The word “papagayo” has a variety of definitions, including: 1. Parrot; 2. Chatterbox; and 3. Tornado-like winds. A perfect confluence of all three took place on a perfect day in the Yonkers International Trot.
Tom Andersen and Claes Sjolin – the owners of Norway’s soon-to-emerge trotting star Papagayo E. – led what was by far the largest and most enthusiastic of the European contingents that traveled to New York for the $1 million Yonkers International Trot throughout last week
The entourage – 26 strong – enjoyed lunch at Tavern on the Green, the Broadway play “Jersey Boys” and the fine dining of New York at LeCirque and on a yacht dinner cruise up the Hudson, all hosted by the raceway president Tim Rooney, leading up to the big race.
Mr. Rooney, the owner of Empire City Casino and the historic Yonkers harness track, was reviving the Yonkers International after a 20-year hiatus, for the richest trotting purse in New York State history.
The enthusiasm of the Norwegian contingent turned to pure joy and ecstasy in the Yonkers Raceway winner’s circle Saturday when Papagayo E., with Ulf Ohlsson handling the reins, stormed down the stretch to capture the 37th edition of the global classic. Flags were waving, and they sang the National anthem of Norway on tune and in unison. In the middle of it all was the chatterbox himself, Mr. Andersen, beaming with an ear-to-ear smile.
And then there’s a new sports chant to supersede J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! It goes like this: Give me a P! P-A-P-A-G-A-Y-O! It was loud and clear on Saturday.
Papagayo E. defeated the French flag-carrier Timoko, the 4-1 second choice driven by Bjorn Goop. Timoko was gallant in defeat after taking the overland route throughout. The winning margin was a half-length, and the champ returned $21.60 for a $2 win wager as a 9-1 outsider. The 1¼-mile stakes was clocked in 2:26.
The five-year-old stallion sired by Cocktail Jet lifted his lifetime earnings past the $1 million mark with his 12th career victory. Jan Waaler trained the winner.
Leaving from post position two, Papagayo E. was guided through a perfect trip on the inside behind the pace-setting Creatine; the pride of Norway was waiting in the bushes for his big moment. With tornado-like power, Papagayo E. spread his vast wings, and, with the beauty of an Amazon parrot was flying in the deep stretch to win in the final strides.
Creatine, one of two United States representatives, led virtually the whole way with Johnny Takter in the sulky, and finished third as the 3-1 second choice in the wagering. Creatine carved out fractions of 28:4, 58:4, 1:28:1 and 1:57:1 for the mile. In the final quarter and down the stretch, both Timoko on the outside, and Papagayo E. on the inside, were roused by their reinsmen and finished with a flourish.
The even money favorite, the Canadian mare Bee A Magician, with Brian Sears in the sulky, finished a disappointing sixth. Bee A Magician made a three-wide move in the final turn but was unable to sustain her bid.
It was the first-ever win in the International for Norway. The United States has won 13, France right behind with 12; Sweden has five, and Canada three. Norway joined Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark with one apiece.
The owner Andersen said: “I feel fantastic. Ulf (Ohlsson) gave him an absolutely perfect drive. I was confident going into the race.”
Said the driver Ulf Ohlsson: “I felt really good the whole way. It was a good tempo. My horse was coming with a lot of power. Timoko was coming with power too, but I knew we had the win.My biggest concern was Creatine holding on long enough until there was room for us to get through on the inside.”
This writer had told Mr. Andersen before the race: “Your enthusiasm is contagious, and you’ll win the Yonkers International because of that. Of course, you have to have the horse.” The words proved to be prophetic.
The 10 premier trotters in the world from six countries – Canada, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United States competed in the Yonkers International.
The historic half-mile oval last hosted the Yonkers International in 1995, that edition captured by Sweden’s His Majesty. The purse equaled the richest in Yonkers history. The first seven-figure purse was in the 2007 Art Rooney Pace, won by Southwind Lynx. The International was inaugurated in 1959 at Roosevelt Raceway and moved to Yonkers by Rooney in 1988 when Roosevelt closed.
The revival was worth the wait. It was one for the ages!
Editor’s Note: The writer hasn’t lost his touch. At his first International in ‘77, he bet Italy’s Delfo at 10-1, and then took the boys out to Richard Yee’s in Brooklyn for a Chinese feast. On Saturday, he went to the windows for the Papagayo E.-Timoko exacta, which paid $170 for a $2 wager.