Hambletonian hopeful Surtees Hanover made his first appearance of 2008 in the United States in a qualifier Thursday morning at the Meadowlands, finishing second with Swedish driver Johan Untersteiner in the sulky. The son of Andover Hall was purchased last fall by Swedish owner Tommy Jacobsson, and has finished second and third in two starts overseas this year for trainer Roger Walmann before shipping back across the Atlantic Ocean.
Surtees Hanover raced his freshman year for trainer Jonas Czernyson, but was sold by owner Bob Rosenheim to Jacobsson—who also owns world-champion trotting mare Giant Diablo—following his victory in a Bluegrass division at The Red Mile in late September. He came right back the following week to score a career-best 1:55 win in an International Stallion Stakes division, which completed his rookie year with a slate of 10-8-1-1 and earnings of $362,928.
Untersteiner, 23, was in the sulky last fall at The Red Mile when Giant Diablo trotted her world-record 1:50.1 mile in the Allerage Farm Open against male competition. He flew to the Meadowlands to guide Surtees Hanover in the qualifier, and he will return later this month to direct the colt in the Hambletonian elims.
In the qualifier, Untersteiner two-moved Surtees Hanover but the colt—making his first appearance after more than a month in quarantine—came up a length short after being unable to fend off the late rally of the Trond Smedshammer-trained and driven Viking Defender, who crossed the wire first in 1:57.
The effort was the first time Viking Defender had won a race in 10 attempts (including four qualifiers). Last year he finished second to Yankee Matthew in a Bluegrass division at The Red Mile and third behind Muscle Mass in the American National final at Balmoral Park.