by Thomas Hedlund
The Åby Stora Pris, with $245,000 for the winner, was held at Åby racetrack on Saturday afternoon and after the two heats, a race off was required to determine the winner.
Åby Stora Pris is a mile race with eight horses in two heats where the horse with post one in the first race starts from post eight in the next.
This year’s edition was a fresh gathering with new horses in the elite and in favorite position four-year-old American bred (Brittany Farms) Muscle Hustle (Muscle Mass—Crown Laurel) started from the numbers eight and one. In the first race, Muscle Hustle made a break and spoiled his chances to win the Åby Stora Pris in two heats. Cantab Hall son Volstead, with Johnny Takter in the bike, was in front, but had no gas when the home stretch closed. Instead, it was the Finnish trained Midnight Hour (Diesel Don—Quanna Kemp) who used the open stretch at Åby and won the heat in 1:53.4 on a sloppy track for Iikka Nurmonen.
Midnight Hour was served a trip third over in the second heat and finished last in the eight-horse field.
Robert Bergh and Muscle Hustle opened quickly from post position one and was in front all the way. A time of 1:55.1 was enough to win the race and since there were two different winners in the races, a race off had to be held between the two horses.
Midnight Hour, who won the St Michel race in Mikkeli earlier this summer, easily took control of the last heat and Robert Bergh did not bother to push the speed up with Muscle Hustle. The first 5/8ths of a mile was passed in 1:21.2 (approximately 2:10 in mile time) and Iikka Nurmonen stole the race behind his six-year-old son of Diesel Don. Muscle Hustle tried his best on the outside during the last quarter, but Midnight Hour’s victory was safe and this was a great win for Finland.
A time of 2:03.4 was enough to win Åby Stora Pris 2017.
“I was thinking of giving the front to Muscle Hustle but Robert Bergh didn’t seemed so interested, so I tried to keep the pace down as much as I could and in the home stretch my horse felt strong,” Nurmonen said.
Discussions the last week has been about the shape of Åby Stora Pris, with two heats over the mile and this might have been the last time the spectators saw the race like this. A suggestion is about racing over 3.140 meters (1.95 miles), which could attract more of the best French horses to come to Sweden at this time of the year.