O'Brien Award Winner Perfetto Receives Invitation To Elitloppet, Harness Racing's Richest Race For Trotters - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

O’Brien Award Winner Perfetto Receives Invitation To Elitloppet, Harness Racing’s Richest Race For Trotters

Dagfin Henriksen (L) and Perfetto, on March 14 at Woodbine Mohawk Park

Perfetto, the two-time defending O'Brien Award winner for Older Trotting Male, has been invited to represent Canada in the Elitloppet, as the crown jewel of Swedish harness racing brings back a full international field for the 2022 edition, which takes place as part of a three-day festival from May 27-29.

The seven-year-old gelding, a son of Ontario Sire Majestic Son, has 25 lifetime wins and over $700,000 in earnings. He is trained and driven by Dagfin Henriksen.

“It's quite an honour to be invited to the Elitloppet,” said Henriksen, a native of Norway. “Every trainer, especially in Europe, dreams of even making it to the race. If you have a horse that's good enough to go in that race, it's something special.”

The Elitloppet is the world's richest race for trotting horses, with a total purse of SEK 11,350,000 between trials and finals ($1.6 million CAD). The name translates to the Elite Race, and each year 16 of the world's best trotters compete in front of 50,000 spectators on the last Sunday in May at Solvalla Racetrack.

As Henriksen prepares Perfetto for the biggest race of his life, he will focus on keeping the bay trotter in his routine. He'll race a few more times at Woodbine Mohawk Park before shutting it down two to three weeks before heading overseas.

“It's not about winning the races here for the next few weeks, it's about getting the horse ready for the race over there,” said Henriksen. “So, if we get boxed in here, it might be good for him to get braved up for the race over there. We have to be a little tactical racing here now.”

Gerald Haggerty, from Camden East, Ontario, owns Perfetto. A 30-year veteran of the harness racing industry, he first met Henriksen when he claimed a horse from him for $1,500. They've worked together since, and Haggerty has full confidence in his trainer.

“Dagfin has a little bit of magic in his hands. I think he's the best trotting man in Canada, and his methods are different than some Canadian or U.S. trainers,” said Haggerty. “He's been around a long time and been around some great horses. He has a lot of experience.”

Henriksen leaned on that experience when he opted to remove Perfetto's trotting hopples. Haggerty was initially skeptical, but the move paid off.

“Dagfin called me and said, 'I'm going to take the hopples off.' I thought he was crazy, he'd (Perfetto) been racing with the hopples his whole life,” said Haggerty. “Well, he took the hopples off and Perfetto went and won the next week just as flat as a tire. That's when I knew he was going to be better than okay.”

This move was key to Perfetto earning an Elitloppet invitation because the selection committee for the race will not invite horses who use trotting hopples, as they are not permitted in the historic event.

Henriksen has been to the Elitloppet on one occasion, as a spectator in 2005. A horse from his native Norway, Steinlager, won that year. Seventeen years later he's happy to represent both his home country, and Canada.

“It's a bit overwhelming, because it's not every year something like this happens,” said Henriksen. “We have to enjoy it, and we just have to go with the flow.”

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