By Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY
YONKERS, N.Y. – The prestige and rich history of the International Trot can rear its head in many places. For Anders Ström, the race’s lineage materialized before him as he studied the yearling catalog of the recently concluded Arqana Trot Select Yearling Sale. Ström paused on hip no. 47, a colt out of Sirene de Mai, whose great, great, great grand dam, Une de Mai, along with her countless European feats, won the International Trot in 1969 and 1971.
“The race has seen many great winners, and I actually watched the 1969 edition on YouTube recently,” Ström said. “It was when French super mare Une de Mai beat Nevele Pride, as I was in the process of buying a Ready Cash yearling colt in Deauville from the Une de Mai maternal line.”
Ström bought the colt for €170,000 and he will have a chance to make history of his own in this year’s renewal of the Yonkers International Trot. His stable, Stall Courant AB, will start Cruzado Dela Noche as a representative of Sweden in the $1 million stakes.
“It would be (my) biggest win so far. Only Elitloppet, Prix d’Amérique, Hambletonian and the Swedish 4-year-old Derby can match it, in my book,” Ström said. “But this horse’s character makes it extra special. As he already has qualified as a sire in the Swedish system with high grades, a win here would boost his credentials for that as well. That would be very nice.”
Ström bought Cruzado Dela Noche sight unseen out of the 2013 Harrisburg Yearling Sale for $28,000. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Muscle Massive out of the Credit Winner mare Alidade, then known by the name Arusa Hanover, looked the part, but it was something intangible that piqued Ström’s interest.
“I wasn’t at the sale because of business in Australia, but ‘Cruzado’ was one of five lower-priced yearlings that I bought on the back of advice from friends and agents who were at the sale inspecting horses,” Ström explained. “Cruzado was the one that had the extra special attitude which is why I renamed him with a name I had kept for a really good horse. The name comes from the Spiderman movie, when Peter Parker comes up with the idea for his suit.”
Despite his early promise and standout spirit, Cruzado Dela Noche struggled to stay trotting in his 2- and 3-year-old campaigns; he made breaks in stride in 10 of his 28 races and qualifiers. Despite those setbacks, Cruzado Dela Noche finished third in the Peter Haughton Memorial and posted wins in a division of the International Stallion Stakes and a leg of Pennsylvania Sire Stakes as a freshman in Nancy Johansson’s stable.
“He was slightly immature and whimsy to begin with, but tremendously talented,” Ström said. “We felt that he would mature over time, so we weren’t especially worried. Nancy and Marcus Johansson took good care of him in the early days which we are thankful for now that the horse is sound and makes a good career as an older trotter.”
After a 3-year-old campaign that produced just two wins in 11 starts, Ström sent Cruzado Dela Noche across the Atlantic to trainer Stefan Melander and Courant Managing Director Sabine Kagebrant. The calculated move would allow Cruzado Dela Noche to take advantage of the 4-year-old stakes in Sweden and give him time to develop.
“We stake all our U.S. purchases to the rich 4-year-old program in Europe. It doesn’t cost much and they add a lot of purse money, so it is an easy business decision,” Ström explained. “Stefan Melander also has a great track record when it comes to the older American horse.
“Melander’s training regime suits him perfect. He also has an ‘extra groom’ in Sabine Kagebrant, who has great experience with older star trotters, having worked with Stefan Melander, Björn Goop and Jörgen Westholm horses all over Europe,” Ström continued. “When Sabine is out of the office, she spends a lot of time with ‘Noche,’ makes him feel special and that works well for him.”
At 4, Cruzado Dela Noche won the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Deutschland and the Group 2 Norrlands Grand Prix. He also placed third in the Group 1 Sprinter Mästaren Final. At 5, Cruzado Dela Noche captured the Group 1 Copenhagen Cup.
“He always does his best, I can think of only one or two races when he failed and there were good excuses,” Ström said. “One was in Elitloppet 2017, when he made a break at the gate in the elimination which otherwise likely would have given him the same trip as Resolve, who eventually was second in the final.
“That was hard to take. I think he could have matched Timoko on the day, he was in such good shape,” he continued. “But overall this horse gives us tremendous joy, just to see his attitude makes me wonder sometimes. He is so much more than just the average good racehorse.”
Now a 6-year-old Cruzado Dela Noche has been lightly raced this season. The stallion was sixth in the Group 1 Olympiatravet Final April 28, third in the Copenhagen Cup May 13, scored his lone win this year in the listed Gösta Bergengrens Minneslopp May 30 before finishing fifth in the Group 1 Oslo Grand Prix. His short campaign was by design as Cruzado Dela Noche returned to the United States early to settle into a new chapter of his career.
“We got invited in May and then we decided to give the horse the best preparation possible, with proper quarantine so he could get acclimatized to his new-old life in the U.S. Our dream race to target this season is the International Trot so we didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” Ström said.
“European races are run in a different way which isn’t ideal for ‘Cruzado.’ He likes the high, even pace better, which is why we staked him for the fall season in the U.S.A. just in case,” he continued. “Any which way, he raced really good in the spring, so we felt he was going upwards in form all the time.”
Cruzado Dela Noche reemerged in a qualifier at Pocono Downs September 12 for trainer Marcus Melander. He led wire-to-wire in 1:55.2. The stallion got another trial under his belt at the same venue September 26, crossing the wire first in 1:54.2.
“He has done quarantine, then two light qualifiers at Pocono, which he made look very easy,” Ström said. “He likes his life at Marcus Melander’s farm and he will get another sharper workout, like an ‘eye-opener,’ a few days before the race which I believe will be enough to take him to top form.”
Cruzado Dela Noche, who will pair with driver Brian Sears for the first time in the International, will face nine rivals: Arazi Boko (Italy), Ariana G (United States), Dreammoko (Netherlands), Lionel (Norway), Marion Marauder (Canada), Pastore Bob (Sweden), Ringostarr Treb (Italy), Slide So Easy (Denmark), and Up And Quick (France). Although the field is one of the deepest in recent memory, Ström likes his chances.
“I think this year’s field is absolutely fantastic, given the challenge with trans-Atlantic transport of international horses. All races in this class are tough. But ‘Noche’ has beaten Twister Bi, last year’s winner, fair and square before, from second-over in a Swedish record time over the same distance as the International Trot, on a slow five-eighths-mile track. That says he can compete with anyone on the day,” Ström said.
“Now I hope Brian Sears up first time will give him an extra gear as well. From posts one to five he is a real contender, otherwise a decent chance to show anyway. I respect the competition and I believe the winner will be the horse that is best on the day and has racing luck.”
The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 13 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the Harry Harvey Trot and Dan Rooney Pace. For more information on the event and its participants, visit www.internationaltrot.com.
Cruzado Dela Noche
Saturday, October 12, 2019
FIRST POST: 1 PM INTERNATIONAL TROT TIME: 3 PM