V75: The barefoot Baron is sharpened and ready for his seasonal debut
Spring is here and that means many of our best trotters are coming out on the racetracks.
For Rickard Svanstedt it means that his poster boy Baron Gift is back in the spotlight.
"It will be exciting to get back into it and start racing on Saturdays again" says the Axevalla trainer.
This week the barefoot ban that has been in effect all winter has been lifted and just like that Baron Gift (V75-3) is back in the gold division. But the fact that he now gets to race without shoes is not the entire explanation to why his seasonal debut takes place just at Åby this Saturday.
"He was struggling with over training pretty much all last year and we decided to give him a longer break and he simply hasn't been ready until now. But now that he's up in the highest class on V75 he needs to race berefoot to have a chance to keep up" says Rickard Svanstedt.
That is a qualified truth. Baron Gift won the gold division last winter with shoes on. But he is at his best when racing barefoot.
"It's sort of like when you run barefoot yourself. It feels easy and freer for the horses to trot without shoes and physiologically it gives them better blood circulation in their legs and actually in their entire bodies. They have little pumps in their feet. But I think a lot of it is psychological for them, they feel freer going barefoot. The first time you pull the shoes off a horse you can feel already scoring down that they feel like a new horse" says Svanstedt.
A good sharpener on the track
How has the winter training gone after the break?
"Good! He hasn't had any problems at all. He didn't quite have his legs the first time I trained him on the track but I trained him faster last Friday and then he felt like he usually does".
How fast did you go with him?
"I gave him a sharpener and trained him in 1:15/1,600 meters. He is probably best when he races back to back weeks so I tried to give him a fast heat. You can pretty much say that he has one start in his legs now and I think he will be in pretty good form right away".
How do you predict this season for him?
"If he can stay healthy and stay away form the over training symptoms I think he could have a good year, he's very sound in his legs despite getting up there in age".
"Going forward we will only train him under saddle to try to keep the over training away"
Speaking of under saddle, he was fourth in the Swedish Championships in monté when he tried that discipline last year. Do you have any plans of racing him more under saddle?
"I was impressed by him in the monté championships. It was only the third time he had someone on his back and he finished fourth. They can easily get sore when they try monté, but he's a big and strong horse who came out of it fine, so we might try some more monté if things don't work out in the sulky or if there's a good spot in the calender for it".
Will get a nice trip
Back to his seasonal debut on Saturday. Short distance and post position nine in the second tier, what's your take on the race?
"Besides Floris Baldwin it looks like a suitable field and we have a good one to follow, Flemming Jensen's Slide So Easy. Baron Gift does not leave as quickly from the second tier, sometime he has, but he doesn't like the gravel in his face and he usually doesn't have that same kick in the start behind horses, so he might end up third or fourth along the pylons. That's the type of trip he needs in his seasonal debut and I think he will generally need a nice trip in order to have a chance in this class in the future".
Can he strike right off the bat if he has some racing luck?
"He's been impossible to predict his entire life and like I said, he pretty much has a start in his legs now and I trained him with heavy steel shoes and in an old long shaft training sulky. Now he will race the way he usually does in the carbon fibre sulky, barefoot and with a blind bridle. His highest level is very high and he has surprised me many times".