Scarlet Knight - 2001
Hollywood's best scribes could not have written a more fitting conclusion to the 2001 Meadowlands harness meet as renowned Swedish Swedish racing photographer Stefan Melander fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning the Hambletonian with Scarlet Knight. After 20 years of capturing the sport's most prestigious events on film, Melander, known as "Foto Tarzan" around the world, was finally on the other side of the camera in the winner's circle on Hambletonian Day, August 4. The colt's trainer, driver and owner, Melander made the trek from his home in Enkoping, Sweden, overcoming the obstacles of distance, climate and time, to give Scarlet Knight the chance to prove himself as the world's top three-year-old trotter. And the son of Pine Chip, who entered the race undefeated in eight starts, lived up to his reputation. After Banker Hall took the field to the three-quarter pole, Melander and Scarlet Knight roared to the front and muscled their way to the lead and a one and three-quarter length winning margin, timed in 1:53.4. Melander turned to face the cameras as he crossed the finish line, his whip raised in victory. Every summer Melander makes the trek from his home in Sweden to the Meadowlands Racetrack for the Hambletonian, but his 2001 journey was quite different as he brought three-year-old trotting colt Scarlet Knight with him. Scarlet Knight was simply dominant in his U.S. debut as he cut the mile and drew off to a six-length victory in 1:54.1, the fastest of the three Hambletonian eliminations, with Melander in the sulky. And shortly after the race was over, Melander was back in the winner's circle snapping photos of the other Hambletonian eliminations and Breeders Crown events. Scarlet Knight entered the Hambletonian with a perfect eight-for-eight season record, posting victories in Sweden, Norway and the United States. Melander purchased Scarlet Knight for $17,000 in November 1999, but was unable to train him until January 2000 because of quarantine requirements, making his accomplishment even more remarkable. "It took a long time before I got him to Sweden," he said, "and I thought I wouldn't have enough time to get him ready. Normally, under the circumstances, Swedish trainers don't have enough time to prepare horses for the Hambletonian because of the long winter. I think it's amazing to be in this race. It is nearly impossible for a Swedish-trained horse to make it." Melander grew up near the Solvalla racetrack in Stockholm and began hanging around the stables where he became friends with veteran conditioners Hakan Wallner and Berndt Lindstedt. His passion for trotters led to his involvement in many aspects of the sport, including charting the races at Solvalla and selling handicapping tip sheets. Melander is known as "Foto Tarzan," a nickname given to him by Wallner, who combined Melander's interest in photography with his tendency to swing from job to job. Melander started his own photography business in 1980 that has prospered over the past two decades. He is also a racing columnist for Expressen, a top tier daily newspaper in Sweden. In 1990, he began to devote more of his time to training horses and took on more employees to help with the photography. Melander is assisted by his girlfriend, Catarina Lundstrom, a respected trainer in Scandinavia. They bought a training center in Enkoping and their stable has grown to be one of the most fruitful in Scandinavia. Melander is the first horseman to bring a U.S.-brd trotter trained and developed in Europe to the U.S. and win the Hambletonian. Two horses have tried before, the Italian-owned Top Hanover in 1971 (finished sixth and eight in the first two heats) and the Swedish-owned Easy Lover in 1995 (finished seventh in elim).
Exported as a yearling, raised developed and trained in Europe, Scarlet Knight is the first U.S.-bred trotter to come back to win the Hambletonian. Melander was the first driver-trainer-owner to win the Hambletonian since Stanley Dancer did it in 1975 with Bonefish. Melander was the first driver-trainer to win it since Dancer won with Duenna in 1983. Melander trains some 70 horses with partner Catarina Lundstrom. He rarely reads the pedigree page but instead measures yearlings and enters all pertinent info in a detailed data base, consisting of over 60,000 horses he's measured. The Hambletonian Final was Melander's third drive in the U.S. He won the 1995 Yonkers International with His Majesty and his Hambo elim a week prior to the final. In each of the five years since multiple heats were replaced by eliminations the previous week, the eventual winner of the Hambletonian has also won his elimination. Scarlet Knight is only the fifth Hambletonian winner (since 1945) to come into the race with an unblemished record as a 3-year-old. The other four: Titan Hanover (1945), Sharp Note (1952), Mack Lobell (1987) and Malabar Man (1997). Scarlet Knight flew over and back on the same plane as international trotting superstar Varenne. The two returned to Europe having won the only two $1 million races for trotters offered in the world. Scarlet Knight was the fourth European-conditioned horse to take a shot at the Hambletonian: Shatter Way (1966), Top Hanover (1971), Easy Lover (1995). Scarlet Knight was probably the 40th favorite or co-favorite to win in the 76 years of the Hambletonian. Remarkably six out of the last nine years, the public's choice has prevailed. The three beaten favorites were: Lindy Lane (1996), CR Kay Suzie (1995), and Dreamaster (2000). Scarlet Knight is the 28th winner who paternal line traces directly to Scotland (third to Spencer in 1928). Scotland was a grandson of Peter The Great whose prodigy has won 63 of the 76 Hambletonians, including both dead-heat winners in 1989. Scarlet Knight was the 13th Hambletonian winner sold as a yearling by Standardbred Horse Sale Co. in Harrisburg, PA., since it offered Ashley Hanover (later renamed Bill Gallon) in its initial 1939 session. It was the Harrisburg sale's 1st winner since 1989 which now equals Tattersalls' record as the leader in that category. Additionally one more winner, Green Speed (1977), was catalogued at Harrisburg but withdrawn prior to his sale. Scarlet Knight, was the 32nd winner sired by a Kentucky stallion, a record by a state breeding program. The winners of the first 15 consecutive Hambletonians (1926 to 1940) were by Kentucky stallions. He was the 8th Hambletonian winner produced by a Castleton Farm stallion. His sire Pine Chip was exported to Sweden in 2000 when Castleton was disperssed. Five of the 10 starters were trained by Swedish trainers; four driven by Swedish reinsmen. To add to the Scandinavian flavor, a sixth was trained by a Norwegian. Brooke Nickells was the first female trainer to advance to the Hambletonian final with Lavecster. Both Anna-Lena Ljunggren (Baltic Baby, 1993) and Ann Wheeler (Speedy Big Boy, 1994) started in the eliminations but did not go forward to the final. Lavecster finished fourth in the final. Total harness handle was $8,028,480, the highest handle in the history of the sport, breaking the previous record for the 3rd consecutive year on Hambletonian Day. On-track attendance was $26,569 a record for the Meadowlands season. On-track harness wagering was $3,675,779, the highest at The Meadowlands since 1995.