan Cup with Sand Vic.
Owned by Marc Goldberg of Woodmere, NY and Barry Goldstein’s Willow Pond LLC of Hewlett, NY, the son of Balanced Image has won 30 of 81 lifetime starts. He has also been in the money 60 times, and moves into the Top Ten on the all-time money list for trotters with a win or a second on Friday.
Last year, Arch Madness destroyed his Titan Cup competition, romping by eight lengths in a world record of 1:50.2.
“I can’t say there is much of a difference in the way he came back from Europe last year to how is now,” noted Smedshammer. “I mean, last year he won the Prep in 1:51.3 and last week he trotted in 1:51.2. Obviously, the competition was different in 2011. I definitely expect him to be better this week, but I’m not sure if that’s going to be enough. I certainly didn’t expect him to be any better than he was last Friday. I’m sure it’s going to be one hell of a race. It’s also going to be a great year. Don’t forget there are some other serious horses out there like San Pail, Mister Herbie and Daylon Magician.”
After finishing third in last week’s Prep behind Chapter Seven and Winning Mister, Smedshammer remains confident Arch Madness will make an even stronger account of himself, yet he also expressed concern about the outstanding Prep winner, who reeled off a world record of 1:50.4.
“I don’t know if Chapter Seven is going to get better off that mile,” said Smedshammer. “You would think he has license to move forward off that. It looked like he wasn’t even stretched out at all. I’ve never seen a horse improve that much from age three to four. At least it’s nice to see he’s a son of Windsongs Legacy [Smedshammer’s 2004 Trotter of the Year].”
Arch Madness recently returned from a successful European trip, finishing a locked in third in the Oslo Grand Prix in Norway. He then posted a second to Commander Crowe in both his elimination and the final of the Elitlopp at Solvalla Racecourse in Sweden.
“He tied up last year in the Elitlopp, so this time we stabled him in Sweden, he raced good, everything went well and he shipped back in great shape. I didn’t do a whole lot with him in the first four weeks back here. We actually didn’t do anything with him in the first week he traveled back. He hung out at my place and jogged in the woods a little bit. We brought him to White Birch Farm to train him on the straightaway. He hadn’t done any fast miles until last Friday. Last fall, after the Breeders Crown he was tired, so we gave him six weeks off and pretty much started from scratch with him this season.”
In addition to being a fan favourite, the 2007 Breeders Crown winner has given Smedshammer some of his best moments.
“He’s obviously been a special horse to compete at the top level for so many years in a row. It’s very unusual. He’s a tough old horse. He’s as sound as he’s ever been and I don’t think he’s lost a step yet. To bring a horse back like him year after year has been a lot of fun.
“We’ve had our share of headaches with him with regards to his lack of manners. It doesn’t really show in his races anymore, but I still can’t sit behind him and train him the way I want to. He just acts up. Not even my second trainers can do it. The groom actually does it and that’s when he’s the most quiet. Therefore, I don’t really have a good feel of how he’s going to be from race to race. We still use the treadmill, the power cart and lunging in the sand pit.
Smedshammer won the 2004 Hambletonian with Windsongs Legacy, he’s a perennial player in the sport’s $1.5 million classic, and Solvato could be his ticket to this year’s big dance on Saturday, August 4.
“Solvato is a fast enough horse to be in the eliminations. His Beal elimination was a disaster. I was looking to follow Ron Pierce and Magic Tonight, but then Modern Family pulled first over in front of them and couldn’t keep up [and broke]. When they go in 1:51.3 [Googoo Gaagga] you can’t go three wide on that final turn at Pocono. I’m actually glad now he didn’t make that final. He’s still fresh, and I’ll probably race him a few more times in Pennsylvania before the Hambletonian eliminations. He’s a trip horse, but hey, I won a Triple Crown with a horse just like him in Windsongs Legacy.”
Smedshammer, 45, is known as the American Viking for his Norwegian roots, and has well established himself as an elite trotting specialist. He has trained ten trotters who banked over $1 million, and, in 2011, his stable surpassed the $2.5 million mark for the ninth straight year. The 2004 Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year has been a dominant force in the Breeders Crown series and on the Grand Circuit.
To view entries for Friday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Friday Entries – Meadowlands Racetrack.