After 50 years in the sulky Hans-Owe Sundberg had enough.
This past winter he drove his last race.
On Saturday he's chasing the second V75® win of the year as a trainer.
"I don't get stressed out when I stand on the side.. Not even when things go bad" says Sundberg who will travel to Årjäng with high expectations on the latest star of his stable Eldorado B.
Finishing second in the final of Solvalla Grand Prix was worth SEK 250,000 and that's still the largest check Eldorado B. has made in his career.
But the race on November 24 turned out to be Hans-Owe Sundberg's last as a driver.
After getting suspended two weeks for illegal usage of the whip he took a timeout.
A timeout that became permanent.
"This past winter I felt that it might be time to quit driving. I kept the decision to myself for a while before I came out with it officially. you never know if you might change your mind. But as the spring and summer came and I still didn't feel the urge, it was settled" says Sundberg who turned 69 this past February and who on his long list of achievements has the historic first V65® win with Rodetto in 1974.
Four years prior to that he got his breakthrough when he won Jarlsberg Grand Prix with Royal Scot.
His training stable was never that big and for many years Hans-Owe Sundberg was one of the country's most popular catch drivers.
It was as a catch driver he won StoChampionatet with Krossed Out 1996 and The Sprint Championship with Calvin Capar 2003.
Victories he remembers vividly.
"During The Sprint Championship it poured down and I was soaking wet everywhere, but the crowd was still great and it was huge. Krossed Out was a bit weak as a three year old, that's why I always gave her nice trips almost every time. She had barely won a race before StoChampionatet but I remember how good she was in the warm up that day and I had hopes to win even if she was 40-1 (winning odds 52-1). She was a real good mare who went to Johansson (Stig H) and went on to make SEK 5 million in her career".
"Maybe the most exciting win of my career"
A five time millionaire is something that Hans-Owe Sundberg's own horse Scarlet Aino also turned out to become. He took one of his career's biggest victories in Årjäng's featured race Årjäng Stora Sprinterlopp back in 2009.
"It was a terrible pour down that day, worse than in The Sprint Championship. The track had deep channels of water going across it and there was a long delay to repair the track. When I drove that race it was like being in the shower, I didn't even get any gravel on me. But it didn't matter much when we won the race".
Their biggest moment together came one year earlier though.
"Yes, when we won Sweden Cup in two straight heats. That could be the most exciting win of my career, to get to do it in front of the Elitlopp crowd. To have the privilege to win a race on that weekend is fantastic. Unfortunately we didn't have any luck this year" says Sundberg who tried both Charrua Forlan and Eldorado B. in Sweden Cup but both finished fourth and just missed the final.
Didn't you get the urge to drive back even during the Elitlopp weekend?
"No I really didn't. I feel that I've been there, done that. I've driven and been placed in pretty much every big race we have. It could always have gone better, but I'm not complaining".
It did go very well at the end, you won five out of your last ten drives so you couldn't have felt that you were done as a driver?
"I didn't win my last race, maybe that's what finally settled it.. I'm joking, but the last five years I pretty much only drove horses that I trained myself. It was a decision that grew inside me more and more. When I started you weren't allowed to drive when you turn 67, I don't even think you were allowed to train. But the times are different now".
You have chosen Torbjörn Jansson as your number one driver, how come?
"It's up to Torbjörn if he wants to drive for me or for someone else. But I mainly use him because we understand each other so well, we come from the same generation (Torbjörn is four years younger) and has the same feeling for what we're doing. I think it works great. I don't mid using the younger generation either, you have to be flexible. But I've always had a very good relationship with Torbjörn. I drove a lot for him when he had a big stable".
So now you want to give back to him?
"I feel that's the right thing to do, yes. Torbjörn is still hot, he's a very competitive person".
How does it feel being on the other side of the fence during a race?
"I don't get stressed out by being on the other side. Not even when things go bad. I never think that 'I could have done that better myself'. I've driven so many races, I know that things go wrong sometimes".
Are you an understanding trainer?
"I hope so. And I'm still very competitive. I cheer my horses on during a race. Not by screaming loudly, but I cheer them on".
"Closed tremendously down the stretch"
On Saturday Hans-Owe Sundberg hopes to cheer on Eldorado B. to his second V75® victory of the year. He took his first one at Östersund a month ago when he took the lead and won without any problems. But the question is if his effort in silver division final in his last start wasn't even better?
"I would say so. He closed tremendously down the stretch and was the fast horse last 200 by a large margin. The second fastest horse was Mack Dragan who he past down the stretch".
According to kmtid.atgx.se which uses the gps system on the horses Eldorado B. came home last 200 meters in a kilometer time of 1:05.8.
"Had he not gotten a breaker in front of him in the start and gotten away so far back he might have had a chance to win" says Hans-Owe Sundberg.
Do you analyze the races more now when you don't drive yourself?
"I analyzed them before too. But when you don't drive you don't know how the horse felt so you have to take an extra look and listen carefully to the feedback from the driver".
How has he trained after that race?
"Everything seems good. It's almost as if he wakes up more and more with every start he makes. That's why I have hopes for him to develop further and become a good gold division horse".
If you compare him to Scarlets Aino, does Eldorado B. have the same ability?
"I think so. Plus Eldorado B. is more of a versatile racehorse. Scarlets Aino was a front runner who did best when you let him be at his own pace. Eldorado has shown that he can handle any kind of race scenario. But even if he's as good right now, that doesn't mean he'll have the same career. The competition is much tougher now. Most of all there's much more depth in highest class with all the horses imported from North America".
Is going to the lead the plan for Saturday?
"I'm very happy with how he drew since he leaves the gate very well and likes racing on the front end. He's gone many tough races on the front where the tempo has been high the entire race but he has never been worse than third when racing on the front. But a lot can happen and the tactics are up to Torbjörn".
Are you making any shoeing or equipment changes?
"No. We tried him barefoot all around once but he couldn't hold his gate together. We might try it again in the future but for now we'll keep racing him barefoot only upfront. The pull down bridle stays on as usual and that's not something you can pull down in the start, he's sharp enough the way he is. Plus he's racing in his regular bike".
Do you believe he will win?
"I have a lot of respect for the opponents, especially Ragazzo da Sopra who has raced well many times over longer distances. But my horse is in at least as good form as in his last start and we are going to Årjäng hoping to win, absolutely" says Hans-Owe Sundberg.