Champion Six Pack returns to Yonkers Saturday night
August 10, 2019
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Tristan Sjoberg distinctly recalls a trip to Ake Svanstedt’s stable in March 2018 when he visited his 2- and 3-year-olds in training. Before he left the barn, Svanstedt pulled out Six Pack. The freshman New York Sire Stakes Champion the previous fall hadn’t embarked on his sophomore season yet, but Sjoberg loved what he saw.
“He brought Six Pack out and said, ‘take one good look, take one mental picture of this horse here right now, because this is the perfect conformation of a horse. This is the perfect horse,’ ” Sjoberg remembered.
Sjoberg watched Six Pack’s 3-year-old campaign with interest and soon, the entire trotting world followed. He won the Empire Breeder’s Classic Final, the Stanley Dancer, the Yonkers Trot, the Kentucky Futurity, and the Matron and finished second in the Beal and the TVG Open Trot against older horses.
By year’s end, Six Pack’s earnings swelled to $1,358,290 for owners Svanstedt, Jeff Gural’s Little E, and Stall Kalmar. Six Pack also secured the Dan Patch Award for champion 3-year-old male trotter. Sjoberg got the opportunity to join the group this season and bought in under his stable Knutsson Trotting.
“Jeff being a close friend and partner of mine, (Six Pack) was my favorite horse of the 3-year-olds and I was given an opportunity to buy into the horse earlier this year,” Sjoberg said. “I thought it was great, so I took a piece of him and I’m very happy with that.”
Saturday night (August 10), Six Pack will return to Yonkers Raceway in the $46,000 Open Handicap Trot. Assigned post eight, the 4-year-old Muscle Mass son enters in the mist of a mixed season.
Six Pack began his 2019 campaign with a 1:53.1 win in a $50,000 leg of the Graduate at the Meadowlands May 18. He was third to Crystal Fashion and Fiftydollarbill in the next leg June 8 and second to the latter rival in a third leg in a 1:50.2 mile June 21. Six Pack met Atlanta in the $250,000 Graduate Series Final July 6. He started from post nine and forged to the lead in a :54.2 half-mile, but lost to the Hambletonian winner by a neck while trotting 1:49.1.
“I thought he was absolutely excellent considering where he was,” Sjoberg said. “He wasn’t meant to be 100 percent at that race. The Swedish trainers usually don’t have them super ready at the beginning of the season, they do need a couple of tighteners and he is a big horse and we’re expecting a long season. A lot of the big races are near the end of the season.
“To beat Atlanta, you’ve got to get a good trip and you have to be 100 percent,” Sjoberg continued. “He was probably 95 percent at the time. He wasn’t quite enough and the form Atlanta was in was fantastic. It was a great race, one of my favorite races, even if we lost by a neck.”
Six Pack faced Atlanta and Crystal Fashion again the following week in the $450,000 Hambletonian Maturity. Starting from post 11, Six Pack got away seventh and was interfered with late in the 9-furlong stakes, finishing third behind his two rivals. Three weeks later on Hambletonian Day, Six Pack blasted from post nine in the $280,000 Cashman, but was tracked down late by Crystal Fashion and Guardian Angel As.
“Six Pack is a big horse, he takes a bit of time to get going, and I think it’s been a good season so far. I wouldn’t call it a great one yet,” Sjoberg said. “He’s come back strong, he’s had a lot of tough races, and particularly a lot of bad posts. He’s been stuck on the outside, had a trailing post, he was interfered with, so he really hasn’t had a lot of racing luck this year.”
Sjoberg, present for the difficult loss on North American harness racing’s biggest day, felt the :26.3 first quarter compromised Six Pack. He also conceded the three weeks between races heading into the Cashman may have been too much.
“I thought the first quarter really took a bit of sting out of him because he had to leave so hard from post nine to get to the front,” Sjoberg said. “On those kind of days, no quarter is asked, no quarter is given. Nobody was letting anyone down to the rail. From post nine, there was just no hole to get to. He had to go to the front and I think that initially took the sting out of him. That whole first turn was a killer.
“Three weeks in between races might not have been ideal from the Hambo Maturity to the Cashman,” he continued. “In hindsight, maybe we should have thrown in one more race in between. I think that was a little on Ake’s mind as well.”
With another three-week gap to Six Pack’s next major target, the Maple Leaf Trot, Svanstedt aimed for a tightener and entered Six Pack in the local weekly trotting feature one week after Hambletonian Day. Besides the timing, Sjoberg also hopes Six Pack can make his case for a ticket to the $1 million Yonkers International Trot October 12. Atlanta has already accepted an invitation, and Sjoberg wants to see the rivalry continue.
“The International Trot is one of the most absolutely important races for Swedish people. We don’t even call it the International Trot, we call it the World Championship of harness racing, so that’s really how important that race is for us Swedes,” Sjoberg said. “I remember when I was at Roosevelt, I would get up early in the morning. It wasn’t televised, but it would be on the radio. I would turn the radio on and listen to all those great races. I remember when one of my favorite horses won it (in 1987), Callit. Legolas, that was the first race he was beaten at when Ideal du Gazeau won. It’s a very important race.
“I’m super excited to have a horse that’s in contention for this race,” he continued. “I think with these kind of races, it’s very important also to try and get not just the flag horses from abroad, but it’s also important to look at the rivalries you have in North America at the time. You want to see those continue in the International Trot as well.”
Saturday’s trotting feature also includes Eye Ofa Tiger As, who beat Will Take Charge last out July 27 and seeks a repeat win in the local Open Handicap from post seven. Weslynn Dancer’s last Yonkers start resulted in an Open win and she returns after tries in the Armbro Flight, Cleveland Trotting Classic, and Spirit of Massachusetts Trot. She will start from post five. Tight Lines finished eighth in the Cashman and drew an advantageous post two dropping back into the Open. New Heaven, Cash Me Out, Lord Cromwell, and Such An Angel complete the lineup.
Although Six Pack is likely to be a heavy favorite, Sjoberg isn’t sure how the horse’s trip will set up from the far outside post. Contrary to Six Pack’s recent tactics, Sjoberg feels he is better off cover than on the lead. Six Pack’s only loss at Yonkers from four starts came in a NYSS leg at 2 when he started from post eight.
“I would love for him to get a helmet drive and get some cover and give the horse a breather and maybe attack with a quarter left to go. I would love some live cover, but whether that’s possible or not, that’s debatable,” Sjoberg said.
“Obviously from post eight, you either take him down immediately and hope you get good cover or you go to the front again. That’s it,” he continued. “There’s some good horses there with Eye Ofa Tiger As, who’s in the form of his life, and Weslynn Dancer, she’s a very good mare. There’s a couple of horses who are tough to beat on a half-mile track and know Yonkers. I think a lot will be decided in the first 50 yards.”
Saturday night’s card also features the $46,000 Open Handicap Pace and $37,000 4-Year-Old Open Handicap Pace.
Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.