Saturday, October 13, 2018

FIRST POST: 1pm        INTERNATIONAL TROT: 3:40pm

by Brandon Valvo for SOA of NY


YONKERS, N.Y. – When Sabine Kagebrandt came to work as the Racing Manager for Anders Ström’s Stall Courant AB, she did so on one condition. Accustomed to working with and being around horses, the former groom of Prix d’Amérique winner Gigant Neo would take the office job if she could have one horse to look after in her spare time.

“I started at the office, I did all this paperwork and stuff like that, but I’m used to working with horses. If I’m going to do all this paperwork, I need one horse,” Kagebrandt said.

Ström let Kagebrandt pick any horse in his barn. Out of about 60 trotters, she selected Cruzado Dela Noche. Then a stakes-winning 3-year-old with a penchant for making breaks, Kagebrandt saw something special in the bay son of Muscle Massive.

“When I started to work there, the first trip I made was when Cruzado Dela Noche was third in the Peter Haughton and then we went to Lexington, so I followed him all the time. I knew I wanted to take that horse when he came home,” she said. “First of all, he was really cute, he had a nice attitude, and he had this charisma. When you’re around him, you just get happy because he gives so much to the people around him. I really fell in love with him. He’s such a nice horse.”

Cruzado Dela Noche shipped to Sweden to compete in the country’s rich 4-year-old program. Kagebrandt developed a bond with the horse while he raced in Stefan Melander’s stable, winning the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Deutschland, the Group 1 Copenhagen Cup, and the Group 2 Norrlands Grand Prix. He also placed third in the Group 1 Sprinter Mästaren Final.

However, this June, Ström began pointing Cruzado Dela Noche toward a fall campaign in the United States with a focus on the $1 million Yonkers International Trot and the Breeders Crown Open Trot. Cruzado Dela Noche shipped stateside to trainer Marcus Melander and groom Mikaela Melander in August and prepared for the International with two qualifiers at Pocono Downs in September. Being away from Cruzado Dela Noche was difficult, but Kagebrandt lessened the parting with frequent visits.

“I’ve been in the States a lot, so I’ve followed him here. When he came here, I was here. Then I came here for the qualifications, so I’ve been here a little bit,” Kagebrandt said. “He was really good. He got better every qualifier he did because he needed time to be a little more in form. We tried to do the same schedule when he should do the qualification like we made with him at home. We tried to do as much the same as at home as possible.”

With just two qualifiers on his card and off a June layoff, Cruzado Dela Noche started as a 30-1 outsider in the Yonkers International Trot. Still, Kagebrandt felt confident in the 6-year-old stallion and in Hall of Fame driver Brian Sears.

“Always when you race him, you know he always has a chance because he’s so strong and he has a good head and a strong will to win. He never gives up, that I knew from the beginning,” Kagebrandt said. “When he had the six hole and the other good ones had inside, then I thought it could be a little tricky. I was very confident in the horse and Brian, because he knows this track like his own pocket.”

While rivals Pastore Bob and Ringostarr Treb makes breaks in stride on the opening turn and Arazi Boko forged to the lead from post eight, Sears was patient with Cruzado Dela Noche. He raced in sixth 5 ½ lengths from the top and followed Lionel on the outside behind a :28.1 opening panel.

Ariana G pulled the pocket on Arazi Boko around the second turn and made the lead at the top of the backstretch, but Marion Marauder quickly ranged up to assume command in a :57.1 half-mile. The move left Lionel uncovered in third and Cruzado Dela Noche got a perfect trip in his wake.

Marion Marauder led through 6-furlongs in 1:27 and a mile in 1:55.3. With a quarter-mile to race, Lionel ratcheted up the pressure, advancing to put his white-blazoned nose in front entering the final turn. Sears tipped Cruzado Dela Noche three-wide and the trio charged around the bend on even terms. Watching the action unfold from a perch in the paddock, Kagebrandt’s heart began to race as she realized her horse had a chance.

Lionel put away a spent Marion Marauder at the top of the stretch as driver Gøran Antonsen snuck a peek over his right shoulder to see Cruzado Dela Noche looming. Antonsen went to the whip right-handed and implored Lionel while his gaze darted frantically between the finish line and his opponent.

Sears let the lines hang loose in his left hand and went to the stick with his right. He timed the move perfectly and Cruzado Dela Noche surged at the wire to win by a head in 2:24.3. Up And Quick shook loose late to be third while Ariana G was fourth.

“We won,” Kagebrandt said as a smile crept up on her face and she let out a satisfied laugh. “Actually, we didn’t see much of the stretch. First, we thought he was going to be third, but we thought, ‘that’s OK, third is really good in the International. That’s amazing.’ Then we thought he was going to be second. We were screaming and cheering. Then we realized he actually won. They didn’t announce at first it either, so we weren’t sure if he won or not, so it was totally crazy. It was really crazy.

“It means very much. To bring him over and he handled the trip and everything, I think it’s amazing. It’s a really big race,” she said.

Cruzado Dela Noche’s victory in the Yonkers International Trot improved his record to 15 wins from 56 starts and boosted his earnings to $1,202,771. Cruzado Dela Noche is Sweden’s fourth representative to win the International, joining Callit, Atas Fighter L., and His Majesty.

With the International under his belt, Cruzado Dela Noche will head to the Breeders Crown next and Kagebrandt will be along for the ride.

“This was the first race he did here. Now I think he’s starting to get in shape. It’s going to be really nice to go to Pocono,” she said. “I love him so much.”

Kagebrandt & Cruzado Dela Noche

Kagebrandt Shares Special Connection with International Trot Winner