Håkan Wallner is regarded as one of Sweden’s greatest trotting ambassadors. He paved the way for European and Scandinavian horse trading, exporting numerous stallions & broodmares from the U.S. to Sweden, Italy, France, Denmark, Finland and other countries. His efforts forever changed the breeding landscape with the influx of fresh North American bloodlines in these countries.
Wallner was born on September 6, 1939 in Gavle, Sweden. As a young man he was mentored by such Swedish horsemen as Gunnar Nordin, Kurt Mattson and Kihlgren Bengt. During his employment with Mattson, Wallner crossed paths with one of Sweden’s top drivers, Berndt Lindstedt, and they began a lifelong partnership. Lindstedt joined the Wallner stable when he was 30 and became Wallner’s primary driver on both sides of the Atlantic, driving U.S. winners to over $25,000,000 in purses. Wallner’s first winning drive came aboard Operetta on August 16, 1957.
Wallner opened his own stable in 1963. During his first trip abroad to the United States in the mid-1960s he purchased Newport Hanover, Gaily's Mirthful and Wistful Rodney to race in Sweden. He then acquired Dart Hanover, winner of the 1972 Elitlopp and 1973 Prix D’Amerique, followed by the son of Nevele Pride, Pershing, winner of 1979 Elitlopp. These victories vaulted Wallner and Lindstedt to the pinnacle of European trotting. Following his success in Europe with American-bred horses, Wallner saw a unique opportunity and set his sights on the United States.
The charismatic and energetic Wallner, a consummate businessman and horseman, was well-respected by the American harness racing elite. Wallner, Lindstedt and Jan Johnson started Continental Farms USA in New Egypt, New Jersey in 1975 with seven horses. Wallner quickly found success in his American debut, with 1979 Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year Cranford. He was soon competing at the highest level and having an impact on every facet of American harness racing from the yearling sales to the Grand Circuit, and his internationalization of U.S. trotting continues to have a profound effect on the breeding, training and racing of the American trotter.
Some of Wallner’s top performers include Armbo Goal, Royal Prestige, Supergill, Winky’s Gill, Workaholic, Nan’s Catch, Express Ride, Kit Lobell, Yankee Glide, Yankee Mustang, Me Maggie, Rodneys Best, Netted, Keystone Profile, Lady Lexington, Snack Bar, Crevette and Dominant.
Wallner paved the way for other Scandinavian and European horsemen to move to the United States and compete at the sport’s highest level. The list includes Soren and Jan Nordin, Jimmy Takter, Per Eriksson, Per Henrikson, Stefan Melander, Mario Zuanetti and Pekka Korpi. Collectively this group has nine Hambletonian winners.
In the late 1980s Wallner pursued a successful career in Italy, winning the Italian Derby in 1992 with Offenburg LB. He remained in Italy until his death on January 20, 2001 in Treviso. Håkan Wallner was inducted to the Swedish Trotting Hall Of Fame in 2015.