Eriksson looks forward to International Trot
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"It's a great honor as well as a privilege to participate in the International Trot," Eriksson said. "To drive in the race is amazing to begin with, and to do it with a gentleman and professional like Oasis Bi is even better.
"He had a phenomenal season last year, when everything clicked. He hasn't had as much luck this year, but still has been racing on top level. Perhaps his biggest strength is his technique, which he has shown off the previous years at Yonkers."
Eriksson's career started slowly, but he has become one of the top drivers in Sweden, where he is No. 10 in wins this year. On Sunday, Eriksson made headlines when he filled in for trainer/driver Robert Bergh to guide Diamanten, owned by former NHL star Peter Forsberg, to victory in the $176,000 Grosser Preis von Deutschland in Hamburg.
"I started at a ‘harness-racing school' when I was 16, but then I didn't know much about anything," Eriksson said. "I got my driver's license when I was 18, but didn't drive much at all the first years. In fact, I think it took about five years before my first win.
"Despite that, I've never lost track of my dream, and that is to be able to compete at the highest level. And it doesn't get much higher than this. This year, especially, I've gotten to drive great horses that have raced for a lot of money, but this (International Trot) definitely tops it all."
Oasis Bi, a 9-year-old stallion, has won 18 of 80 career races and $2.06 million in purses. Owned by Sweden's Frackstad Lantbruks AB, the Italian-born Oasis Bi is a son of Toss Out, a stakes-winner in the States, out of the Self Possessed mare Up Front JM. His family includes millionaire Million Dollar Bye and Dan Patch Award winner Firm Tribute.
Last year, Oasis Bi's wins included the Group 1 Gran Premio Lotteria. He finished second to Nuncio in the UET Trotting Masters championship and finished third in the Prix d'Amerique.
At ages 2 and 3, Oasis Bi was in the stable of Per Engblom. When Engblom moved to the U.S., eventually landing a spot as Jimmy Takter's top assistant, Oasis Bi was transferred to Pettersson.
"During the last five years he's meant a lot to us," Pettersson said in a video produced by Kristin Riise Ødegård for the SOA of New York. "He's a great guy. He's a bit spoiled by his groom at home and he can be playful but once he knows it's time for work he becomes a true gentleman. He loves training and he's always happy and ready to go. He's a fantastic horse to work with.
"This year hasn't been as good as last year, but that record is tough to beat. I think he's in as good from now as he was then but the competition is very tough this year and the races haven't really panned out to his advantage. The horse feels great and he still races well every time. I'm sure he'll do a great race in Yonkers."
The International Trot was contested from 1959 through 1995 before being resurrected three years ago by Yonkers President and CEO Tim Rooney. Oasis Bi and On Track Piraten are the only horses in this year's field to appear in every Yonkers International Trot since its return.
The draw for the International Trot, part of a New York harness-record $3.3 million card at Yonkers on Saturday, is Tuesday afternoon. Racing begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at Yonkers.
"Our trips to Yonkers have been fantastic experiences," Pettersson said. "They're memories for life. We can't wait to go back. It's going to be good fun. We were ready to go before we even got the invitation."
The complete field for the 39th International Trot (with country of representation) is Dreammoko (France), In Secret (U.S.), Marion Marauder (Canada), Midnight Hour (Finland), Oasis Bi (Italy), On Track Piraten (Sweden), Resolve (U.S.), Shadow Woodland (Finland), Tripolini VP (Denmark), and Twister Bi (Italy). (HRC)