Saturday, October 12, 2019
FIRST POST: 1 PM INTERNATIONAL TROT TIME: 3 PM
YONKERS, N.Y. – When the European contingent for the Yonkers International Trot bedded down at Yonkers Raceway Friday afternoon, Slide So Easy wasn’t among their ranks. Denmark’s representative flew to the U.S. ahead of the pack this year. Accompanied by his caretaker Martin Bjerregaard, Slide So Easy arrived stateside last week and shipped to Åke Svandstedt’s Legend Farm in Wrightstown, New Jersey.
“We went over a little earlier this year,” Bjerregaard said. “He’s not really that good when you have to do a long travel like that. We just wanted to come over a little earlier so that maybe he would settle in a little better.”
Slide So Easy competed in last year’s renewal of the Yonkers International Trot, finishing eighth for trainer and driver Flemming Jensen. The long journey from Jensen’s stable just west of the northern Denmark town of Hjallerup to Yonkers proved tough on the trotter.
“The first day we were here, I just turned him out in the paddock. He had been on a plane for many hours and he just wanted to get outside, so the first day he was only in the paddock. The next couple days, I jogged him a few miles. And then he trained Monday (Sept. 30) and he did train (Thursday, Oct. 3) as well. He’s just been jogging all the other days,” Bjerregaard said.
“He’s doing intervals on the sand over here at Åke’s farm. I think Åke is going to take him a mile on his track maybe Monday (Oct. 7) just to see what he feels like,” Bjerregaard continued. “He’s been really good. He’s used to the sand from home, but still it’s different. He’s been doing it really in a good way, so I’m happy with him.”
Slide So Easy will compete against nine trotters in the $1 million Yonkers International Trot Saturday, Oct. 12, including Cruzado Dela Noche, who beat Slide So Easy and nine others in last year’s edition and returns as the defending champion for Sweden.
“We’ve been doing travel to Sweden and Norway and he’s been OK about that. But being on a plane for eight hours, it was hard on him.” Bjerregaard recalled. “We were at the farm last Thursday, so a week ago. It’s good up here and he’s likes it, too. They have a lot of good paddocks and a nice trail, so that’s really good being up here.
“He’s better this year, he really is,” Bjerregaard continued. “For him to be able to settle in, that’s good for him.”
Not only has Slide So Easy settled in better, he’s also been better on the track this year. Now 10 years old, the son of Quite Easy out of the Smokin Yankee mare Elegante Frokjar is 7-for-11 overseas, racing in Sweden and Norway, in addition to his home country for owners Team Clemmensen & Christensen.
Slide So Easy’s biggest wins this season each produced lifetime marks. He trotted a 1:10.3 kilometer rating when besting Coktail Fortuna by a neck in a 1640-meter Gulddivisionen leg at Kalmar June 23. Slide So Easy lowered his mark again to 1:10.2 in a 1600-meter League 1 trot at Charlottenlund Aug. 25. Slide So Easy has only been worse than second in one start this year, when seventh in the Group 1 Oslo Grand Prix at Bjerke June 9.
“This is maybe his best season since we’ve had him,” Bjerregaard said. “Either he wins or he’s second and he’s been winning against really nice horses in Sweden. He did two new lifetime marks this year as well. He’s just been really good this year.
“It is kind of a surprise,” Bjerregaard continued. “He is 10 years old and it seems like he’s the best he’s ever been. It is kind of surprising for him to be in that good shape as a 10-year-old.”
Bjerregaard has worked with Slide So Easy since the gelding came to Jensen’s barn from Kenneth Nielsen in early 2016. Two key factors come to mind when the caretaker considered Slide So Easy’s success.
“First of all, he really loves his job. That’s the main thing,” Bjerregaard said. “He’s easy going, he’s got a really good gait to him. He goes easy over the ground. That’s the main thing for him. Everything is just easy for him.”
Bjerregaard grew up taking care of ponies. However, he dreamed of doing more with horses and began working in a racing stable as an after-school job. The pursuit of his passion led him to Jensen’s stable in 2015.
“When I was 11 or 12, I wanted to be working after school. I got in touch with a trainer in Denmark and I started coming to his barn after school,” Bjerregaard said. “I did that for a few years, I was with him for two years full time.
“I just went on with it, working for a couple of different trainers. I worked for Lindy Farms for two years over here and then when I went back, I called up Flemming. He was looking for people and I called him and he said, ‘let’s try it.’ I’ve been there for the last four years now.”
Over those years, Bjerregaard has learned it’s better to cooperate with Slide So Easy than to fight him.
“He’s a gentleman. Sometimes he can act a little spoiled, but I guess that’s me spoiling him. He’s good to be around. He’s a nice horse,” the caretaker said. “There are things you have to do his way and you don’t really want to fight with him about it. Sometimes when you come back from jogging, he just wants to push you around and he wants to push his head up against you. You just have to let him do it. If you want to fight him, he just gets all mad, so that’s one of his things.”
After arriving at Legend Farm, Slide So Easy got one day off in the field before returning to work. Bjerregaard likes the way Slide So Easy is training ahead of his second Yonkers International bid.
2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta and Guardian Angel AS will each represent the U.S. while Marion Marauder will race for Canada. The other European invaders are Bahia Quesnot (France), Lionel (Norway), Norton Commander (Germany), Uza Josselyn (Switzerland), and Zacon Gio (Italy).
“It is really good horses this year. Last year, we drew the 10 hole and it wasn’t really good, but hopefully, we’ll get a better draw this year and maybe we can get a check or something. It is really good horses he’s competing against,” Bjerregaard said.
“To win would be absolutely crazy,” he continued. “I don’t know what it would feel like, but of course it would be amazing. For us to just be here and competing against these great horses and hopefully he’s going to get a nice race and get a check or something. That would be really nice, too.”
Win or lose, the experience of competing in the Yonkers International Trot isn’t lost on Bjerregaard.
“It’s a good experience to be a part of. Everybody is good to you and it’s a big thing for us to come over here and compete in this big race. They’re just doing everything they can to make you feel at home, so it’s a really good experience and it’s a lot of fun.”
The $1 million Yonkers International Trot is slated for Saturday, October 12 at Yonkers Raceway. The card will also feature a pair of $250,000 invitationals, the 1 1/4-mile Harry Harvey Trot and 1-mile Dan Rooney Pace.
Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m. For entries to the races, click here.