Varenne is a legendary Italian trotting racehorse whose name reigns supreme in the history of harness racing.

Considered by many as the best harness racing stallion of all time, Varenne is referred to as “Il Capitano” (the Captain) by fans. This extraordinary horse earned over 6 million euros during his career and a considerable sum as a successful breeding stallion. The jet-setting standardbred stallion holds the record as the most widely traveled horse in the history of horse racing, winning in 7 countries and on two continents and the only horse to win the “Horse of The Year” title in three different nations: Italy (2000, 2001, 2002), France (2001, 2002) and U.S.A. (2001).

A Star Is Born

Born on May 19, 1995, at Alessandro Viani’s ‘Allevamento Di Zenzalino’ near Ferrara, Italy, Varenne is the son of American stallion Waikiki Beach and Italian mare Lalmaz. Named after the street Rue de Varenne, where the Italian embassy in Paris is located. Varenne won more harness racing earnings than any other horse. Over 6 million EURO of winnings when he retired.

It was initially thought that Varenne would never race because of a leg malformation. His first owner paid only $6000 for him, but quickly sold him on because of this performance handicap (a chip).

That was a bad move, Varenne went on to win 62 races, almost all of which happened with Italian driver Giampaolo Minnucci behind the reins. He finished second six times and third twice out of 73 starts. Over his exciting career he earned €6,035,665, a harness-racing record. Minnucci famously stated that he didn’t choose Varenne, but Varenne chose him.

Racing Highlights

Varenne is the only European trotter to have wo the Breeders Crown (2001) in the US and the World Cup 2002 in Vincennes. In the latter, he wowed onlookers with a show of incredible resilience, when he ran to victory, pulling a sulky with a broken wheel and STILL set the world speed record of 2100 metres.

On 14 July 2002 he raced for the only time in the home country of his trainer Jori Turja and groom Lina Rastas at “St. Michel Race” (Mikkeli). Here he set the world speed record of 1.09.3 on 1000 metres tracks and mesmerized fans and onlookers.

Varenne won Prix d’Amérique, Elitloppet, Gran Premio della Lotteria and Breeders Crown in the same year (2001). He is the only horse to take all three of the top European harness events (the first to accomplish this in 34 years) AND win the biggest event in the USA (2001).

He won the notoriously difficult Prix d’Amérique not once but twice (2001–2002) and consistently blew away the competition by doing so. He is a horse that appealed to the people. Vets remarked on his patient character and enormous heart and he became so popular that he even had his own dedicated press office.

Varenne: the legend continues

In 2010, Varenne was inaugurated into the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame in New York, ordinarily recognized only to American horses.

Varenne officially retired from racing in November 2002. He stood at stud in Italy and Sweden between Allevamento Il Grifone farm and Menhammar Stuteri outside Stockholm for 17 years.

He produced important offspring like New Varenne LA,  Idole di Poggio, Impeto Grif, Lord Capar, Lancillotto Car, Illusion Dany, Lisa America, New Varenne, Lana Del Rio, and Lie Detector. 

After a long legal battle in Italy by the Horse Angels foundation, who fought to allow racehorses like Varenne a happy retirement, he was finally moved to Doctor Cesare Rognoni’s ‘Equicenter di Inverno e Monteleone’, near Pavia in 2019. Fans of the majestic and social stallion can now visit him while he enjoys his golden years by appointment with the retirement facility.


Author Cristina

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