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Mission Accomplished For Blais

Published: January 23, 2017 9:45 am ET

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Luc Blais, who has shared in two O'Brien Awards already as trainer of millionaire trotter Intimidate, says his favourite part of the ceremony is the video highlights of the finalists.

"Seeing the tapes brings it all back. You remember how good you felt. The competition is tough so getting nominated is a satisfaction in itself," he said.

Blais, 54, had many highlights to choose from in 2016, and not just from Emoticon Hanover, his 2016 finalist for outstanding three-year-old trotting filly.

Determination, the powerhouse Quebec-based stable that Blais has overseen for three years, started 16 horses in 2016 and half of them earned $100,000 or more. Emoticon Hanover led the way with $604,000, winning seven of 15 starts including the $250,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final at Mohawk Racetrack over archrival (and fellow O'Brien Award finalist) Caprice Hill.

Overall, the stable grossed $2 million in 2016, a huge jump from Blais' previous peak of $1.2 milllon. Although he wasn't a finalist for trainer of the year, he clearly figured prominently in the conversation..

"Some people mentioned it to me, and it would have been nice, but I didn't need that to know how good a year we had. It was excellent. We purchased well-bred horses, we took our time with them, and it worked out. It's like 'mission accomplished' for the whole team, including the owner (Determination head Serge Godin)," said Blais, who trains 30 horses, 13 of them two-year-olds.

He ranks Emoticon Hanover's victory in the OSS Super Final as his favourite memory of 2016, 'because any time you can beat a horse as good as Caprice Hill is special. Emoticon's been great for us, a real professional. Luck isn`t always with her, but she always tries."

She`ll be returning to the races in 2017, but the horse Blais expects the most from is five-year-old trotter Lookslikeachpndale, victor in the $100,000 Earl Rowe Memorial Trot at Georgian Downs last year.

"He was only four last year, which is a tough age, but he was really coming on at the end (including a near-miss third behind Obrigado after a charge from last in the $400,000 TVG Open Trot at The Meadowlands in November). Mr. Godin was very patient with him, we gave him a chance, and it's paying off. He's stronger and more mature now."

For a full list of 2016 O'Brien Award finalists, click here. For details about the Black Tie Gala and how to purchase tickets, click here.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Paul Delean)

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