Blais Humbled By O’Brien Nom

Published: January 21, 2020 11:24 am EST

What a ride it’s been for trainer Luc Blais.

Little-known outside Quebec a decade ago, the 57-year-old now oversees one of the most powerful racing stables in North America, one that reached new heights in 2019 by capturing the historic Hambletonian with Ontario-based trotter Forbidden Trade (to read the recap of Forbidden Trade’s Hambletonian win, click here).

Blais' employer of seven years, the Montreal-based Determination Stable, topped $2.5 million in earnings in 2019, a new peak, and has no less than three finalists for O’Brien Awards as Canadian divisional champions: two-year-old trotting colt Port Perry, older trotting mare Emoticon Hanover, and three-year-old Forbidden Trade, with the latter a strong contender for horse-of-the-year honours.

Blais is also a first-time finalist as trainer of the year, as he is going up against reigning champion Richard Moreau, “a hard worker that I respect a lot.”

“It’s certainly an honour,” Blais said, “but what it really highlights is the team effort. The team got it done. And the horses. I’m privileged to have good horses. They’re the ones who get you there. I’m more proud of their nominations than mine. I`m also very happy for Determination. It was a really good year, and that`s satisfying.”

Emoticon Hanover, pictured victorious in December of 2019 during her career swan song.

Emoticon Hanover, now seven and retired to the broodmare ranks with a first breeding scheduled with Muscle Hill, topped $2 million in earnings after another $300,000-plus season in 2019. She’s a four-time O’Brien finalist and secured the trophy for the first time in 2018. “Just being in the same category as Atlanta (the other 2019 finalist as trotting mare) is exceptional,” Blais said.

Forbidden Trade pictured defeating Greenshoe (2) and Gimpanzee (7) in the 2019 Hambletonian final at the Meadowlands Racetrack (Lisa Photo)

Forbidden Trade, who also won an O’Brien as two-year-old champion in 2018, is due to resume racing as a four-year-old after a million-dollar three-year-old campaign. The Hambletonian Maturity and Maple Leaf Trot are among his stakes targets. “We`ve started back with him after a good break,” said Blais. “I’m excited to see how he’ll do this year.”

Port Perry, pictured victorious at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Port Perry , a productive Ontario Sires Stakes performer with $300,000 collected in 2019, might also be Hambletonian-bound if he keeps developing, Blais said. “He's an honest horse, there every race. He wasn't 100 per cent the whole year, but I think he can trot with the best of them.”

Intimidate, pictured at the wire at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Blais first surfaced at the O`Brien Awards eight years ago as the trainer and co-owner of Intimidate, who was named Canada’s champion three-year-old male trotter of 2012. Two years later, Intimidate was crowned Canada`s champion older trotter. He was Blais’ first million-dollar winner, with Emoticon Hanover and Forbidden Trade now also on that list.

“That first O'Brien will always be special. He was a horse that grew up at my farm, that I broke with my son. He gave me thrills I'd never known.”

Blais hopes there will be others like them among the 19 two-year-olds in the barn this year.

“Now,” he said, “is the time of year when you dream.”

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Paul Delean)



Besides his incredible ability with trotters, he is a super gentleman.

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