Trenton, New Jersey— Whether it’s a single race or an entire season, it seems Christian Lind and instant success are made for each other.
In the first practice of his career in July 2016, Lind guided a horse to victory that started from the nine hole and went 15-1. Flash forward to 2021. In his first full season strictly focused on driving — and his first at Oak Grove Racing & Gaming of Kentucky — he led all drivers in wins and earnings.
“It’s been a great experience coming here,” said Lind, whose hard work belies the fact that last year’s accomplishments were truly instantaneous. “It was my first competition where I was stepping away from training and just focusing on driving. So to be able to go out the first time I tried and be as successful as I was, that was a great experience.
Lind has won 26 times in 118 starts at Oak Grove, earning $271,799 in purses. He also raced at Red Mile, where he took the win by finishing in the top 10 of the drivers standings. For the entire season, he compiled a career-high 37 wins, 44 seconds, 29 thirds and $379,781 in 240 starts.
The Florida resident is off to a strong start to 2022. At the Oak Grove opener last Sunday, Lind took a win, a second and two-thirds in seven races.
“It’s nice to be back here,” Lind said. “After the last competition, I didn’t really run anything anymore. To get back on the bike and be able to go around the track and figure things out again felt pretty good.
Lind started in the business working and driving for his father, Staffan, a Swedish trainer. In 2017-18, he had 40 wins and nearly $563,000 in earnings.
“I would drive his horses sideways,” Lind said. “Whenever he needed me, I would drive for him. Most of the time I just focused on the training aspect.
Three years ago, he had the opportunity to help coach Nancy Takter.
“My dad used to ride horses and was planning to go home to Sweden,” Lind said. “I jumped on it because it was a great learning experience to be with someone like Nancy. It was another time where the training part was the main focus. Then it was about… ‘trying to learn. I still rode the Red Mile a bit, but last year was the first time I could just focus on driving.
Christian finally decided to try his hand at driving, after being influenced by some very good sulky sitters.
“Every time I go around the Grand Circuit guys, they’ve been helpful,” Lind said. “I’ve spoken to Yannick (Gingras) a lot and recently Andrew McCarthy has been a big supporter of motivating me more to try to carry on a bit more. He told me to use my potential and not just drive part-time here and there. He told me he thought I had the capacity to do this full time.
Armed with this advice, Lind made driving in Oak Grove his main mission.
“I had built a good relationship in Kentucky over the years of driving part-time in Lexington,” he said. “It helped me to have a lot of people supporting me as soon as I got here. I have good drives and good horses to take care of.
Unsurprisingly, he found Oak Grove to his liking. And because he didn’t divide his duties between training and riding, it made him better on the bike.
“I think it helps a lot when you’re able to just focus on what you’re doing and drive more consistently,” he said. “You get into a rhythm. It had a big impact on the success I had. Being able to do it over and over again and finding some confidence in what you’re doing.
After the season, Lind began helping Marcus Melander train young horses for a second consecutive winter. Lind rode Melander horses at Red Mile and the trainer liked his attitude.
“It’s great with Marcus,” Lind said. “It’s like every time you’re on the track with him, you can ask him questions and learn more about riding. I started helping him last year in Lexington, then came to Oak Grove to drive. The plan was always to come back to him during the winter.
Due to Lind’s appreciation for what Melander has done for him, he still takes time during this season to help out.
“I’ll go back and forth,” he said. “I’m still training the babies for Marcus now and I’ll have his horses for the Red Mile. They’ve helped me a lot so I don’t want to leave them hanging around.
However, it will not be like in the past. It used to be maybe a 60-40 or 50-50 split between training and driving; it’s now more like a 20-80 split with the driving being the 80.
“Initially, I would never have come here to do this encounter if I was still helping him,” Lind said. “But now it’s more like I’m looking to move on a little bit. They were very supportive on this.
Along with his father, Takter and Melander, Christian counts Mississippi coach John Hughes as one of his biggest influences. When Lind started driving at the Red Mile, he drove Hughes’ horses when they met.
“We had a pretty good year, so when I came back he kept using me,” Lind said. “He’s really allowed me to do most of my trips at the Red Mile and here in Oak Grove. I think he’s really opened everyone’s eyes here to my potential. He’s helped me a lot with that. sense. “
Once he completes the Oak Grove encounter in mid-July, Lind will return to Red Mile, where he will drive and continue to help Melander. Over the winter, he will begin making plans to expand his exposure to select out-of-state tracks. He has his eye on strictly becoming a full-time pilot.
“I think it’s still going to take a little while,” Lind said. “I need to establish myself a little more to get regular mounts outside of Kentucky competitions. But that would be my ultimate goal. I definitely put more emphasis on that now than I have in the past.
For the moment, he has no intention of leaving Oak Grove.
“Not until it goes sideways, that’s for sure,” Lind said with a laugh. “I like the people here. They are good to be around.
And he’s pretty good himself when it comes to racing there.