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French trotters making American history this Sunday

02 August 2018

This Sunday 5th August, Yonkers Raceway, north of New York, will stage for the first time in US racing history 2 races reserved entirely for French trotters (races #2 & #3). 
The initiative is a joint-venture between the Standardbred Owners Association (SOA)
of New York, which represents owners and professionals, and Le Trot, the governing body of trotting in France. Together with Yonkers, the SOA has organised a series of premium race meetings which will be integrated into the French pari-mutuel schedule. To facilitate the matter, the SOA created the French American Trotting Club whose purpose is to purchase horses from France with a view to continuing their respective careers on American soil. The US has a less restrictive approach to the use of certain medications, which will offer some of the new arrivals a second lease of life.
Alex Dadoyan, Executive Director at SOA of New York, who has been heavily involved in the new enterprise, elaborates on the idea.
“We thought it could be interesting to come to France and try to purchase several French trotters to bring back to New York for American owners and race them at Yonkers Raceway. We weren't sure if there would be enough interest from American owners but we were pleased that we got 24 different owners to invest $28,000 each for the project. That covered the cost of the horse and the shipping of the horses (our organization - the Standardbred Owners Association of New York - also paid some money for the shipping). 
With 24 owners, we couldn't have them all come to look at the horses and pick them out so we selected three very well-respected horsemen to come on behalf of the whole group and pick out the best horses in the ones we were seeing. We brought Mike Lachance - a Hall of Fame driver in the US with more than 10,000 career wins, more than $180 million in purses and he won the Hambletonian 4 times. We also brought Ron Burke who is the leading trainer in the US for the last several years now. He has the top trotter currently in the US, a mare Hannelore Hanover and there is a chance she might try to come for the Prix d'Amerique in January. And we brought Ray Schnittker, a long time trainer in Yonkers and the surrounding area who has had many top horses in the US and also won the 2008 Hambletonian.

US Delegation in France
We had worked with Le Trot to get horses that met certain criteria for us - career time and having raced recently - because we were planning to bring them back to NY and race pretty quickly. So we came over at the end of May, travelling all around France, visiting Grosbois and Vincennes and Cagnes sur Mer and Argentan and Meslay du Maine and Bordeaux, trying to find 24 horses from the list of about 75 that we had narrowed down on paper. At each stop each day, Ray and Mike and Ron would sit behind each of the horses and see if they would fit what we were looking for. Each time they were pleasantly surprised with the horses. By the end of the week we had found 24 that we were interested in purchasing. The horses flew over to NY on June 14 and were out of quarantine by June 16. 
“It was such a good experience, our group had a wonderful time and we are very excited to see how these French horses do racing in America for their new connections.”
Just two of the two dozen horses failed to pass the vet and the 22 qualified individuals were divided between the participating owners on a lottery basis as they made their way by plane to New York. Each horse automatically qualifies for three select races, each worth US$30,000, to be run at Yonkers on 5th, 19th and 26th August. The best of these will be selected to participate in the final on 2nd September, and compete for a total prize fund of $100,000.
A number of the new imports acclimatised quickly to their new surroundings and have already raced….and won (Very Very Fast, Ursis des Caillons). Each one qualified and four have met the local opposition. The project has attracted a lot of interest and the organising authorities are eager to offer a betting product to French punters who are already acquainted with the runners.
The 22 French import: 

  •  Adagio de la Tour
  • Aigle de la Vallee 
  • 3. Akhenaton
  • Aladin du Dollar
  • Alpha d'Urzy
  • Ascot de l'Oison
  • Atout de Fontaine
  • Bamako du Bocage
  • Barry Black
  • Bioness
  • Bolide de Nuit
  • Boss du Fosse
  • Chaperon Felin
  • Deo
  • Ubanji
  • Uhlan Noir 
  • Undici
  • Ursis des Caillons
  • Vas Y Seul
  • Verdi d'Em
  • Versachet 
  • Very Very Fast
 Top Picture: Very Very Fast