EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Canadians came and conquered this year’s $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands.
Forbidden Trade ($33.80), a 15-1 longshot from The North, edged out overwhelming 1-5 favorite Greenshoe in the 94th edition of harness racing’s top event on Saturday afternoon. The colt delivered the Canadian duo of driver Bob McClure and trainer Luc Blais their first trip to the Hambo winner’s circle.
“That horse just has a lot of class,” McClure said of his three-year-old’s upset over Greenshoe. “It was two incredible colts fighting it out so I don’t think there’s really a loser in that, but I’m really glad we came out on top.”
The 28-year-old McClure, just months removed from a broken pelvis suffered during an April qualifier at Woodbine at Mohawk Park, won in his first Hambo start. Forbidden Trade secured the victory in 1:51 by a neck. Gimpanzee, the second-choice, finished third.
Greenshoe and Gimpanzee, along with fifth place finisher Green Manalishi S, were trained by U.S. Harness Writers Association 2018 Rising Star Award recipient Marcus Melander. Greenshoe and Green Manalishi S both won their respective eliminations earlier in the day. “Of course I’m not happy with not winning, but my horses did a great job out there,” the 27-year-old Melander said. “We’re second, third and fifth in a Hambletonian final. It’s still not bad.”
McClure has been a top driver in Canada over the past two seasons, while Forbidden Trade was the 2018 O’Brien Award Winner as the champion 2-year-old trotting colt in Canada. The Hambo was the horse’s fifth win of the season, but it did not come easy.
Forbidden Trade sat in the four hole after the first quarter of the mile race and was pulled second-over at the half.
The winning trotter was one of three horses trailing Green Manilishi S by a quarter length coming around the final turn, but surged to the lead, just outpacing Greenshoe at the finish line and clinching the upset.
“I was following a real good horse Green Manalishi [S], he got me where I needed to go,” McClure said. “The only looming danger was Greenshoe and when they hooked up … it was a good race.”
The Hambletonian is the first leg of the Trotting Triple Crown.
When Dovescry won the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks, the filly companion to the Hambletonian, by two lengths in a career-best 1:50.2. The 3-year-old trotter gave brothers Simon Allard (driver) and Rene Allard (trainer) their first Oaks victories. When Dovescry ($6.60) is the fourth straight Oaks winner to be sired by 2009 Hambletonian winner Muscle Hill.
In the Peter Haughton Memorial for two-year-old male trotters,1-2 favorite Real Cool Sam extended his career undefeated streak to five by easing past the field in mid-stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The victory makes Real Cool Sam the early favorite for next year’s Hambletonian.
Jackson Thompson, a rising senior at Rutgers University, is writing as part of the Clyde Hirt Journalism Workshop.