By BJORN EKLUND
EMHF still waits for its first meeting in Poland, due to the Covid-19 virus. So let me give some information of Polish racing from a Swedish viewpoint.
The memories from the pre-war time are mixed, I guess. And my first impressions of Polish racing were not so impressive. Of course the racecourse in Warsaw, Sluzewiec (which raced for the first time in 1939, a few months before the outbeak of the war), was grand and impressive but racing seemed bleak.
The grandstands needed to be painted, the audience was very limited and the jockeys’ silks were well used and without shine. As you might see on the photos taken on 29th of September 1976.
And all the horse were owned by the National studs. I couldn't find any private owners.
Sluzewiec racecourse in September 1976
Some competitors in the paddock of Sluzewiec racecourse September 1976, from right to left: Stud Golejewko's Darling (in the saddle A Rojej, Stud Widzow's Scoptyc (R Maciejec), Stud Wawazynewieces Zormello (T Koziec) and Stud Jacoszowkas Czeczen (M Melnicki). Scoptyc was the winner. Sorry about any misspelling of the Polish names.
But to be fair, that was not my actual first impression of Polish racing. It appeared some years earlier in the 70's, when the first Polish-bred horses were imported into Sweden and Norway. They were mostly used for National Hunt races, although the races in Poland were almost only run on the flat.
But they were strong, had been kept in big herds in the National studs and were very successful.
The first star was Rodan who is one of the all time best steeplechasers in Scandinavia. For instance he won the Swedish Grand National both in 1974 and 1975, trained and ridden by Terje Dahl.
And Rodan was not an exception. Since the first Grand National in 1971, 19 Polish-bred horse have won this race, which is run at the country course Strömsholm. And an even more successful Grand National winner was Serafin (by Frombork) who won the race no less than five times (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1995). Owner and trainer was Nils Petter Bogen. Serafin was bred in 1984 by Widzow Stud.
The last Polish-bred winner of the Swedish Grand National – so far – was Dalfors (by Enjoy Plan) trained by the Polish globetrotter Greg Wroblewski and bred by Sk. Stubno) That was in 2006. Since then Polish runners have been scarce in Scandinavia.
Rodan (by Negresco) bred by Golejewko Stud in 1965
Finally, I have been involved, as a small share-holder, in a Polish-bred horse. I was a member of a syndicate which for a few years leased a former Polish Derby winner, Otmar by Erotyk, bred by Rzeczna State Stud in 1979). Unfortunately, he left his Derby form at home. But anyway he was fifth in the Oslo Cup in 1985.
A better Polish-bred horse on the flat was Dead-Heat (by Beauvallon and bred by Golejewko Stud in 1978. He had won six races in Poland before being imported to Sweden as a 5-year-old.
In Sweden he started 55 times between 1983 and 1987 and won nine times in good company. In 1984 he was second in the Stockholm Cup International, which now is a Group 3 race.
There is still some interaction between Polish and Swedish racing, but is a little bit one-sided. Some of the best Swedish National Hunt jockeys, such as the champion Niclas Lovén has had several winners in Polen and newly Christopher Roberts won in Wroclaw.
Christopher Roberts (to the left) in the winner's enclosure at Wroclaw
Maybe there could be more NH jockeys travelling to Poland, as, from this summer, there are also hurdle races at Sluzewiec.
Talking about jockeys, even the Swedish flat jockey champion Per Anders Gråberg has been successful in Poland. In 2015 he won the Polish Derby (called Westminster Derby) with Va Bank.