Lost in Translation – Harness Racing Update

How Svanstedt Stable assistant Christian Giallorenzo took a 30-year vacation to Sweden and returned to the United States in time to help send Jiggy Jog S and Justice to this Saturday’s Hambletonian Eliminations and Baptism in Hambletonian Oaks Eliminations.

by David Mattia for the Hambletonian Society

They say life takes you to unexpected places, but it’s love that brings you home.

Such is the case with the fearless Christian Giallorenzo, who currently works in New Jersey for the Ake Svanstedt stable as a trainer, general manager and just about anything a multi-talented and trusted rider could. do in a leading racing stable. where excellence and integrity mean everything.

It’s very hard to find anyone in the harness game who doesn’t know Giallorenzo, but some diehards, especially those on the east coast of the United States who can date back to the late 1980s, wonder why Giallorenzo has disappeared for nearly 30 years. How did a kid from Pocono Downs, a kid who worked everywhere, all the time, disappear into thin air only to return nearly three decades later, working at the top of the game in harness racing? How did it happen?

It’s an interesting story that began in Huntington, NY, a small town on Long Island where Giallorenzo was born and raised.

“My parents divorced when I was a kid and my dad (Lou Giallorenzo) took me on weekends to Pocono Downs where he worked as a driver and trainer. I think I started working with racehorses harnessed when I was around 7 or 8 years old,” Giallorenzo said.

“When I grew up a bit, I started spending entire summers grooming, jogging, and working out for my dad and others housed at Pocono Downs. I dropped out of high school when I was 15 and went to work for Roy Marohn at The Meadowlands and lived in the dorms at the racetrack and after that I went to work breaking babies in Florida for a guy named Bill Lambertus that I had known from Pocono I think I was about 19 at the time I did this back and forth for about two years but it was hard and I was on my own so I went back to Pocono Downs.

Shortly after returning to Pocono, Giallorenzo got his first job as a coach working for Per Eriksson in Florida and New Jersey.

“Working for Per Eriksson was my first job as a second coach,” Chris said. “That’s when I got hooked on trotters. I’ve always had a thing for trotters, but breaking in and developing juveniles for Per, in a stable dedicated exclusively to trotters, was when I realized this was the way to go. That’s what I wanted to do, but was sidelined by what was supposed to be a vacation in Sweden with my girlfriend who was Swedish.

“Standed out” turned out to be an understatement, and that’s where the mystery of his disappearance begins.

Giallorenzo took this vacation with his girlfriend, but he didn’t return – not for a long time.

Although he may not have realized it at the time, Giallorenzo’s dream was coming true, but like all worthwhile dreams, it came true in the long and fortuitous way that the most worthwhile dreams come true. realize. His vacation in Sweden took him 6,000 miles from home to a country he didn’t know, hearing a language he didn’t understand and where the only person he knew was his girlfriend.

“I had lined up a coaching job with famed Finnish coach Pekki Korpi in Florida, but when I realized I wouldn’t be returning to the United States, I had to rethink my options,” Giallorenzo said.

“The next thing you know, I ended up in a town called Linköping. Within a few weeks, I started working at this place where they repaired and maintained motorhomes or caravans. That’s not what I wanted to do, but it was work.

“I started learning to speak Swedish formally, but what worked best, especially when working with older people who didn’t speak English, was to speak as much Swedish as I could to my colleagues and insist for them to speak Swedish to me.. I guess I must be good at languages ​​because I learned it quickly.

“Today in Sweden, children learn English at school, but the older men I worked with came from a time when schools didn’t teach English. Gradually, in a job where I was surrounded by people who only spoke Swedish, I learned the language to the point of being fluent.

“Actually, now that I’m with Ake, I sometimes translate for him when we have our weekly meetings. Ake speaks good English now, but sometimes he comes across a word or phrase he doesn’t know, and I complete it for him. I guess you can say that another part of my job at the Svanstedt stable is working as an interpreter or translator. My Swedish friends joke about how I speak Swedish with a New York accent, but that gradually fades.

“Anyway, after two years in Linköping, I started to take control of my life. You know, normal things. I found an apartment and settled in in general. My girlfriend and I had a baby, my daughter Sandra. She is 27 now and is training to become a police officer in Sweden. Later we had two more children; my son David who is 16 years old and my son Kevin who is 20 years old.

