Last spring he got his breakthrough in the elite.
Then he disappeared for nine months.
Handsome Back is back on Saturday.
"My horse feels great, I couldn't ask more of him in training" says Ulf Stenströmer about his return to the racetracks.
It started with a victory in the gold division in his seasonal debut.
Then he qualified for the Olympic Trot.
There he finished second to Propulsion with a whole bunch of top trotters behind him.
He continued to Denmark where he won Copenhagen Cup and that meant Ulf Stenströmer once again had taken a horse all the way up to the very elite, where he had already taken horses like Noras Bean and Your Highness.
They said no thanks to Elitloppet and instead Handsome Brad raced in Harper Hanover's race over 3,000 meters where he raced very well and finished second.
But the season was cut short for Brad and when he returns on Saturday he hasn't been seen on the tracks since Åby Stora Pris back on August 10 last year.
"He had an issue with a suspensory behind after that start. It wasn't a tear or anything, but we decided that we weren’t going to take any chances just to race him in the remaining big races of the year. It was an easy decision and I hope it will pay dividends this year" says Stenströmer.
"One of the fastest training heats ever"
As the reigning champion Stenströmer could have chosen to make the seasonal debut in Denmark, where the racing has resumed just in time for the country's biggest race.
"I had thought about going to Copenhagen, but I figured the race at Mantorp might be a little bit easier and it's also a shorter ship. I was right about the opponents, but we drew a terrible post position instead".
Could he get a better season this year?
"I hope and think that it will be just as good at least, but hopefully longer. He is crazier than he's been before. He suddenly thinks he is God's gift to all the mares and that he is incredibly handsome. I see it as a very good sign".
How is he prepared for his seasonal debut on Saturday?
"He is well prepared. I've trained him in 1:15.5/1,600 meters and that's one of the fastest training heats I've ever done in my career. He felt great. He has raced very well in his last two seasonal debuts and he won't be worse this year. From a better post position I would have had very high expectations in this race".
How will he race equipment-wise?
"He will race barefoot and in an American sulky. I haven't decided on the bridle yet. He often races in a blind bridle but I don't think I want to play out all my aces in the first start, so he might race with a pull down bridle like he did in Harper Hanover's race last year".
How do you look at this race?
"I'm not particularly scared of the opponents. But I would like to see him get a nice trip, so if Chief Orlando gets to set his own fractions in the lead it might be hard to catch him. But I count on Brad to deliver right away and we're not going to Mantorp just to get a race into him".
"Would be interesting to see him in the lead"
As a matter of fact Stenströmer sounds just as positive about his other V75® starter. And it sounds like the tactics with him will be way more aggressive.
"The owners have said that they would like to see him in the lead and this could be a good time to try that" says Stenströmer about his frequent V75 contender Flash Håleryd (V75-2), who rarely has the bettors' trust, but in January he won at 29-1 and maybe he can do it again on Saturday.
"In his last start we pulled the blind bridle down just before start to get him to leave better and that worked out great. I heard that he was one of the quickest leavers all day but then he interfered and lost his momentum a bit".
According to the data from positioning system published by ATG® Xlabs (https://twitter.com/atgxlabs?s=20), Flash Håleryd left at 1:00.3 speed the first 100 meters. That was third quickest all day behind Religious and Dom Perignon who were both in the same race as Flash Håleryd.
"He showed that he can leave quickly and it would be interesting to see him in the lead, it's been a long time. He is in great shape right now".
Is there something you can do to avoid him interfering again?
"I could rasp off a little bit of his toe. It's not a very common thing to do and it would be extreme fine tuning, but I will think about it".
What kind of bridle will you race him in this time?
"I'm not sure. If we are going to try to leave for the lead, goggles would be interesting. I don't think he's ever raced with that before. But he can be a bit sharp before a race so I have to discuss it with the driver first. We could also do what we did in his last start. We'll have to think about that".
How do you like your horses' chances?
"None of them has a great chance but both of them definitely has a chance to win. Both of the are in great shape, all we need is some racing luck" says Ulf Stenströmer.