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Storybook Year For Maxime Velaye

Published: January 27, 2018 11:33 am ET

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Future Star finalist Maxime Velaye will be at the 2017 O'Brien Awards gala in spirit, but his body will be in the sunny Dominican Republic.

Maxime Velaye (R) with the connections of Capteur De Reve

"It's my first trip south. I booked it with six other people last year, well before the (O'Brien Awards) announcement. I never expected that news and was surprised and torn when I found out. I looked into coming back early but it was too costly to change. I'll be sorry to miss it.

"There's nothing bigger in Canadian racing. I went a few years ago when I was the caretaker for White Becomes Her (a finalist for three-year-old trotting filly in 2014) and I remember it as a nice night, though it was bizarre to see people you're accustomed to seeing in casual wear all dressed up," said Velaye, 30, who will be represented at next weekend's banquet by his mother and aunt, Huguette and Katia Leclerc.

The Quebec-based trainer is coming off a career year in which he totalled 23 victories and $323,000 in purses, eye-catching numbers for someone with fewer than 100 starts. The wins included three Ontario Sires Stakes Gold finals.

"Considering I didn't win a race until June, it turned out to be an incredible year. Everything just clicked in August. The two-year-olds started to bloom and the three-year-olds got better,`` said Velaye, full-time conditioner for the 10-horse stable of prominent Quebec owner Guy Corbeil since the spring of 2014. He also trains a couple of horses for Determination Stable.

Velaye identifies his 2017 highlights as the night in September when the pillars of Corbeil's stable, three-year-old pacer Histoire Enchantee and three-year-old trotter Capteur De Reve, both won at Mohawk, and sending out Sports Authority in the $200,000 Prix d'Ete for four-year-old pacers at his racing base, Hippodrome 3R.

"He finished last (behind Western Fame) but it was still a big thrill to represent the home track and be part of a race like that, competing against horses trained by people like Jimmy Takter and Ron Burke," he said.

Velaye is hoping to get a second shot at the Prix d'Ete this year with Histoire Enchantee, a son of Shanghai Phil who won at Mohawk in 1:50.1 as a three-year-old. Capteur de Reve also will be back at four, leaving the trainer with high hopes for another strong year in 2018.

On February 3, Velaye or Brett MacDonald will receive the Future Star Award as the winners of the 17 categories will be announced at the O’Brien Awards Gala, taking place at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario.

Follow the latest updates on the O’Brien Awards on Standardbred Canada’s Facebook Event page and on the SC website.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Paul Delean)

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