Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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Åke Svanstedt on life in the United States: “We stay here”

The Swedes who only met New Jersey on their way from Newark Airport to New York may recognize the scenes from the vignette in the TV classic “The Soprano”: Equal Parts Rumbling and Swampy Industrial Features, and the Rest on the Six-lane Highway.

But if you went more than one hour south, a different world would open up. On the rolling hills, green, spring deciduous trees blend with the arable land that gave the state the name “garden state”.

This is where Åke Svanstedt, 60, lives with his family.

Since the competition season has just started in earnest, Svanstedts is based in the luxury villa – “I really don’t know, maybe four to five six hundred square meters,” he says – located near the main training courses. Because of the winter season, they also have a home and farm in Florida.

“Maybe four, five, or six hundred square meters,” says Aoki Svanstedt of the family’s New Jersey home. In the back there is, of course, a swimming pool.

Photo: Johan Erickson

But now it’s soon time to pack up and go to Sweden. Elite race is waiting.

– I never thought I’d run another elite race after Resolve, says Svanstedt.

This position changed two weeks ago.

– Who is the main owner of Look Superb. Send a text message I want to call. Then I did. Then he said he was watching a movie they made about me. “Then I got an idea, that you are going to ride the horse!”

And so it will be.

The horse is good, so you can’t see yourself get hit in advance. He beat both Propulsion and Readly Express when they last met at Prix d’Amerique. Then he won races after dte and you can’t ask for more, though maybe it was easy races. It will be interesting.

Do you see Propulsion and Readly Express as the steepest competitors?

– Yes, it looks like this. The push is strong and tender and both are the same. But they are not immune to that. Of course

In recent years, the Svanstedt family has only come home for Christmas and New Year, so it will be fun to come home and get to know the children who live in Sweden, and their friends. Of course, the race itself will also be a highlight.

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It is the largest in Sweden, and only in Europe can the Prix d’Amérique compete. It is not the biggest prize money, but it is a popular festival. There are many who come to Solvalla just to check on the horses and not play. In terms of prestige, it’s great to win the elite race. It’s fun to be there, to drive and to experience it.

You last won in 2009 with Torvald Palema. What does it mean to win again?

– Obviously, it will be very fun. But then, the coaching job is still the biggest, I think. I am not a driver (a driver who drives other trainers) so I think it is more important to train the horse and make sure the horse is in top condition. But now I’m a hunting driver here! Mostly people watch driving and driver. But if the horse wins, I think the trainer should get the greatest honor, they are the ones doing the job.

Åke Svanstedt about the future

It started early Wednesday for Åke Svanstedt, as usual. At five o’clock, the cars went to the Pocono Downs, 2.5 hours away, for the qualifying race. Then go home after lunch.

Before the early 1950s, it was time to go to the Legend Farm, groom the animals again and prepare what was needed before the trip to Sweden.

On Legend Farm, approximately 20 people work to take care of Svanstedt’s 65 horses.

– It’s almost too much. It is difficult with the staff. The more horses you have, the more difficult it will be. You don’t have time to share and check everything you want to do. So if we only had half the horses, that would be better. Then maybe you should get more from everyone.

But you can control it yourself, right?

– Yeah. Maybe in a few years, we will probably go down. You’re not getting younger either. But we are far from what we had in Sweden, where in recent years we had 220 horses. We are 65 here every year.

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Åke Svanstedt with son Jonas and star of the Six Pack Horse.

Photo: Johan Erickson

She’s 60 years old now, how long do you think you’ll last?

– Well, I don’t know … as long as I can and I’m healthy! I think it’s fun. I guess this is about reducing the number of horses … then maybe you don’t have to race, go and pit and risk like I do now. If I don’t run races, I don’t have to go to every race. I still think the exercise part is the most fun.

Ke Svanstedt says he feels a full work life in Alabs.

You have pain in the neck and shoulders, after all the horses you had to pull hard. So of course you are a little tired in the body, when you have been sitting in this monotonous position your whole life …

Don’t you go to the gym or anything like that?

You should do it, but no … you probably should think about the body before you start an injury. But I never did, and I never had time.

As one of Sweden’s most successful profiles, Svanstedt has made several million kroner – and spent millions of dollars on real estate in the US – but says he doesn’t care much about the money.

They have invested in farms and homes, they have their values. And they do not decrease. But I don’t think much about money, I am not. You have a little bit of control, but it’s just what it is now.

“Boys, they are Americans”

Sons Eric, 8, and Jonas, 6, are at Legend’s Farm, wandering around and playing soccer – “Look, now a window you’ll smoke soon!” Dad Mattress, when the shots run counter to the hard wall – and ride a quad bike. Eric in the shirt of Mohamed Salah and Jonas in Cristiano Ronaldo.

– The boys are Americans. For them, everything is normal here. So maybe my English isn’t the best, so I ask the kids, then she gets an answer, says Svansted.

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Moving to another country is still interesting. I think it’s fun, me. One still does not understand what is the difference between cultures. You think everyone is the same back home in Sweden, but that is not the case. It’s kind of fun to see everything new. Like the place we were today, in the Pocono Downs, in the mountains of Pennsylvania – the woodsmen are the ones walking around there! The first year I spent there I thought, “Oh my God, what kind of people are here?”

Although most things are good about new life in the United States, one thing is missing: hunting.

Ke Svanstedt says he used to shoot moose and wild boar, but here he has no license and place to hunt. And time.

– One fall I went home to hunt. But at the end of the season, it’s hectic with competitions here, all the time. It’s fun to hunt, it’s comfortable. Maybe this is what I miss. It’s so fun to be with the gang and hunting.

That is why Svanstedt does not want to move to Sweden

But hunting or not, any return to Sweden is irrelevant.

– We said when we moved here, we’ll give her time for Eric to start school. But it was just rustle and three years passed. Maybe that was just when we dealt with everything. We think we’re doing well, so we keep going. Now it feels like we are left. And we’ve invested a lot, with farmers and homes.

But it may be necessary to adjust the layout a little, for the sake of the family.

Eric asks why we don’t live in Florida all the time. He had now heard that we were all considering living there next winter, so he was happy. Liked it.

Chances are good that the eight-year-old will be more in Florida in the future.

During this past winter, Akie and his wife Sarah took turns on the farm in Florida, where the horses are in low season, and in New Jersey, where the children go to school.

Now we are thinking about whether the children should go to school there next winter instead, so that the whole family can be there. You get a little lonely there when you are alone. Two days later, you miss life with the kids.

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