He shone in his seasonal debut and showcased another weapon in his already well-equipped arsenal – the gate speed.
With that start in his legs, Admiral As should be even sharper this time and this Wednesday at Solvalla he takes another step on the road towards Elitloppet.
"My horse feels very good and the form curve is pointing upwards. The winter training has been better than last year's" says trainer Reijo Liljendahl.
V86® this week is split between Solvalla and Bjerke in Oslo, Norway. The card is spiced up by a jackpot worth SEK 15 million in the pool for all eight winners picked. The feature is Nuncio's race at Solvalla with several possible Elitlopp contenders. One of them is 4 Admiral As (V86-6) who shone in his seasonal debut in the hands of Örjan Kihlström. The horse showed off his gate speed for the first time when Örjan sent him straight to the lead. A surprise to many perhaps, but not to trainer Reijo Liljendahl.
"I knew he had that gate speed. It was not a surprise to me and I think Örjan knew it too. Örjan is a world champion and a professional to his fingertips. He knows what he drives and he wanted to try this time. You can't snooze and lose ten meters in the start in this division. Especially not when you are going out against the very best in the future" says Reijo Liljendahl.
"Good mental balance"
Admiral As got to set his own fractions in the lead and was challenged down the stretch by Diamanten who got out after a perfect pocket trip. But Liljendahl's star trotter kept his head in front without being pressured.
"He shouldn't be tired after a race like that when he got to go slow in the early parts. I think my horse raced well and I knew it would be a sprint a the end. It was a quick finish but he responded well when Örjan asked him to go faster".
"He had trained well going into that start and also after. He feels very good, he is alert and happy and he seems to be in good mental balance. It's nice to see that he came out of that start the way he did".
"Stig H helps me train in the mornings"
The Solvalla-licensed trainer had prepared his star trotter in the best possible way this past winter. Reijo has as of a few months back returned to his old stomping grounds Stora Alby after having had his stable at Julmyra in Heby.
"I said after Admiral As had made his last start of last year that if he is going to be at the level where I expect him to be in the future, he needs to improve on everything. I think he has done so and I also think that the winter training has worked out better this past winter. Last winter he had some issues with his knees and also with his teeth so we had to stop with him but this winter everything has worked out perfectly".
"The move from Julmyra to Stora Alby was a question mark for all the horses but I have to say that it has been nothing but positive. We put a lot of work into our horses and their well-being. We have had a good start to the season and Alby is a great farm to train horses at".
"Stig helps me train and last week he helped us six mornings. He likes it and Stig's knowledge is irreplaceable".
"Even sharper with that start in his legs"
In this Wednesday's V86, Admiral As will be the favorite in the sixth leg. He has the exact same post position as in his seasonal debut – post six – and Örjan Kihlström is once again doing the driving.
"The race contains established gold division trotters and Milliondollarrhyme is a horse you have to take seriously. So it's not just to go out there and win, but my horse is very good and his form curve points upwards. Normally he should be even better with that start in his legs since I had just trained him faster twice at the track and no faster than 1:20. I have a lot of training in him but I haven't given him any faster heats and he is not supposed to be in top form now. That will come later with a few more starts".
Only races at Solvalla – "I don't want to expose him"
Reijo Liljendahl has said earlier that Elitloppet is the big goal for Admiral As this year. Reijo has sat behind numerous great horses in training over the years and he has said that Admiral As is the fastest horse he has ever sat behind. The road towards Elitloppet goes on and after the Wednesday start, he is clear about the fact that Admiral As will continue racing at his home track Solvalla up until the big battle, the last weekend of May.
"I have decided to keep him here at home, due to various reasons. I don't want to travel with him and expose to any form of infections and such. Solvalla is only 20 minutes away and he stays in our own stable there. Pernilla takes great care of him and we want him at the balance he is at now and we don't want any interruptions".
Dreams about winning Elitloppet – "We will give it a try"
With less than two months to Elitloppet, what are your thoughts about Admiral As after his pleasant seasonal debut?
"I say that my dream is to win two races before I retire; Elitloppet and the Hambletonian. I think that if everything works out I would have a chance to win Elitloppet with Admiral As. He has the speed and the strength and his heart rate is very good in training".
"It's a dream, but not an impossible one. I have had a couple of chances in Elitloppet in the past, with Formula One who didn't get into the race in his elimination and drew a bad post position in the final, and also with Nadal Broline who raced great when he finished second. I know how difficult it is to tie things up and just having a very good horse is not enough, you need a whole lot of luck too".
"It's not easy but we will give it a try. It would be nice if they would go 1:09 the first kilometer, then he should have a nice sprint left in him" says Reijo Liljendahl who reports no changes for this week's start.