No thanks to Elitloppet.
Instead, a start in the Saturday feature Harper Hanover's race for the new Copenhagen Cup champion.
As a poster boy.
"Yes, I hear that Malmrot announced him as the poster boy for Harper's and that's great" says trainer Ulf Stenströmer.
The Elitlopp week started well for the Skara habitant Handsome Brad.
Ulf Stenströmer tells us that the red hot trotter is in the bath stall after a tougher training session Monday morning.
Caretaker Jennie Hermansson has just checked her horse’s heart rate as we hear her shout in the background.
"Perfect, perfect" says Ulf Stenströmer when he gets the result from his girlfriend.
After a much needed rain during the night and early Monday morning the track was extra demanding for Handsome Brad (V75®-7), racing in Harper Hanover's race, the classic on Saturday of the Elitlopp weekend.
Stenströmer and owner Lennart Karlsson chose to say no thanks to Elitloppet following the victory in Copenhagen Cup. Solvalla's racing manager Anders Malmrot said he was a given in the world's biggest sprint race.
"We opted to decline this year, hoping that he can return with some more 'hair on his chest' for Elitloppet next year. It will be a little easier this way on Saturday and it was great to hear Malmrot announce him as the poster boy for Harper Hanover's race. He's never been on a poster for anything, this horse! He was mentioned with some respect going into Copenhagen Cup but he's usually not in the spotlight".
"But it's natural that he is regarded highly here since he was so good in Copenhagen and he has a world record over the long distance so he got that part covered too" says the Axevalla trainer, meaning the equaling of the word record on a 1000 meter track that he's co-holder of together with On Track Piraten and Readly Express.
This weekend he'll try again in Harper Hanover's race over the very demanding three kilometers. Judging from the training done on Monday everything is fine with Handsome Brad.
"I have no complaints. Everything looks good, actually. His heart rate was 76 after a tougher training session in the sand. Now he gets his usual time in the field Tuesday and Wednesday. Then he'll probably go two slower intervals on the straight track on Thursday, just for me to make sure everything is ok" Stenströmer says.
"...that he even makes it to the finish line"
This will be the second time for Handsome Brad in Harper Hanover's.
Last year the horse was one of the higher ranked horses and a possible challenger to the winner Platon face. Carl Johan Jepson took a shot early in the race and it turned into a battle for the lead which made him tire and finish outside the money.
"The official timer said he trotted 1:09.5 the first kilometer three wide...that he even makes it to the finish line is a mystery to me. I don't think there are many horses who have trotted that fast the first kilometer without a starting gate. He had some trouble early on and had to grab a hold of him but to end up parked on the outside was the last thing we wanted. Calle wanted to do something about it, tried for the lead but didn't get there. It just didn't work out".
Not overly aggressive
Harper Hanover's of 2018 was over after 400 meters because of that tough first turn according to Stenströmer.
"You can't get that type of start to a long distance race - and certainly not the toughest one in the country!"
They're hoping for better racing this Saturday when Handsome Brad is ranked among the favorites.
From his starting position, 40 meters behind the starting line in the 15 horse field, it doesn't sound like it will be an aggressive type of tactics with the six year old who got his breakthrough in the elite in his last start.
"I don't think Calle will be overly aggressive with Brad...this time. Winning with a 40 meter handicap on a fast track is hard and historically the horses who have started from back there haven’t had that great of a chance over the years. Even if we've seen some good horses do it. I would prefer if he stayed at the pylons for a kilometer or two. With that kind of trip with an advancement the last 1,500 meters or so, he can finish a race very well too".
Did you guys sit down to think about Elitloppet when you got invited or did you know all along that you weren't going to race him there?
"We actually did, yes. It would have been disrespectful not to think it through. But we got to the conclusion that we've always been nice to the horse and used our heads. We hope and think that we have many more years left in him and Elitloppet comes a bit too soon. But maybe next year? Handsome Brad has a completely different and better set of legs than what Noras Bean had. So far it feels good".
What is Handsome Brad's best distance?
"He's at his best over 2,140 meters and up at this time - even though I'm sure he'd trot a 1:09 mile. But he can leave the gate very quickly and I have no doubt that he could trot very fast if he's in an Elitlopp".
Your stable has no starters on Sunday at Solvalla. Will you be enjoying Elitloppet live at the track?
"We'll probably go home with the horse no matter how he does. Should we have a reason to celebrate, it might be a better burger on the way home instead. Trot races are best at the track, I insist on that and I love this weekend. But I'm frequently at the track and sometimes I have to stay at home too".