By Ken Weingartner — Atlanta was made the 3-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s (Oct. 12) $1 million Yonkers International Trot at Empire City Casino’s Yonkers Raceway after drawing post three for the 41st edition of the invitational for older trotters. A 4-year-old mare, Atlanta will represent the United States in the 10-horse, nine-nation field.
The draw for the race, which will be contested at the distance of 1-1/4 miles around Yonkers’ half-mile oval, was held Tuesday (Oct. 8) during a luncheon at Empire City Casino’s Good Time Room.
Atlanta, the 2018 Trotter of the Year in the U.S., is one of two stateside representatives in the International Trot and heads to the race off a 1:53 qualifier at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Sept. 24. In her previous start, she won the Charlie Hill Memorial on Sept. 7 at Scioto Downs.
For the year, Atlanta has won seven of 11 starts and finished second on three occasions, earning $658,400. She has won 19 of 35 career races and $1.79 million. The 4-year-old mare is trained by Ron Burke, driven by Yannick Gingras, and owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Brad Grant, and Howard Taylor.
“At the end, it was (posts) two, three, and five; it didn’t matter which one of the three,” Gingras said. “Post three is as good a spot you’re going to get. We’re really happy with where we’re starting.
“I feel really good because she trained here last week and she was so good. She was strong finishing, too, and went a good mile. I wasn’t really planning on going super-fast, but she felt good and wanted to buzz her through one turn, and she did. I think all systems are go. We’ve got a good post, a sharp mare, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Atlanta is one of three mares in the field, with France’s Bahia Quesnot and Switzerland’s Uza Josselyn. Bahia Quesnot most recently finished second to Propulsion in the European Trotting Masters championship and earlier this season was second in two Group 1 events, the Oslo Grand Prix and Prix Maharajah. Uza Josselyn also has two Group 1 runner-up finishes this year, in the Prix D’Atlantique and Grand Prix de France.
Bahia Quesnot, who starts from post two, and Uza Josselyn, who leaves from post four, are both 5-1.
The International Trot has been won by a mare 11 times, most recently by Peace Corps in 1991. The International Trot was contested from 1959 through 1995 before being resurrected in 2015.
Guardian Angel AS drew post nine in the second tier and is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line. He finished third in his most recent race, the Caesars Trotting Classic on Sept. 20 at Harrah’s Hoosier Park. His most recent victory was in the Maple Leaf Trot on Aug. 31 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
The 5-year-old stallion, also representing the U.S., has won seven of 12 races this season and earned $664,634. He is trained by Anette Lorentzon, driven by Tim Tetrick, and owned by ACL Stuteri AB and Kjell Johansson.
“I’m not very happy with it; we’re much better being on the gate, but it is what it is,” assistant trainer Anna Lorentzon said. “Timmy has to work the trip out from there.
“He feels good. As soon as I shipped him back to New Jersey he’s been back to his old self. He’s had a really good season, better than we were hoping. So far so good. It would mean a lot (to win the International). There is a lot of prestige in it and we’re representing the U.S. It’s an honor to do that.”
There are four returnees from last year’s International Trot, including winner Cruzado Dela Noche. The 7-year-old stallion, representing Sweden for owner Anders Strom’s Courant Inc., is trained by Marcus Melander and will have Brian Sears in the sulky. He will start from post seven.
Other horses back for another try are Canada’s Marion Marauder, Norway’s Lionel, and Denmark’s Slide So Easy.
Marion Marauder is making his third appearance in the race; he finished second in 2017 and fifth in 2018. The 6-year-old stallion, seeking his first win of the year, has captured 20 of 60 lifetime starts and earned $3.21 million. He is trained by Paula Wellwood, driven by Scott Zeron and owned by Marion Jean Wellwood and Devin Keeling.
Lionel, a 9-year-old stallion who has earned nearly $2 million in his career, finished second in last year’s race while Slide So Easy finished eighth.
Slide So Easy will start from post one, Marion Marauder from post six, and Lionel from post eight.
Germany’s Norton Commander and Italy’s Zacon Gio complete this year’s field.
“Of course, it’s a strong field,” Gingras said, assessing the horses from overseas. “Uza Josselyn is a really strong mare and she’s quick. Zacon Gio is unbeaten this year and everybody I’ve talked to says he’s great on a half-mile track.
“He’s a strong horse as well. Lionel, he’s a little handicapped with post eight, but we saw what he could do last year. Bahia Quesnot has been really good in France.
“(Atlanta) is not alone in the race. There are many horses that belong. Of course, we’re one of them, but she’s going to have to race hard.”
Racing begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Yonkers Raceway. The International Trot is race seven with a 3 p.m. (EDT) approximate post time. The card also includes the $250,000 Harry Harvey Trot (race eight) and the $250,000 Dan Rooney Pace (race 11).
Following is the field in post-position order for the $1 million Yonkers International Trot.
1-Slide So Easy-Ake Svanstedt-Flemming Jensen-10/1
2-Bahia Quesnot-Junior Guelpa-Junior Guelpa-5/1
3-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-3/1
4-Uza Josselyn-Erik Adielsson-Rene Aebischer-5/1
5-Zacon Gio-Roberto Vecchione-Holger Ehlert-8/1
6-Marion Marauder-Scott Zeron-Paula Wellwood-6/1
7-Cruzado Dela Noche-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander-8/1
8-Lionel-Goran Antonsen-Goran Antonsen-8/1
9-Guardian Angel AS-Tim Tetrick-Anette Lorentzon-4/1
10-Norton Commander-Conni Lugauer-Conni Lugauer-15/1