• Hairos II

    There are early bloomers and there are late bloomers. Then there is Hairos II. At first a decent trotter at best, he failed to win any of the top races for his crop in his youth and although he was a decent aged trotter, he was surely nothing special for a long time. In the 1958 Prijs der Lage Landen in Duindigt in the Netherlands, he finished fourth around 10 lengths behind Icare IV, the close winner, and second placed Jamin. But Dutch trainer Willem Geersen clearly noticed something in the French horse that nobody else saw and inquired about the horse. Not speaking a word of French, he travelled later that month to Paris with Belgian trainer D'Haenens. Trying Hairos II at Vincennes, he did not like the shoeing and equipment: the shoes were too heavy and he wore too much equipment in the eyes of Geersen. He bought him on behalf of one of his owners, Andries Voordouw. The fairytale story was just beginning.

    The story of Hairos II starts in the Calvados department of France where he was bred by Georges Gosselin and born 1951. He made his debut as a two-year old but failed to win in 6 starts. By the end of 1956, he was 6-5-9 in 73 starts, with a personal best of 1:20.6/2:09.3 and not even close to the top. In 1957, as a 6 year old, he was 7-2-4 in 26 starts, had lowered his personal best to 1:19.5/2:08 and was clearly improving - but still just as clearly a level below the best. At the time of the Prijs der Lage Landen he was winless that year.

    In preparation for the Prix de Washington, Kruithof and Geersen removed what they considered unnecessary equipment, put on lighter shoes with an open toe and changed the harness. Just a few days later Hairos II shocked everybody by winning the Prix de Washington in 1:15.9/2:02.1 on Enghien, making him the 3rd fastest European-born trotter (after Tornese and Jariolain). The very average horse was suddenly the fastest trotter in France, a feat which many thought was just a one-time fluke but by winning the Prix d'Europe later that month and then winning 3 major races in Germany (Preis von Besten, Preis von Deutschland, Gladiatoren Rennen), Hairos II established himself as a top trotter in short time. Making a start in Paris in december that year, in preparation for the top races that would come later that winter meeting, he finished third and was clearly not at his best. A check-up revealed a massive inflamation in one of his feet and the horse started to have problems walking.

    After more than half a year off the track, Hairos II made his comeback in Holland, winning easily in Marenveld. The 1959 Prijs der Lage Landen was a fairly easy win, defeating Jamin who had to start 20 meters behind Hairos II. Back at Enghien he wins the Prix de Washington again but even more notably he trots 1:13.4/1:58.1 in a record attempt over 1 kilometer (10/16th mile). Going 17-1-1 in 22 starts, Hairos II firmly established himself as one of the top European trotters and coming the winter meeting he is one of the early Prix d'Amerique favorites. But after finishing far back in the Prix de Bourgogne on a heavy track, many questions whether the Dutch-owned horse can handle the hill of Vincennes (back then the uphill was much more marked and demanding than it is now). With two-time winner Jamin still among the favorites despite starting 50 meters back (because of rules giving previous winners 25 meters extra pr win), Italian Tornese, French star Icare IV, and newcomer Liebelei (winner of the Criterium des 4 ans the previous year) were considered the other favorites while Hairos II paid 437 for 10 and even Geersen was skeptical, hoping for a top 5 finish. But Hairos II made it to the front relatively early and kept the lead all the way, despite Tornese closing him down toward the finish, in the end winning by little less than half a length. Winning in 1:21.3/2:10.4MR over 2600 meters (1 10/16th mile), Jamin put in a strong performance to finish third by trotting in 1:19.9/2:08.3MR over 2650 meters to finish third.

    Later that year it would be Hairos II who would suffer from having to run the longer distance as he only finished third in the Elitlopp, having to start 20 meters behind the rest, losing to Honore II, another Frenchman. But he would be back in the international limelight later that year in New York in the second edition of the International Trot. Geersen was very confident of winning and had no qualms about showing his confidence before the race. As presiding judge John Cashman called the drivers together before the race to explain teh rules, Geersen was clearly disinterested. It was only when Cashman explained the procedure for the winning horse and driver, the winning driver would return his horse to the paddock after the ceremony and would then be taken to the press box for interviews, that Geersen seemed to come to life: "Who will take my horse and where is this press box?" he asked through an interpreter. The US trotting fans were not so believeing and Hairos paid $11.90 to win, an odds almost identical to what Jamin had paid the year before. It probably didn't help that Geersen was a big man of more than 130 kgs (260 pounds). Despite being parked outside of Italian Tornese the whole race, Hairos II won a relatively comfortable victory, winning in 1:16.6/2:02.3MR in front of more than 58000 spectators. The 1960 campaign ended with an impressive 20-5-1 in 30 starts and recognition as the top aged trotter in the world.

    As a 10-year old season started, however, it was clear that 8 seasons on the track, and 173 starts, was taking its toll. Already suffering from bad feet, he "only" made 16 starts, winning 9 of which 8 where in the Netherlands and the remaining win in the Otto Klosz Rennen at Hamburg-Bahrenfeld and he had to accept losing the French crown to young mare Masina. The next year he could only manage 3 starts before Willem Geersen put a stop to his racing career which then stood at 192 starts with a 64-14-20 record and a personal best of 1:15.8/2:02 and total earnings of 328 135 euros. For Geersen he won 49 of 73 starts

    He stood stud in the Netherlands and Germany before being bought by French breeder Jean Clerx in 1969 and he stood stud at the Haras du Pin from 1970 to 1974 before passing away in 1979. He did not do too well at stud and even though he sired a few good horses, his long-term impact is as damdamsire of Biesolo. He did, however, sire Esquirol who in turn sired Poroto who earned over 1 million euros in the 1980's.