V75®: Hometown star returning in gold

It’s beginning to look like spring in the programs.
In the gold division at Axevalla on Saturday this winter's dominating horses take on a couple of top horses in their seasonal debuts.
Will the hometown star Handsome Brad strike right away after his eight month long hiatus?
"He's definitely coming back into form - when he trained Monday he wasn't even close to letting someone get close to him" says trainer Ulf Stenströmer.

Disco Volante, Antonio Trot and Elian Web have been racing all winter, where the former have enjoyed the most success with three gold division wins in 2021. 
On Saturday the Stefan Melander trainee Disco Volante will take on the seasoned veteran gold division trotters Heavy Sound from the Daniel Redén stable and the Axevalla trainer Ulf Stenströmer's Handsome Brad. 
Handsome Brad was scratched out of Sundsvall Open Trot back in August last year and is now returning after an eight month long hiatus. 
Ulf Stenströmer ranks his horse fourth in this week's V75® Expert Tips which indicates how he views this race. Or?
"I ranked Heavy Sound first but I could have easily had Brad ranked first. My horse makes his first start in eight months and will get an easier trip here since he starts from the second tier, but you should not leave him off your ticket I think. Disco Volante and Antonio Trot are both very good. These four horses stand out a bit above the rest I think" says Stenströmer about the race which will go as V75-7 on Saturday. 
This interview is being done right after lunch on Monday. Handsome Brad is turned out in the field after having trained on the straight track earlier this morning. 
After last fall's initial rehab that started with just walking, the training was gradually stepped up with light training for a couple of months. Since the beginning of the year Handsome Brad has trained as usual.
"I haven't had the best track conditions this past winter, it has probably been one of the most difficult winters weather-wise. Brad has trained the entire time and I was very happy with him when I trained him on the track last Friday. Earlier today (Monday) he trained his regular intervals and he wasn't even close to letting another horse come close to him" says the trainer and adds:
"We usually train side by side but after two intervals I realized it was going to go way too fast so the others had to line up behind Brad so he wouldn't race them" says Stenströmer happily. 

Hoping for a great year
Stenströmer's star trotter had a sore suspensory in 2019 and was given a break, the same problem returned last year when he had to be scratched lame out of Sundsvall Open Trot. 
The Axevalla trainer says that he gave the horse plenty of time to have a chance to come back. 
"It was never super serious but if he was going to have a chance to come back we needed to stop and put him away right away. He has felt good and it doesn't feel like he has lost that fighting spirit he has always had" Ulf says. 
Handsome Brad finished second in Harper Hanovers race in 2019 so he does have the strength. 
But the problems have come up after Åby Stora Pris two years in a row and from now on he will not race in any more three kilometer races. 
"No more starts like that for him again. He's such a versatlie horse and he is both strong and fast. He has gotten a lot of time to heal and a lot of training. We have to see how things progress but I think he will have a great year if he stays sound and healthy" says Stenströmer. 

Skipped Elitloppet
In 2019 Handsome Brad won Copenhagen Cup and stepped in to the European elite. The victory in the Olympic Trot the same year is his biggest title money-wise with a SEK 1.5 million check. That's a victory he was awarded after Propulsion was disqualified due to the 'nerving affair'. 
"Copenhagen Cup in 2019 and Jämtlands Stora Pris last year are the two biggest races he has won on his own so to speak. This year we hope to get invited to Copenhagen Cup again but races like the Paralympic Trot are also interesting". 
Two years ago Handsome Brad was invited to Elitloppet. An invitation the connections declined and that is something they never regretted Ulf says.
Carl Johan Jepson and Handsome Brad will start from post position ten in the second tier behind the gate. What type of trip do you want your horse to get in his return? 
"I have entered Brad barefoot and with an American sulky. If Calle and I put our heads together during the week and come up with any type of change, the bettors will get to know it early. Calle knows the horse very well and if he gets a good feeling behind him he can drive the way he wants. But I hope for a nice trip and that he uses his speed at the end. Brad can win, but I won't be disappointed if he races well and finishes third or fourth either"" Stenströmer says. 
In the mares race (V75-4) you have 1 Listas Tinge Ling. As a six year old she really is in top form and has won three out of four starts this year. 
"Yes, she's better than ever right now. She wasn't all that brave before and often made breaks when things were heating up. She has really stepped up. Some are late bloomers and I guess she is one of them. None of the other mares on the starting distance are better than she and I would like Uffe (Ohlsson) to race her in the lead if he can get her there. Then we will see if a good one like Alhambra Mail comes at her early if he will let her go or not. If one of the better mares comes at her early I think he should let them go, if not I would like to see her in the lead. If you play with four horses or more I think you should have her on your ticket based on her form and post position. She will race barefoot again" says Ulf Stenströmer.