Day At The Track

The sky is the limit for Forbidden Trade

04:44 AM 17 Nov 2018 NZDT
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Forbidden Trade, harness racing
Forbidden Trade (#5) and driver Bob McClure collar Dream Nation at the wire
NCJ Photo

Driver Bob McClure and trainer Luc Blais have forged a strong relationship this year, winning 28 percent of their starts together.

The partnership has helped McClure make a successful transition from Canada's "B" tracks to the main stage of Woodbine Mohawk Park, not to mention the harness racing Grand Circuit, and aided Blais' bid for career highs for wins and purses.

The two will look to add to their accomplishments Saturday (Nov. 17) at the Meadowlands, where Ontario Sire Stakes champion Forbidden Trade takes on seven rivals in the second of two eliminations for the Valley Victory Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters. The top-five finishers from each elim advance to the $435,900 final on Nov. 24 at the Big M. Elimination winners will draw for posts one thorough six.

Forbidden Trade, who has won seven of nine races, is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line. He will start from post seven. Seven Hills is the 3-1 favorite, with Corey Callahan driving for trainer John Butenschoen.

"He's been top notch all year," McClure said about Forbidden Trade. "He's pretty incredible for a 2-year-old. He looks like a 3-year-old and has the maturity of a 4-year-old. He's never given me any trouble. He's perfect to drive, a complete professional, no matter what kind of trip you give him. He's got the attitude of a good one.

"The two races he lost were probably his two best races. One race (a preliminary leg of the sire stakes) he had a lot of bad racing luck and still raced huge. The other time (in a division of the Champlain Stakes) he had some traffic trouble. I didn't have him in good position and he got out of gear a little bit. He still came home :27.1, but he was in no position to win. He could have come home in :26.4 and he still wasn't going to win."

Forbidden Trade, by Kadabra out of O'Brien Award-winner Pure Ivory, has earned $213,139 for owner Serge Godin's Determination stable. He brings a four-race win streak to his Valley Victory elimination.

"I think the sky is the limit for him," McClure said. "He's been a professional from day one. He's made my job easy. If he's in any position to win he usually gets the job done. He's been fun to drive all year. I think he has the potential to be a top Grand Circuit horse."

The 28-year-old McClure led Canada in wins in 2017 and 2016, topping 500 both years, and was third in 2015. This season, with his focus on Woodbine Mohawk, he has won 285 races and a career-best $3.74 million (U.S.) in purses. He ranks third in Canada in both wins and purses.

"I'm very happy," McClure said. "I have a lot of people to thank for that. I was really happy where I was (at the smaller tracks) and I was having a lot of fun. But I decided to commit to (Woodbine Mohawk). I wanted to be home with family more. I didn't anticipate picking up the stakes stables I did. I didn't anticipate having as good a year that I've had right off the bat. It's worked out significantly better than I thought it would."

Among those on McClure's thank-you list is trainer Dean Nixon, who backed the driver from the earliest days of his transition.

"I've driven for him for a long time and he's somebody I've had a really good working relationship with," McClure said. "He's happy with the work I do, and I respect the good job he does. We've always done really well together. It gave me the freedom of being able to make some mistakes during the transition and not worry about him being upset about it. He's always going to be in your corner.

"When I picked up Luc Blais, that was the icing on the cake."

Blais, who trains exclusively for Determination, is in the midst of his third consecutive million-dollar-season. His 66 wins this year are the third most of his career (his best came in 2000 with 77) and his $1.56 million in purses is also third (his best came last year with $1.85 million).

In addition to winning the Ontario Sire Stakes championship with Forbidden Trade, Blais and McClure have captured the Steele Memorial and Joie De Vie with Dream Together. They finished second in the Armbro Flight Stakes with Emoticon Hanover and second in the Ontario Sire Stakes championship with Champagne Jane.

"They asked if I wanted to be the driver for Determination stables and I jumped at the opportunity," said McClure, who has driven 163 of Blais' 236 starters. "Serge Godin and Luc Blais are very good people to work for.

"I think everyone is real happy with the year we've had."

For Saturday's complete Meadowlands entries, click here. Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EST).

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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