Can the Aussie shock the locals?

24 May 2018 | Greg Hayes
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Maori Time having an easy jog at Stig Johannson's property on Thursday morning

Maori Time having an easy jog at Stig Johannson's property on Thursday morning

The Swedish media has quite openly admitted it knows very little about the form and ability of Australian mare Maori Time in the lead up to Sunday’s Elitloppet.  The Brent Lilley trained mare has attracted a lot of publicity and interest in Sweden but she has been given little chance of getting past the elimination stage by the local press.

While the mare is being shunned by the locals, the common feeling amongst the Maori Time crew headed up by Lilley is contentment.

“Since we have arrived I don’t think we could have asked for things to go better than they have,” Lilley said.

“She has settled in perfectly at Stig’s (Johansson), she has eaten everything, her work has been great.  We won’t have an excuse in the world on Sunday.”

Maori Time will have her last serious hit-out on Friday morning before she competes on Sunday.

“Stig drove her earlier in the week for me and he was really impressed with her and the way she worked.  Watching her I was really happy with the way she got through it.

“I’ve got the farrier coming this afternoon (Thursday).  She is trotting really well at the moment so we will just get him to put the front shoes back on and she can have a new set of aluminiums put on behind.”

Maori Time has drawn barrier six in her heat on Sunday directly outside overall series favourite Bold Eagle.  The French trotting star won his heat impressively in 2017 before fading in the final to finish behind Timoko.

After racing outside the leader in his heat last year the question has been raised in the Swedish media whether Bold Eagle’s driver Franck Nivard would be less aggressive in the heat this year in an attempt to save something for the final.

If Nivard is not as aggressive as he was a year ago it could be a chance for Maori Time to use her speed to get into the race early.

Owner Fred Crews understands his mare Maori Time is facing a huge task racing arguably the world’s best trotter in Bold Eagle.

“I know Australia has had better trotters come to the Elitloppet in the past.  The last Australian horse to come was Sundons Gift and he was a better horse than Maori Time but what my mare does have is gate speed and she can put herself into the race,” Crews said.

“It isn’t ideal that we have drawn directly outside Bold Eagle but it is an honour to be representing Australia, I know there are a lot of people back home who will be staying up late on a Sunday night watching Sky to cheer her on and I’ve had great support from gentleman like Duncan McPherson from Aldebaran Park who have made this trip possible.”

Sky Racing will cover Solvalla on Saturday and Sunday night with Anthony Manton broadcasting the races live from the track.  Maori Time will compete at 11:22pm (AEST) on Sunday night.