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By Ken Weingartner for the Breeders Crown

Karoliina Oinonen has been around the world with trotting star Commander Crowe, but there is one more place she hopes to visit before returning to Europe next week.

The Breeders Crown winner’s circle.

Commander Crowe [Photo by Ken Weingartner]

Oinonen, from Finland, has been Commander Crowe’s caretaker since the chestnut gelding, known as “Le Grand Blond,” arrived in the stable of trainer Fabrice Souloy in 2010.

Commander Crowe is the 3-1 morning line favorite in Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot at the Meadowlands. Commander Crowe will start from post nine, with driver Orjan Kihlstrom at the lines.

Now an 11-year-old, Commander Crowe has started in two previous Breeders Crown finals, both at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, finishing third each time. A win this year would make Commander Crowe the oldest Breeders Crown champion in history.

“That would be great. That would be really great,” Oinonen said about winning the Open Trot, which also includes past Breeders Crown champions Maven, Arch Madness, Intimidate and Market Share. “I know it’s the dream of my boss to win one big race here. It’s not easy with post nine. But I hope. I really hope.”

According to the stats on the Meadowlands website, post nine wins at a rate of 8.4 percent. It is not much off from posts two, three and eight, which have better numbers but also are less than 10 percent.

The Swedish-born Commander Crowe has won 60 of 105 career races, earning $4.84 million. His earnings rank No. 5 among all trotters in history and his triumphs include the Elitlopp Invitational, which he captured in 2012.

Commander Crowe enters the Breeders Crown off a second-place finish to Natural Herbie in the International Trot Preview on Oct. 25 at Yonkers Raceway, which was his first start on U.S. soil. He tuned up for the Breeders Crown with a 1:54.1 qualifier on November 15 at the Meadowlands.

Prior to arriving in the States, he finished second in the Grade 1 Gran Premio Turilli in Rome on Oct. 5. In August, he raced three heats to win the Grade 1 Aby Stora Pris in Sweden.

“It was a great opportunity to get a horse like him,” said Oinonen, who has visited nearly a dozen countries with Commander Crowe. “It’s just unbelievable. I was lucky, he could have gone to somebody else in the barn. Without the horse, I would have never traveled like this. The horse has paid for my ticket everywhere.”

Commander Crowe, who didn’t begin racing until late in his 3-year-old season and won the first 23 starts of his career, is owned by the Snogarps Gard ownership group of Barbro Wihlborg, Ulf Wihlborg and Joakim Wihlborg. He is a son of Juliano Star, out of the Mack Lobell-sired mare Somack.

Oinonen said her most memorable races with Commander Crowe were his world-record-equaling 1:50.4 mile in 2012, winning the Elitlopp, and competing in the Breeders Crown for the first time in 2011. San Pail won the 2011 Breeders Crown on his way to Horse of the Year honors. Commander Crowe raced on the outside for the entire mile and was a length behind in third place.

“We were third,” Oinonen said, “but just the atmosphere and traveling that far with a horse and all that, it was so great.”

Commander Crowe enjoys his work, but likes to relax as well.

“My work is to keep him calm,” Oinonen said. “If he sees all the working horses, he wants to work too. He gets too excited.

“But he likes to be in the paddock with the other horses. He has been with (10-year-old gelding) Arch Madness. He likes the company. He thinks he’s a wild horse living on the prairie, eating the grass there. Back home he is usually living outside all the summer season. He comes inside only to work; that’s what he likes.”

Commander Crowe is finished with his training and jogging as he awaits the Breeders Crown. Friday was to be spent enjoying his paddock time.

“We have done what we can,” Oinonen said, “and now we see if it’s enough.”


No matter what Maven accomplishes in Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot at the Meadowlands, she will always be special to driver Yannick Gingras.

Gingras was with the now 5-year-old mare when she went to the track for her first qualifier, back in June 2011 at the Meadowlands. He was behind Maven for her first start, a winning effort in a division of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes at the Meadows, less than a month later.

They teamed with previous trainer Jonas Czernyson to win Breeders Crown trophies at ages 3 and 4, and picked up the 2013 Dan Patch Award for best older female trotter. All totaled, Gingras has raced Maven in 46 of her 52 career races, winning 26.