“We were happy, but the weather was tough, at least for me, or tough enough for me to get used to it, which I did. Living in Sweden was much more laid back than here in the United States. At work, you get about seven weeks of vacation a year and lots of paid sick time. I know that when I worked in the US there was virtually no paid vacation or sick time, especially if you worked in racing.

Despite the cushy aspects of working in Sweden, it didn’t take long for Giallorenzo to drop out of the Winnebago repair gig. He found a coaching job with the great trainer Roger Grundin – a master reinser who is one of the most famous names in Scandinavian harness racing.

“Working for Roger Grundin at this level, and I did for a couple of years, I started to understand there was a huge difference in the way they train horses there,” Giallorenzo said.

“I mean, I already knew that the Swedes had their own training system, but the obvious thing, the thing that really stands out is that pacers don’t exist there, and nobody’s into it. The training itself is more about conditioning the horse. You run and train longer distances and do it on softer tracks. Horses become very socialized as they run in large groups. There is no It’s not uncommon for 10-20 horses to race together. It’s totally different in a way that’s hard to describe. You don’t see it, but you feel it. It’s like my experience living in Sweden in general. If you don’t live it, you might not get it.

“You have to understand that harness racing in Sweden, and in all Scandinavian countries, is like baseball in the United States. It is a national pastime. It is an important part of the culture. Everyone you meet knows about harness racing. Horses become celebrities. It used to be like that in the United States, but now it’s not.

After his twenties, Giallorenzo began to think about returning home to America, but he had a family to support. Unfortunately, his partnership with the girlfriend who took him on this long vacation has come to an end. However, he had three children who needed him and any idea of ​​leaving for America was put aside.

“Shortly after my breakup, I met my current wife, Camilla,” Chris said. “We got married and had two more children. My son Justin is now 11 and my daughter Jaquline is 10.

“Camilla knew my dream was to go back to America and she encouraged me to do it. She told me to do it before I was too old. So I set everything up in Sweden for my whole family and I got a job with Erv Miller in Pa. My plan was to work for Erv and then, when I moved here, I would send for my wife and kids…and I did.

Giallorenzo returned to the United States in 2012 and began working with Miller.

“I was surprised that the race in the United States was pretty much the same as when I left, but I had to readapt. Erv Miller is an old school coach, but it was like learning to ride a bike for me. I never forgot the old ways. My biggest problem when I came back had nothing to do with getting back to training American horses. The real problem is that When I returned to America, I discovered that I had no credit score. I didn’t exist. Renting an apartment and utilities is next to impossible when you don’t have a credit score. J had to live with Erv until I could fix this.

“Things finally worked out and I brought my wife and two youngest children, but after only two years we had to go back to Sweden because my wife’s father was sick. I came back in 2019 and resumed work for Erv.

“Right after that I heard about an opportunity to work as a coach for Ake Svanstedt and I jumped on it. I love it here and it was the biggest move I’ve ever done. Ake is more than exceptional. He is beyond great in terms of riding. He sees things no one else can see. We have about 80 horses in our stable and he knows all about each one. It’s amazing how he is above everything that is happening. »

The day we spoke to Giallorenzo, he was returning from The Meadows where three of the many horses in his charge had raced. His day had started at 4am with the long ship to The Meadows and now, returning to Svanstedt Stable late in the evening, he was pleased to report that the three fillies, Virgin Mary S, Ebbies Lady and Red Light Lady had finished second in each of their Pennsylvania spawned events.

“I love these three fillies and I love my job,” said Giallorenzo. “It’s easy to say that maybe I’m using this experience to eventually go out and have my own stable. I mean, it’s a possibility for any trainer who works for a big team, but I’m in no rush to move on. I will stay here another 10 years or more and be perfectly happy.

“It’s the perfect place for me. I’m back in the States, but when it comes to horses, I’m still in Sweden. I love my wife, I love my children and I love my life. Couldn’t ask for more. It really is a dream come true even though it took a long time.

Alright, now we know all about the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Christian Giallorenzo. He simply left for a very long vacation in Sweden and returned with priceless memories – a beautiful family, a full heart and a full life.

It’s a great vacation, isn’t it?