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By Ken Weingartner, USTA — A year after being scratched from the Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park because of an injury that sidelined him the remainder of the season, Alrajah One IT is ready to return to action Saturday in this year’s edition of Canada’s top event for older trotters. The 7-year-old stallion, unbeaten in three races since arriving in North America from Europe, is the 2-1 morning-line favorite.

The Italian-bred Alrajah One IT was a multiple Group 1 stakes-winner in Europe prior to joining the stable of trainer Ake Svanstedt last season. The son of Maharajah-Mariu, owned by Scuderia My Horse Inc., won 13 of 34 races overseas and earned $1.17 million.

He debuted in the U.S. with a 1:50.4 victory in the Crawford Farms Open Trot at The Meadowlands, storming home with a :25.3 last quarter-mile to win by 2-1/2 lengths. Next, he won the Spirit of Massachusetts by 1-3/4 lengths from post nine at Plainridge Park in a track-record 1:50.3. Twelve days later, he returned to the Big M and captured the Cashman Memorial by two lengths in 1:50.3.

Alrajah One IT was the morning-line favorite going into last year’s Maple Leaf Trot, but never got the opportunity to race because of a suspensory issue. Now, he is set to compete for the first time since then, again as the Maple Leaf Trot morning-line choice.

“He is ready,” Svanstedt said. “He has trained a lot here at home (in New Jersey) and qualified twice. I’m happy with him. He is ready to go.”

Alrajah One IT will start the Maple Leaf from post two with Dexter Dunn in the sulky, as he was for all three of the stallion’s wins last year. Alrajah One IT prepped for his return with two qualifiers, finishing second to Venerate in the first at The Meadowlands, where he was timed in 1:52.2 with a :27.1 last quarter. He won the second by more than 21 lengths at Pocono Downs, where he again was timed in 1:52.2 with a :27.1 last quarter.

“The time was the same, but he was sharper in the second qualifier,” said Svanstedt, who drove Alrajah One IT in both. “He felt much stronger. He was more on the bit. I think he can do a good race the first time out.

“He is a good horse, of course. He is fast and strong. He has everything.”

Although he was not racing, Alrajah One IT remained busy during his time away from the track — performing stud duty. Svanstedt said Alrajah One IT bred 130 mares in Italy through frozen semen transport and another group of North American mares while standing in New Jersey. Those mares included Dan Patch Award-winners Poof She’s Gone and Venerable.

The C$530,000 Maple Leaf Trot attracted a field of eight, with the Svanstedt Stable also sending Asteroid and Rattle My Cage to the event with Alrajah One IT.

Asteroid will start from post four with Svanstedt driving and is 10-1 on the morning line. He has raced three times this year, with a best finish of third in the Spirit of Massachusetts, since returning from a successful stint in Europe.

“He’s been up and down, but he trained good, and it feels like he could do a good race,” Svanstedt said about the 5-year-old son of Creatine-Ultimate Cameron. “Maybe he is not ready to win a race like this, it is the best horses, but I hope for more from him next year when he is older and has been here a longer time. He is a fast horse and has a very good attitude. He is always fighting and feels good.”

Rattle My Cage will leave from post eight with driver Yannick Gingras. The 5-year-old son of Love You-Caress The Senses is 12-1 on the morning line. He is winless in five races this season but was second in the Spirit of Massachusetts and third in both the Crawford Farms and Cutler Memorial. Last year, he won the Graduate Series championship.

“He usually does well, but he was not so good his last time (finishing fourth in the Cashman Memorial); we expect better from him,” Svanstedt said. “But he was a little off and he feels better now again. I hope he can do a good race, but he has a bad post in a tough race, so he will need luck.”

It’s Academic is the 5-2 second choice on the Maple Leaf morning line. He will start from post six with David Miller driving for trainer Ron Burke. The 6-year-old son of Uncle Peter-Annapolis brings a five-race win streak to the race, with his victories including the Cashman, Spirit of Massachusetts, and Crawford.

Venerate, who won the Cutler and was second in both the Crawford and Cashman, is the 7-2 third choice. He leaves from post seven with Brian Sears driving for Marcus Melander. The 5-year-old son of Love You-Peaceful Kemp was a Dan Patch Award winner at age 2, when he won the Mohawk Million.

Completing the field are two-time O’Brien Award-winner Fashion Frenzie, Logan Park, and Sermon.

“It’s not so many horses, but it’s good horses,” said Svanstedt, who won the Maple Leaf last year with Back Of The Neck and in 2016 with Resolve. “It’s Academic is the horse to beat, but it is a lot of good horses. It will be a good race.”

Racing begins at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Mohawk. For free programs, visit the track’s website here.

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