By Ken Weingartner, USTA — After setting a Canadian record with his 1:50.2 win in the Maple Leaf Trot on Sept. 2, Alrajah One IT will make his next start Saturday when he meets eight rivals in the $250,000 Dayton Trotting Derby for older male trotters at Hollywood Dayton Raceway.
The Italian-bred star, who was a multiple Group 1 stakes-winner in Europe, is undefeated in four races since arriving in the U.S. last year. No horse has been nearer than 1-1/2 lengths of Alrajah One IT at the finish line of any of those races.
On Saturday, the 7-year-old stallion will start from post nine with Dexter Dunn driving for trainer Ake Svanstedt.
Svanstedt, who won the previous two editions of the Dayton Trotting Derby with Back Of The Neck, will also send out Charlie Hill Memorial winner Incommunicado and Sebastian K Invitational winner Southwind Tyrion in this year’s event. Andy McCarthy will drive Incommunicado from post seven while Svanstedt will drive Southwind Tyrion from post six.
Saturday’s card also features the Dayton Oaks Derby for older female trotters, Dayton Derby for older male pacers, and Dayton Distaff Derby for older female pacers. Each of the three races go for a purse of $250,000. First-race post time is 5 p.m. (EDT). The derbies are the final four events on the 14-race card.
Alrajah One IT, a son of Maharajah-Mariu owned by Scuderia My Horse Inc., has won 17 of 38 career races and earned $1.70 million. His triumph in the Maple Leaf Trot followed a nearly 13-month layoff because of injury.
“He came out of the race good, and everything is normal with him,” Svanstedt said. “He’s trained good.”
Svanstedt has developed a reputation for having horses primed for big performances off lengthy respites. Alrajah One IT captured his North American debut, the Crawford Farms Open Trot, by 2-1/2 lengths in a then stakes-record-equaling 1:50.4 (with a :25.3 last quarter-mile) in July 2022. It was his first start in a little more than seven months following his arrival from Europe.
“He’s not a horse that needs to go races to come into form,” Svanstedt said. “You can train him into top form.”
He added about his general approach to preparing horses, “I want to train them into form, I don’t want to race in a couple of overnights before they race. I want to save them for the big races. I want to have them sound and healthy, and ready mentally also.
“There are different styles for different trainers. (Ron) Burke has his own style, and he is very successful. His horses race every week, and they race good. I can’t do it that way. My style is to not race them so often and have them ready for the big purses. That is my style.”
Burke has two horses in the Dayton Trotting Derby, It’s Academic and Hillexotic. Burke won the 2020 race with the mare Atlanta.
It’s Academic has hit the board in 12 of 13 races this year, winning eight. His victories include a stakes-record 1:50.2 score in the Crawford Farms, the John Cashman Memorial, Spirit of Massachusetts, and this past week’s Caesars Trotting Classic. He finished second in the Maple Leaf Trot. He will start Saturday from post five with driver David Miller. Hillexotic, who won this year’s Maxie Lee Memorial, leaves from post three with Yannick Gingras.
Svanstedt and Burke also have top contenders in the Dayton Oaks, with Svanstedt-trained Jiggy Jog S starting from post seven with Dunn, and Burke-trained M-M’s Dream starting from post nine with Miller.
M-M’s Dream has won seven of 10 races this year and brings a three-race win streak to Dayton. She is a nose from being undefeated in her past six starts and has beaten Jiggy Jog S in their only two previous meetings this season.
Jiggy Jog S has finished no worse than second in seven races this year, winning four. She heads to Dayton off a second-place finish in the MGM Yonkers International Trot.
“She is only a 4-year-old and was racing against all tough horses that have been to the Prix d’Amerique and Elitloppet, so she did very good,” Svanstedt said. “She came out good from the race. She’s raced good every time. I hope she is ready for another good one.”
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