Just Believe heading to the Elitlopp
By Adam Hamilton
The secret is out of the bag. Now we know why Australia’s top trotter isn’t going to New Zealand next month … he’s going to Sweden instead.
Trainer Jess Tubbs confirmed connections had accepted an invite to tackle the world’s best trotters in the iconic Elitlopp at the Solvalla track in Stockholm, Sweden on May 28.
Just Believe will become just the seventh Down Under trotter to contest the Elitlopp, four of those have been New Zealanders.
The first was Petite Evander (1977 & ’78) then came her daughter, Pride Of Petite (1997), followed by Special Force (1999) and Lyell Creek (2001).
The mighty Pride Of Petite, who ran fourth in her heat, is the only Down Under trotter to qualify for the Elitlopp final, in which she ran sixth.
The Aussie-owned but US-trained A Touch Of Flair ran last in a 2007 heat, while the Australian-trained Sundons Gift (2009) and Maori Time (2018) contested heats.
“We’re still pinching ourselves,” Tubbs said. “The negotiations have been going on for quite a while and Greg (Sugars) and I have had to tell a few fibs about where Just Believe is at until it was all official.
“It’s exciting to have it out there now. We watch the Elitlopp every year and to think we will be part of it is simply amazing.
“You see the crowd, the atmosphere, how passionate everyone is about it … we just don’t have anything like that in this part of the world.”
Just Believe is slated for a May 16 departure for a marathon 60-hour trip by plane, boat and float to Stockholm.
“It really is planes, trains and automobiles stuff,” Tubbs laughed. “Lucky he’s a great traveller. We’ve got plenty of horses at home who would struggle with that, but not him.”
Just Believe is flown from Melbourne to Amsterdam, floated to a barge which takes him across to Denmark and then it’s basically a day of road travel across Denmark, over the bridge to Malmo in Sweden and then a seven-hour drive from Malmo to Stockholm.
“As if the trip isn’t exciting enough, he’s stabling at Stig H Johansson’s stable. Legends don’t come much bigger than Stig. Greg and I can’t wait to meet him,” Tubbs said.
“The whole trip is daunting but exciting and we’ve a huge thanks to Andrew Kelly, Harness Racing Australia and all the people in Sweden who have made it possible.”
Managing owner Malcolm Wells said 14 of the 27-person Iona Trotting Syndicate which races Just Believe were already confirmed for the trip.
“There will be a strong Aussie contingent there,” he said.
“We know the enormity of the challenge ahead and what a great race it is, but every mountain we’ve put in front of this horse so far, he’s climbed.
“Sure, this is by far the biggest mountain yet, but why can’t he be the first Aussie to make the final or even win it?”
Tubbs said Just Believe’s Great Southern Star success on February 3 gave connections the confidence to take on the Elitlopp.
“He’s just so versatile and we’ve got such faith in him,” she said.
“The Great Southern Star is obviously the same format with the heat and final on the same night and he took that in his stride.
“He follows speed well, he’s got plenty of speed, but he’s strong as well and you’d think the heats (of the Elitlopp) would be truly run.
“We’ve got some homework to do now on the opposition we’ll face and, in Greg’s (Sugars) case, getting his head around how the races are run from a driving perspective.”