Now they will try to beat the boys in the Breeders Crown Open Trot. If they do, it will be the first time a mare has won the race since Moni Maker in 1998. Maven won last week’s single elimination by a neck over Your So Vain in 1:52.2, starting from post 10 and racing on the outside for the entire mile.

Maven, purchased earlier this month for $750,000 by Herb Liverman and turned over to trainer Jimmy Takter, will start the final from post four and is the 4-1 third choice on the morning line behind 3-1 favorite Commander Crowe and 7-2 Market Share. Commander Crowe and Market Share received byes to the final.

“I think she’s only going to be better,” Gingras said. “It wasn’t the best of weeks last week, Jimmy didn’t really have much time to do anything.

“But she was awesome last week. She was parked for every step and still was trotting at the wire. I think she can get a good mile in (1):51 this weekend. Whether it will be enough, I’m not sure, but I’m not afraid of anybody in the race, I can tell you that.”

For her career, Maven has won 29 of 52 races and earned $1.60 million. She finished second to Market Share in last year’s American-National Stakes as the only mare in the race, and earlier this season went to Sweden for the Elitlopp Invitational, where she finished third in her elimination and sixth in the final.

“It would definitely mean a lot to win this one, there’s no doubt about that,” Gingras said. “But she’s already been really special and is always going to be a very special horse to me. And the ride is not over. There’s a lot more left with her for sure.”

From the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown

CRANBURY, NJ – November 21, 2014 -- The New Jersey Racing Commission has cleared the out of competition tests screened to date on entrants in the $5.5 million Breeders Crown races to be held Friday, November 21 and Saturday, November 22 at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

This procedure has been routine for nearly a decade in the Hambletonian Society sponsored and owned Breeders Crown events, as well as the Hambletonian and Hambletonian Oaks.

Earlier this week samples were drawn from finalists entered throughout New Jersey, and those stabled in other jurisdictions were also tested with the cooperation of the participating horsemen.

All horses must report six hours in advance of race time to a secure stakes barn at the Meadowlands.

All contestants will be post-race tested according to standard New Jersey Racing Commission procedures and all winners of the Breeders Crown races and randomly chosen horses from each field will be subject to the "Super Test" screening, which detects the broadest array of substances.

The out-of-competition drug testing is used to detect evidence of blood doping, and is a condition of entry for the Breeders Crown, Hambletonian and the Hambletonian Oaks. This testing is in addition to earlier out-of-competition testing done privately by the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Post time for both nights is 7:15 p.m.

From the Hambletonian Society/ Breeders Crown

All things related to the 31st edition of the Breeders Crown, with all 12 divisions for the first time at the Meadowlands, are available online.

All press kit and media guide materials are available at

The Breeders Crown portion of the Hambletonian Society website,, has been revamped and redesigned. Explore the brand new features and the Breeders Crown social media feed on

The connections of 115 horses are dreaming about standing in the Crown winner’s circle, hoisting the crystal trophy. Read how some of those dream came true on the Hambletonian Society website.

Free program pages are available courtesy of Trackmaster on the USTA’s Breeders Crown mini-site

For Breeders Crown wagering analysis, visit Horse Players Monthly at, the Meadowlands and the Daily Racing Form

Listen to experts Mike Curci and Pete Kleinhans on Sirius-XM radio for a Friday, November 21 recap and live gate-to-wire coverage on Saturday, November 22 from 9 to 11 p.m.

Post time for both nights is 7:15 p.m.

For a stroll down Breeders Crown memory lane check out the excellent features put together by Dave Briggs, Lauren Lee and Dave Landry and from Hoof Beats Magazine at

For Dean Hoffman's Top 20 Breeders Crown moments, visit

Several Breeders Crown champions of the past are featured in the book Standardbred Old Friends, with photographer Barbara Livingston and author Ellen Harvey both on hand on Friday and Saturday nights at the Meadowlands to sign the 208-page book. Breeders Crown champs captured in the book are CR Kay Suzie, Moni Maker, Matt’s Scooter, Super Grit, Staying Together and, on the cover, Mack Lobell.

The book will be sold at the Harness Racing Museum booth during the first three races on Friday and Saturday, all proceeds going to benefit the work of the Museum. It can also be purchased at or by calling 845-294-6330.

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