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The Danish trotting champion captured the hearts of an entire population in the 1970s. Now the life of Tarok is portrayed in a new movie which takes the viewers from the muddy paddocks of rural Denmark to the Prix d’Amerique in Paris.

 

 

Three horses were cast as the chestnut stallion who is now also the name of a film.

When the final scenes were shot at the historic Lunden racetrack in the suburbs of Copenhagen, Tarok’s stand in was complete with harness from the 1970s and makeup to emulate his notorious white blaze.

From the sidelines, extras were cheering him on in 1970s fashions as he won the Derby and his driver’s wife entered the track to give both a victorious hug.

 

 

The legendary trotter was bred in 1972 in rural Denmark by the Laursen family and named after their favorite game of cards.

His father was the leading Danish sire, Pay Dirt while his dam was of an inferiour breed. Tarok was her ninth foal who – like the previous eight – had a difficult foaling but already a star in the makings he was up and about in less than two minutes. 

The Derby was far from his only win.

During his career, Tarok won 111 out of 156 races, including the Nordic as well as the European Championship in 1977.

He never won the world’s toughest race, Prix d’Amerique in Paris,  but he was placed forth which was sufficient for his many fans.

When he participated in the World Championships on Roosevelt Raceway in New York, 600 Danish fans crossed the Atlantic to watch him at a time when flying long distances was in itself a rarity.

 

A national phenomena, Tarok had his own fan club and he received daily letters from all over the country. Apart from the sporting pages, his name appeared on anything from stickers to clothing items.

 

He had his own fan club and received letters every day from all over the country. His name appeared on anything from stickers to clothing items

 

The Royal Porcelain factory produced a collector’s plate with a painting of Tarok and he was even a citizen of honour of the Sundsøre County.

  

Today, such scenes would seem unlikely and as a film, Tarok tells the story about the many changes that Denmark went through during the agricultural industrialization of the 1950s.

 

Originally farmers, the Laursen family took up harness racing after they had replaced their last plough horses with a tractor. 

 

”It’s an incredible story about a family who fights and wins.  It goes back to the 1950s when the family founded their Kima stables, and it continues through the 60s and 70s as they stubbornly remained amateurs,” said the film’s producer, Regnar Grasten.

 

When Tarok raced in the World Championships on Roosevelt Raceway in New York, 600 fans crossed the Atlantic to watch him.

 

Jørn Laurensen was a car sales man during a time when oil supplies were short and it was forbidden to drive on Sundays. He and his wife Elizabeth would nevertheless drive around Europe to race Tarok.   At a time when interest rates soared at 16-17 percent and unemployment exploded their amazing horse came along and took the entire nation by storm.

One of Jørn’s mottos was ”Catch your dream while you can”. Easy to say, but not untrue because if you do something about it you will eventually succeed,” said Grasten. 

 

The film’s director, Anne-Grethe Bjarup-Riis was immidiately taken by the story which spans over 33 years.

”I was curious to find out what drove a modest man like Jørn Laursen’s father to buy farms and found stables. He was a stubborn and a hard worker, but he also managed to keep his family together and pass down his values to reach ones’ goals,” she said.

 

”At a time when TV series are all about self adoration and selfishness the story has a relevance. 

I don’t think today’s young people understand the meaning of solidarity, and in our film we show how teamwork, empathy and love helped the Laursen family reach their dreams. Today everything is about individual success which makes so many feel unsuccessful and lonely. 

We need to return to the old values,” said Bjarup-Riis who remembers Tarok vividly from her own childhood when she was  glued to the TV sets watching him race.

“Tarok was an icon in the 1970s and I remember having a trilby with his name on it. At the time, I was taking riding classes and remember how he inspired others to take up riding, too, even if he came from a different sport.

Today, I often go to watch harness racing with my family. The kids love betting on the horses,” she said.

 

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