Finland’s number one instructor got a dream come true: “These are unique opportunities”

Santtu Raitala heard the news at the same time as other TV viewers.

Santtu Raitala steered 402 wins last year and was by far the most successful steer in the Nordic countries. Ville Toivonen

  • Raitala takes the reins of a top horse in Elitloppet.
  • Mister Hercules has a chance to fight for the top spots.

The number one name in the Finnish instructor market Santtu Raitala31, will fulfill one of his dreams on Sunday.

Pihtiputaalaan is participating for the first time in the Elitloppet run in Stockholm’s Solvalla, which is one of the world’s most prestigious trotting competitions. The competition’s first prize is five million kroner.

Raitala is guided by the Swedish crabber Mister Hercules. The six-year-old stallion is a new acquaintance for Raitala, as he will be riding it for the first time on Sunday. Mister Hercules’ trainer is Sweden’s sovereign ruler of recent years Daniel Redén.

The sixteen horses invited to Elitloppet will run in eight-horse qualifiers. The track draw was held on Sunday on Sweden’s ravi-TV broadcast.

– It only became clear to me when it was said out loud during the track lottery broadcast, Santtu Raitala laughs.

The driving assignment didn’t come out of the blue on Sunday evening, because Raitala says he got a message from Redén a few hours earlier.

– We were playing tennis when Daniel got a message asking what I was up to and was I going to watch the track raffle. After all, there was a bit of speculation with my gaming buddies that maybe he wasn’t just asking that kind of thing for fun. I thought I’d probably better watch the draw.

Top screens

Mister Hercules is in top condition. Maisa Hyttinen / Finnish Hippos

Behind Raitala’s driving task are Elitloppet’s current rules, according to which one handler can only drive one horse in the race’s qualifiers. Redén got three horses to the Elitloppet, all of which have a Swedish legend as their standard handler Orjan Kihlström.

Kihlström rides Don Fanucci Zet from Redén’s horses. Hail Mary, the stable’s third horse, will be ridden by a Swedish greatness who is currently impressive in the USA Åke Svanstedt. Kihlström has driven all the races of Mister Hercules’ career so far.

– Of course, I’ve seen Mister Hercules’ races, but he’s still a foreign horse to me. Raitala sums up that it has certain movement errors, which you have to come to some sort of understanding yourself, and of course listen carefully to what Daniel and Örjan tell about the horse.

Even participating in the Elitloppet is an honor, and what makes the situation special is that Mister Hercules should also have a chance to succeed in the race.

– It is a competitive horse that has fresh evidence of its top condition. And when there is such a top team in the background, there are many things right here. These are unique opportunities.

Ten drivers

Raitala has an exciting weekend ahead of it. In addition to Mister Hercules, he has other top drivers in Solvalla. The best victory seam is probably the three-time trotting king Evartti, running in the cold-blooded Elitkampen, who got a great second track.

The first prize of the Elitkampeni run on Sunday is one million kroner. The same amount will be paid in Saturday’s first race, the long-distance Harper Hanover race, where Raitala will ride the impressive American trainer in Sweden by Jerry Riordan the stable’s top trotter from Aetos Krono.

In total, Raitala has ten drivers during the three days, of which only two come from Finland.

– During the Elitloppet weekend, most of the best drivers in Europe will be there, and this year there will be a couple of drivers from other parts of the world as well. It’s not easy to get even one ride to those raves, and I must say that in the end there were a surprisingly large number of horses.

Heiskanen the second

A Finnish instructor has never won the Elitloppet. The closest has been Veijo Heiskanen, who in 1985 was second in the race with Rosalind’s Guy. The last time a Finnish driver participated in Elitloppet was 2020, when Jorma Kontio guided Katja Melkon coached by Elia Web.

Kontio, who has been influential in Sweden for a long time, is also until now the only Finnish instructor who has ridden a non-Finnish horse in the Elitloppet. The first time Kontio was in charge of a foreign horse in Elitloppet was in 1987, when he was in charge of the American David Hanover.