A Swedish World Champion – and a cold winter ahead! by Amie Karlsson
On Sunday, the Swedish horse racing fans turned their eyes to Mauritius, where the final race in the 2015 Longines World Fegentri Championship for Lady Riders was run. Swedish amateur rider Josephine Chini finished sixth of the eight participants, but collected enough points to win the total championship.
Chini, who spent some time in Great Britain years ago and even rode a winner at Yarmouth when apprentice with Julia Feilden in Newmarket, can usually can be seen interviewing the winning connections in the Winner's Enclosure at Täby Galopp when she is not winning races herself. She is – with every right - incredibly popular within the Swedish racing community and I’m absolutely certain that everyone who has ever come across “Jossan” are genuinely happy to hear about her Fegentri success. Another thing I am certain about is that we are all looking forward to the party to celebrate this victory! (There better be one!).
Josephine Chini and the other Fegentri finalists at the award ceremony at Mauritius Turf Club. Photo from fegentri.com
Josephine Chini at Täby. Photo: Elina Björklund / Svensk Galopp
Norwegian rider Dina Heggum actually won the Fegentri race in Mauritius, and with both Chini and Heggum to celebrate, it turned out being a fantastic day for the Scandinavians. And it only got better, as a couple of hours later, the young Swedish jump jockey Christopher Roberts finished the German National Hunt-season with style when securing his first Black Type win together with Good Prince in a Listed chase in Bremen.
Christopher Roberts and Good Prince win a Listed chase in Bremen on December 6. Photo: Stefanie Ihlenburg / Anglo-German Racing (anglogermanracing.com/)
Talking about jump racing - last time I wrote, the future of Swedish jump racing was very uncertain. The following day, the members of the General Assembly of the Swedish Horseracing Authority were to vote about whether to include separate jumps courses on the new Stockholm racecourse Bro Park, or not. A "no" would most likely have meant the end to Scandinavian steeplechasing. However, a lot of support for the cause and extensive lobbying meant that the General Assembly with a huge majority voted in favour of jump racing. The preparations for installing a steeplechase track and a hurdle track have now started.
The decision seems to have given Swedish jump racing a push in the right direction, and the optimism for the future is now great within the NH community.
But one doesn’t build separate hurdle and steeplechase tracks over a night, and certainly not over a Nordic winter. There are a number of EasyFix hurdles floating around on the Swedish racecourses, meaning that the hurdle season possibly could be saved, but for a while, it looked like 2016 would be a bit of a flat year (note the punt) for the chasers.
However, a couple of weeks ago the news broke that the opening of the new racecourse will be postponed until June, something that was greeted with relief by the jump racing fans. This means racing will continue on the current Stockholm track Täby (which is due to close down once Bro Park opens) until the end of May, and both hurdle and steeplechase races will be staged like normal during the first months of the season (the Scandinavian jump racing season is April-October). With a bit of luck, the jumps tracks at Bro Park will be ready by the end of the 2016 season or no later than the beginning of the following year.
Bro Park is now due to open its doors on June 1st, with an official opening on the 19th of the same month, and the latter should be well worth visiting. If you survive without going to Royal Ascot, I suggest you also book in my favourite meeting - the Swedish Grand National at Strömsholm - on the 11th of June and spend a weekend enjoying Scandinavia in between!
The new racecourse Bro Park in progress! Photos: Magnus Östh / Svensk Galopp.
The Scandinavian racecourses have, one after the other, closed for the winter, and Täby is the only one still open. It continues racing all through the winter on its dirt track, and you'd be surprised to see what weather conditions the horses and riders sometimes have to put up with (although the weather occasionally scares the racegoers off). Many non-Scandinavians (and non-Swiss) get Sweden and Switzerland mixed up, often asking me where in Sweden we race on the snow on the frozen lake, only to be disappointed to be told that St Moritz in fact is located in the more central parts of Europe, a good couple of hours flight away. However, snow is obviously not uncommon in Sweden this time a year, and a sunny, snowy Sunday at Täby is really difficult to beat. We race most Sundays in December, January and February, and if you are in the Stockholm area, I do suggest a visit!
Wind Whislte and Per-Anders Gråberg at Täby in February 2012. Photo: Stefan Olsson / Svensk Galopp
Black Soul wins with Jacob Johansen at Täby in February 2015. Photo: Elina Björklund / Svensk Galopp