No trotter in history has recorded four winning miles of 1:50.3 or faster, but on Saturday night Sebastian K will try to accomplish the feat in only his fourth start in North America.
Sebastian K is among the seven horses in Saturday's $100,000 Sun Invitational for older trotters at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. The field also includes Market Share, who is history's only other trotter with three winning miles of 1:50.3 or faster.
Last weekend, Sebastian K and trainer-driver Ake Svanstedt won for the third time in as many starts since arriving in the U.S. from Sweden. They captured the third round of the TVG Free For All Series for older trotters in 1:50.3 at the Meadowlands, beating Archangel by two lengths and third-place Market Share by 4 3/4 lengths.
Sebastian K won his U.S. debut in a world-record-equaling 1:50.1 on May 10 and followed that performance with a 1:50.2 victory in the $175,000 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial final.
"It's an amazing story,” said Bjorn "Bernie” Noren, who is Svanstedt's assistant. "Of course we were hoping he was going to do great, but this is – I don't want to say a surprise, really – but a good feeling that the horse can do like he's done.”
Sebastian K drew post 7 in the Sun Invitational, which also includes Arch Madness, Sevruga, Amigo Ranger, Archangel, and Modern Family. Arch Madness, one of the richest trotters in history with more than $4 million in purses, and Sevruga also are among history's 15 trotters to win with at least a 1:50.3 time.
Arch Madness, who has won twice in his career with a time of 1:50.2, Market Share, Sebastian K, and the retired Chapter Seven are the only trotters in history to win in 1:50.3 or faster multiple times. One of Market Share's 1:50.3 miles came last year in a qualifier. Earlier this year he trotted 1:50.2 at Harrah's Philadelphia, the fastest time ever on a five-eighths-mile track.
Pocono Downs is a five-eighths-mile track known for its speed, so that mark could be in jeopardy Saturday. Depending on how the race unfolds, a sub-1:50 mile might not be out of the question.
"It's not out of the possibility,” Noren said. "It depends how the race unfolds. If they get to three quarters and everybody still has something in the tank, it could happen. If you go too much in the [first] half, of course you're going to go a little slower the last half. That's the way racing is. But that's a fast track. If the weather is good, they're going to have the track in top shape.”
In his most recent race, Sebastian K won from gate to wire. He got the lead with a :27.3 opening quarter-mile before relaxing in a :28.2 second quarter. He trotted :54.3 for the second half, including :26.2 for the final quarter-mile.
"It was the best I ever felt him,” Svanstedt said. "Usually he gets to the front and looks around for other horses, but this time he just kept going.”
Added Noren, "Ake was just sitting and waiting. He was waiting for somebody to come and then Market Share came first-up and the last quarter he let (Sebastian K) go and he was flying home really good. It was his best race so far. He was really sharp. He really wanted to take off.
"The horse looks great, he feels great. He should get better the more he's racing.” (HRC)