Varenne – “Il Capitano” – was, at the time of his retirement, the richest Standardbred in the history of harness racing and the only horse to have won Europe’s Prix d’Amerique, Gran Premio della Lotteria and Elitlopp in two consecutive years. A true international champion, Varenne has strong American connections. His sire, Waikiki Beach 3,1:56.1 ($344,004), is a son of Speedy Somolli 3,1:55 ($427,550), and his Italian dam Ialmaz is from a daughter of Speedy Crown 3,1:57.1 ($545,495). Varenne holds a lifetime record of 73-62-6-2 and enjoyed five consecutive years of $500,000 or more in earnings.
Born on May 19, 1995, Varenne was bred by Alessandro Viani at the Allevamento Di Zenzalino farm in the town of Copparo in the northern Italian province of Ferrara. As a yearling, Varenne was purchased from Viani by French horseman Jean-Pierre Dubois and brought to his Haras de la Brosse breeding center in Normandy, France. Dubois named him after Rue Varenne, the street in Paris where the Italian embassy is located. As a two-year-old, Varenne was acquired by Italian stockbroker Vincenzo Giordano for his Scuderia Dany stable and returned to his native Italy.
Varenne began his racing career in 1998 as a three-year-old. A support team was assembled which would be at the core of the champion’s entire racing career, including manager Francessco Ruffo and driver Giampaolo Minnucci, along with trainer Jori Turja and groom Iina Rastas, both from Finland. That year Varenne posted 8 wins out of 11 starts including the Derby Italiano del Trotto, one of the richest races in Europe for three-year-olds. He earned nearly $600,000 for the season.
As a four-year-old in 1999 Varenne was undefeated in his fourteen starts. Victories included the Gran Premio d’Europa, Gran Premio Tino Triossi and Gran Premio Continentale, all major races in Italy. In the fall, Varenne raced for the first time outside his home country, winning the Preis der Besten in Munich. He returned to Milan where he won the Gran Premio Delle Nazioni, defeating Moni Maker, the trotter whose record career earnings total ($5,589,256) he would eventually eclipse. Varenne wrapped up the year by winning the Prix Artiste Hémard at Vincennes, Paris and banking over $700,000.
In 2000 Varenne won two legs of the World Cup Trot, the Coupe du Monde Trot and Gran Premio UNIRE, winning the Cup on points. He took victories in the Gran Premio ENCAT, Olympiatravet and Gran Premio della Lotteria on his way to clinching Italy’s Horse of the Year title. Varenne passed the $1 million mark in his third season with thirteen wins out of eighteen starts. That year, owner Giordano sold a half interest in Varenne to gaming firm SNAI. SNAI retained the rights to use Varenne’s image even after selling him back to Giordano when the trotter retired from racing.
Varenne continued to excel with age and in 2001, at the age of six, became the first trotter in 34 years to sweep three of international harness racing’s most prestigious titles: the Prix d’Amerique, Gran Premio della Lotteria (for the second year in a row) and Elitlopp. In his North American debut Varenne won the $1 million Breeders Crown Open Trot at The Meadowlands – the first European horse to do so – in a world record time of 1:51.1. Other victories that season included the Prix Locatelli, Gran Premio ENCAT, Prix Renzo Orlandi, Elite-Rennen, Coupe du Monde, and Trot Mondial. That year he took the USTA’s Trotting Horse of the Year title as well as Horse of the Year in both Italy (for the second time) and France, and Italy’s Athlete of the Year. With fourteen starts and thirteen wins, Varenne had season earnings of close to $2 million.
In 2002, seven-year-old Varenne repeated his sweep of the Prix d’Amerique, Lotteria and Elitlopp. It was his third consecutive Lotteria victory. Varenne won the Elitlopp in a world record time of 1:53.2 in the elimination and then bested that mark by winning the final in 1:53, a world record time for a five-eighths mile oval. He was victorious in the first four legs of the World Cup Trot: the Gran Premio UNIRE, Ǻbergs Memorial, Jubileumspokalen and the Coupe de Monde. Varenne’s winnings from the Coupe de Monde put his lifetime career earnings over the $5.6 million mark and ahead of previous record-holder Moni Maker. The last race of Varenne’s storied career was the final leg of the World Cup Trot, Canada’s Trot Mondial. He came in second behind Fan Idole, but nonetheless was the overall winner of the Cup for the second time. Ironically, as he had done in the very first race of his career, Varenne was disqualified from his final race, driver Minucci’s sulky wheel traveling inside the pylons. In 2002 Varenne topped the $2 million mark in earnings with fourteen wins out of fifteen starts. He was Italy’s Horse of the Year for the third year in a row.
Varenne was retired from racing in November 2002. The bidding battle for his stud services ensued. It was won by Italy’s Allevamento Il Grifone farm where he stood for four years until moving to Margareta Wallenius-Kleberg’s Menhammar Stuteri outside Stockholm. To date, Varenne has sired such European stars as Lisa America, winner of the 2010 Oslo Grand Prix, 2009 Norwegian Trotting Derby winner New Varenne L.A., 2008 Gran Premio Nazionale winner Lana Del Rio, and Lie Detector, winner of the 2007 Guldstoet.
Varenne’s thirteen North American starters include Southwind Serena 3,1:55.2 ($385,088), winner of the 2007 Breeders Crown, Gallantly 4,1:53.3 ($256,999) and Voila American 4,1:54.1f ($184,826).