Elitlopp winner Etonnant another example of the influence of American blood in France
story by Kathy Parker
Etonnant’s victory in the 2022 Elitlopp, on May 29 at the Solvalla track in Stockholm, Sweden, proved once again that French horses, long known for their stamina, are also fast, as he won in 1:51.3. And there’s no reason not to credit a bit of American blood.
Happenstance from 50 years ago has in part created the bloodline of Etonnant. His sire is Timoko, but going back four generations on Etonnant’s male line you find the sire Mickey Viking, a son of Bonefish, the 1975 Hambletonian winner for Stanley Dancer, and a longtime Castleton Farm sire.
Bonefish was never a leading sire in terms of money-winnings, but his offspring showed up in the classics. He sired 1994 Prix d’Amérique champion Sea Cove along with the stakes-winning females and top producers Conch (winner of the 1985 Hambletonian Oaks and dam of leading European trotting sire Viking Kronos), Nan’s Catch (winner of the 1988 Oaks and dam of Moni Maker), and Winky’s Gill (3-2 in heats of the 1983 Hambletonian and dam of 1993 Oaks winner Winky’s Goal and the notable colt Supergill).
Although Mickey Viking has a great French trotting mare in his maternal line, the fact that he was by an American sire could have kept him locked out of the French stud book. It’s a bit of a long story how Mickey Viking barged into the French breeding population, and one best told by European trotting writer Lisa Harkema—who recently wrote for Hoof Beats about the influence of the American export Sam Williams on French trotting—in the accompanying sidebar.
Mickey Viking’s bloodline lives today thanks to his son Viking’s Way. Again, it took persistence, if not outright luck, for Viking’s Way to have a chance as a sire in France.
Viking’s Way had little success on the track, even though he showed early speed. According to Harkema, the horse’s owner (Albert Cayron) campaigned to get him accepted at the French National Stud.
“To stand stud in the French stud book you must meet specific criteria, but Viking’s Way didn’t meet the required performance standard and Cayron had to apply to a committee at the French National Stud,” Harkema wrote in a story she posted on Facebook. “Back in those days the committee consisted of eight members and of these eight, initially only two said yes to granting Viking’s Way permission. Cayron appealed. He argued that the French National Stud had believed in and bought the horse’s father; surely, they ought to believe in one of his talented sons at stud, too?”
Cayron’s lobbying paid off and Viking’s Way received permission to stand stud—but could breed only a maximum of 20 mares per year. More lobbying got that number increased to 60 mares per year, and Viking’s Way took care of the rest of the work. He became a champion sire in France, ranking number one in the country in 1999, 2005 and 2006, and second each year from 2000 to 2004.
Viking’s Way succumbed to colic in 2003, but he left two sons who have carried on his lineage in spectacular fashion: Indy de Vive, the sire of Ready Cash—who in turn has sired Bold Eagle (winner of the 2019 Breeders Crown Open Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park)—and Imoko, the sire of Timoko, a two-time Elitlopp champion. Timoko is also the only Elitlopp winner to sire a winner of the race.
Etonnant’s mother, the completely French-blooded Migraine, took a mark of 1:58.4 and earned 432,855 euros (about $463,000 in today’s exchange), but celebrated her greatest success under saddle, winning French semi-classics. She is the dam of 11 offspring, and in addition to Etonnant she has produced Auch (by Niky) 1:55.2 (406,930 euros) and Douloureuse (by Timoko) 1:56.3 (224,676 euros).
Etonnant won the one-mile Elitlopp by overcoming an incredibly difficult trip in a race known for its highly competitive fields. He started from post seven, overcame a miscue—breaking stride at the half-mile mark—and then had to race four-wide in the last turn to gain a clear path. Etonnant—which means “amazing” or “astonishing” in French—then lived up to his name by rallying from last at the top of the homestretch to win by one length over Hail Mary. (Hail Mary, by the way, is a 6-year-old daughter of Googoo Gaagaa. She was born when her dam, Dreams—a half-sister to 1998 Elitlopp winner Moni Maker—was 19 years old.)
“He was in the right stride and immediately started trotting again,” winning driver Anthony Barrier told the media. “Sometimes you can’t do that and today it happened. In fact, apart from the handling, he has everything more than the others.”
Etonnant had competed in top international races in the past, so while overcoming a trip full of setbacks was surprising, his Elitlopp victory was not shocking. In December 2021, he beat the celebrated Face Time Bourbon in a prep race for the Prix d’Amérique and earlier that year he won the 2021 Prix de Paris. He was the favorite for the 2022 Prix d’Amérique, but was not at his best that day.
Two Swedish greats praised Etonnant’s Elitlopp victory.
“What Etonnant has done is incredible,” said Björn Goop, who drove Timoko to his two Elitlopp triumphs, in an interview with European trotting media. “To come back from so far is not common but we must not forget Coktail Jet who also came back from very far to win.”
Stig H. Johansson, the winningest driver in Elitlopp history with six victories, added, “Etonnant was really impressive. What he did today is one of the great achievements of the race.”
The 8-year-old Etonnant is owned and trained by Dutch-born Richard Westerink, who also owned and trained Timoko. Etonnant now has 18 wins—some of them under saddle—in 77 career starts for approximately $1.9 million in earnings. HB
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