Just Believe's tough luck in Elitloppet
By Adam Hamilton
Star Aussie trotter Just Believe showed enough in a heartbreaking Elitloppet performance last night to pave the way for Down Under trotters to tackle the famous race with some confidence in years to come.
The Inter Dominion and Great Southern Star winner was travelling strongly and may have run as close as fifth before being tightened, clipping a wheel and galloping out of the race rounding the final bend in his Elitloppet heat.
“I’m pretty devastated. I feel quite sick, to be honest,” driver Greg Sugars said moments after the race.
“Sometimes it’s a game of inches and today those inches were against us.”
The horse on Just Believe’s outside moved down slightly, while the horse he was following moved up the track marginally and the Aussie clipped a wheel.
While Sugars stopped short of saying he would have finished top four to qualify for the final, he said there was still plenty left in the tank.
“I know the horse pretty well and he had plenty of run left in his legs if we had clear running,” he said.
“That’s the only positive, the horse was going to be up to the task, but unfortunately it didn’t work out today.”
Three moments ruined Just Believe’s chances. First was the drawing wide in gate seven, the second came when Sugars went so very close to settling fourth in the running line early and then came the cruel interference and gallop.
But Just Believe had already shown enough to convince local experts he deserved his place against the world’s best.
Swedish form expert Dennis Englebo said: “I understand they are feeling down, but to me we saw he was competing very well.
“Everyone saw was a really good horse, but unfortunately it didn’t show in his placing.
“I hope he stays for more racing here. There is an option for him to stay until mid-July, I hope he does.
“There are a lot of good races for him here and he showed he deserves to be in them.”
Sugars confirmed Just Believe would stay, but isn’t sure what race will be next.
“There are two races in Sweden up north, the Oslo (Grand Prix) people are keen and the Finland club invited us to their Group 1 race,” he said.
“We’ll see how he comes through this and decide.”
Once the disappointment had subsided, Sugars focused on the broader upside.
“I think it shows a lot of horses in Australia and NZ will be able to compete at this level in years to come,” he said.
“We haven’t been head and shoulders above the competition at home so it shows it’s a real positive to take out of it that the Southern Hemisphere horses aren’t that far behind the Europeans anymore.
“Hopefully, as (our) breeds continue to improve and trainers become smarter and better with trotters that we will be able to come back as Aussies and Kiwis and compete at this highest level, which is incredible.”
The Elitloppet final was won by the French for the second successive year when Hohneck beat Swedish star San Moteur.
The French have now won the final 24 times, just one behind the Swedes.