New Name in The South

New Name in The South

Bruce Stewart

22nd August 2021

 

When Maria Enochsson’s name popped up as the trainer of a recent qualifier in Southland it sparked a visit to the trainer section of the HRNZ website. Not only was the name new to me, her training location – Te Anau, also got me interested.

I followed up and this is part of her story.

Maria was born in Sweden and her parents were amateur trainers, so she grew up in a trotting environment.

“I did a bit of work experience with a couple of trainers in Sweden when I was at school. I went to equestrian college which was broad spectrum – riding, driving with a bit of theory. I then worked for a couple of trainers for about six months,” she said.

One of those trainers was Jan-Olov Persson.

“When I worked there, he had about forty or fifty horses in work. He had one or two standardbreds and the rest were cold blood. Forty five out of fifty (cold bloods) were stallions. They’re just like wee draft horses.”

The Swedish cold-blooded trotter is a descendant of the Nordic Landrace horse, with its origins going back to 2000-3000 years before Christ.

The role of the horse has changed over time from being a meat and milk producer, a draught and working horse, a resource in the armed forces and in forestry and agriculture to becoming today’s leisure and sports horse in Sweden.

One of the cold blood trotters trained by Olov Persson whilst Enochsson worked for him was Jarvsofaks.

His trotting career started at age 3 in 1997 and ended at age 15 in 2009. He won 201 out of 234 races,earning 21,288,570 Swedish kronor in prize money – that’s over three million New Zealand dollars.

He still holds the cold blood trotter’s world record of consecutive wins (42), and the cold blood trotter’s world record time, 1-17.9 per kilometre (the average time he ran over 1640 metres).

Jarvsofaks

He was also a successful stallion, and remarkably when he won his 10th Swedish Championship at the age of 15, he beat five of his sons.

“During the summer he’d be at stud three times a week and we’d go out and get him and race him at the weekends. He was an unreal horse. He just knew how to pose. Every time I went home I’d go out to see him because my best friend still works there. He’d be in his paddock outside the house, and you’d just have to pull a camera out and he’d pose.”

The horse had cult status in Sweden.

“At the awards they had the people’s choice. After two or three years they had to change it and not let people vote for him anymore. He won it every year, and some were getting sick of it.”

Jarvsofaks, despite being a horse, regularly performed duties normally reserved for a town’s mayor.

“They’d take him to openings of petrol stations. One year they put him in an elavator and took him up to the horse of the year event. He was just a professional stallion.”

Jarvsofaks was named Sweden’s Horse of the Year three times (2003-2005) and Cold Blood Horse Of The Year twelve times (1998-2009).

Jarvsofaks, the first trotting horse in the Mounted Guardian at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

After spending the early part of her working career in Sweden, Enochsson decided it was time to move on. At that point the Swedish Government had a special scheme running which allowed under twenty-five-year-olds who hadn’t had a full-time job in Sweden for six months to apply to travel overseas if there wasn’t any suitable work in their own country.

“I thought if the government is paying you money you go as far as you can I’d apply. I ended up coming to New Zealand and working for Marty Larter for about four months and then Craig Thornley got me a job at Spreydon Lodge.”

Maria worked at Spreydon Lodge for fourteen years, until about a year ago.

“I was foreman there for the last seven years. In the last few years, I was the one that took teams down south most of the time. I’ve always enjoyed it down there. They’re a good crowd of people. I’ve stayed at a few different places, and you can’t beat southern hospitality.”

Maria now works in Te Anau, based at Southland horseman Wayne McEwan’s new property.

“She used to stay at home (Branxholme) when she came down with the McRae horses. One day she was in Te Anau and rung up and said would you like to catch up for a drink. She told me she had left McRae’s and was looking for something else to do. I thought ‘that fits with me,” McEwan said.

Maria is enjoying the change.

“It’s a different place, different scenery, so I thought I’d give it a go. I ended up spending most of the winter in Invercargill because the new track wasn’t quite ready and worked in with Kirstin Barclay, but I’ve been back here for four or five weeks.”

McEwan has a 50 acre property ten minutes this side of Te Anau named Leah Lodge. The property has an 800 metres track which was constructed in  autumn as well as a 1100 metre jog track.

“I like having that big jog track for trotters. I’ve never been keen on going around those tight corners (small tracks) early on,” said Maria.

An end on view of the new barn in Te Anau (photo supplied)

The property has a new barn and stable area, but no house, so and Maria lives in Te Anau.

“It was part of a deer farm and we bought fifty acres off the owner who wanted to split it off. We got the flat part of it which was good for us. We’ve re-fenced the property which Dan Wilson did. He’s a good racing man. There are eight boxes in the barn and we think we’ve done it right. We’ve got a hot and cold wash,” McEwan said.

Inside the new barn (pictures supplied)

“It’s going to be a good facility and we’re going to do mainly pre-training because it’s a bit of a distance to go to the trials and races. We’ll jog up and pre-train some of Kirstin’s and perhaps take some others,” added Enochsson.

McEwan now lives in Te Anau where he also runs motels.

“The idea was to retire here but with Covid it may take a bit longer. The idea is to pre-train for Kirstin and my mate in Christchurch Ken Barron. We’ll race a few out of here but not too many. If we end up racing ten from here, I’d also be happy at that.”

Johnny Bennet, who McEwan worked with at the late Henry Skinner’s Branxholme stable, does a morning shift, travelling each day from Tuatapere.

Maria has held her training license since the beginning of this season, and she’s able to train one horse at the McEwan property.

“I’ve had a few horses of my own but not in my name. It’s good to see your own name out there.”

The horse she is currently training is recently qualified four-year-old Peak trotting mare Merkel which she’s leased from Jenny Butt.

Maria Enochsson and Merkel (picture supplied-pre lockdown)

“She’s four but still a bit weak. I think she’ll strengthen up in the next year or two. She’s a lovely horse. I said to Kim (Butt) when I leased her that I was put off because she was by Peak. The ones I saw by him early on weren’t that nice. Jenny keeps telling me she’s going to be a superstar when I text her with an update.”

Merkel is a half-sister to Sassy Pants (9), Princess Mackendon (9) and Prestine (5).

Her dam Stimulus is a half-sister to Genius (24) whose wins included the Group Three Knight Pistol at Moonee Valley in January 2006.

“I got to know Kim quite well as she was leasing a property next to Spreydon Lodge. We were neighbours for a few years.”

Maria Enochsson is a welcome addition to the Southern Harness ranks. The  wealth of experience she brings with her will be appreciated.

 Other Jarvsofaks facts

  • In 2010, Järvsöfaks competed against the ski queen Charlotte Kalla during the festival “Snösväng” in Hudiksvall. 5,000 spectators saw a duel over 100 metres where Järvsöfaks got his head in front one metre before the finish line.
  • In 2002, Järvsöfaks visited Stockholm International Horse Show together with Victory Tilly. The trotting stars were met by a deafening cheer in a packed Globen.
  • In 2007, Järvsöfaks was included as the first trotting horse in the Mounted Guardian at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.
  • In 2010, Järvsöfaks got to put his hoof imprint in the Walk of Fame at Liseberg. The trotting king got the seat next to Michael Jackson.

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Source: Lars-Ove-Petterson, Channel 75