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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

GRAND CIRCUIT TROTTERS

By Ken Weingartner, USTA Media — Swedish-born trotters Jonas K and Jessica K saw their careers delayed at age 2 but are poised to make up for lost time for breeder-owner Tristan Sjoberg this season at 3.

Jonas K is already off to a promising start, posting triumphs in his first two lifetime races for trainer Ake Svanstedt. He captured his debut in a conditioned event April 25 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and then burst onto the Grand Circuit stage with a track-record 1:53 triumph May 16 in the Battle of Bunker Hill at Plainridge Park, where he cruised to victory by 12-1/2 lengths.

On Wednesday, Jessica K will try to duplicate Jonas K’s winning ways when she makes her career debut in a conditioned race at Harrah’s Philadelphia. Trained by Julie Miller, Jessica K has qualified twice, posting a 1:58.4 victory in her most recent on May 17 at Philly, and is 4-1 on the morning line.

Jessica K, a daughter of Centurion ATM-Belle Nana, missed her 2-year-old season because of injury. Her connections hoped to get her ready for this year’s Bobby Weiss Series at Pocono in April, but her return to training during the winter was delayed by illness.

“She only started proper training in mid-February,” Sjoberg said. “She is staked to a lot of races in the U.S., but most of them are toward the back end of the season.”

Jessica K’s stakes calendar includes the MGM New York New York Mile at Yonkers, Reynolds Memorial, Zweig Memorial, Tompkins-Geers, Delmonica Hanover, Buckette, and five late-season events at Harrah’s Hoosier Park in October and November.

The filly was named after Jessica Hultman, who took care of Felicityshagwell S prior to the horse’s move from Sweden to the U.S. in 2020. Felicityshagwell S won last year’s Breeders Crown Mare Trot and is owned by Sjoberg’s Knutsson Trotting Inc., which also owns Jessica K and shares ownership of Jonas K with Little E LLC and Stall Kalmar Inc.

Jonas K was named after Sarah and Ake Svanstedt’s son Jonas. The colt, by Centurion ATM out of Crown Classic, was held from racing last season to give him more time to mature physically.

“He went through an extended and uneven growing period as a 2-year-old,” Sjoberg said. “He always showed ability, but his body was just not mature enough to fully absorb the training, so we made the decision to turn him out and race him as a 3-year-old instead.”

Jonas K’s stakes calendar includes the Currier & Ives, MGM Yonkers Trot, Zweig Memorial, Tompkins-Geers, Arden Downs, Beal Memorial, Old Oaken Bucket, Bluegrass, Simpson Memorial, and Matron.

“I think the Yonkers Trot is a race that would suit him to a T,” Sjoberg said. “Depending on his earnings, it would be interesting to see him in the Zweig or Beal. I think his next assignment will most likely be a non-winners of three at Philly and then the Currier & Ives.

“I also have a dream plan that if he continues to develop, then the Swedish Criterium is a possibility. It’s a $1 million race for 3-year-olds at the end of September and he is eligible as he is a Swedish-bred. Sweden does not have the same strict quarantine rules, so he could leave the U.S. in late August and be ready for the eliminations on Sept. 14. But that’s if he continues to develop and Ake and my partners agree with the plan.”

Jessica K and Jonas K were both bred by Knutsson Trotting AB, which is Sjoberg and Michael Knutsson. Centurion ATM, whose career wins included the 2014 Peter Haughton Memorial, is owned by Knutsson Trotting Inc., which shared ownership of the stallion during his racing days.

“Jonas is just like his dad; he does just enough in training to get by but as soon as he steps out on the racetrack, he is super-focused and just wants to race,” Sjoberg said. “When he qualified in April, he had never seen a mobile starting gate before, or even stepped on a racetrack; he had only trained at (Svanstedt’s) Legend Farm. He has the cool, calm, collected attitude of his sire. And I am very impressed with how Ake and Sarah have managed him.”

Centurion ATM was retired to stud duty in 2018. After standing overseas, Sjoberg moved the stallion to Kentucky at the end of 2020. Jonas K and Jessica K were sent over earlier that same year as part of a plan to reintroduce Centurion ATM to people in the States. After the two failed to race last year, he could only laugh at the outcome.

“My marketing plan didn’t pan out in 2021,” Sjoberg said.

That might change in 2022 if Jonas K and Jessica K can reward the patience of their connections.

“Let’s hope they can repay our faith in them,” Sjoberg said. “It is certainly off to a good start.”

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