“She Never Gives You A Bad Race”

Published: January 29, 2018 09:33 am EST

Finishing ahead of trotting titan Hannelore Hanover is no small feat, on the track or off.

Trainer Luc Blais’ accomplished Kadabra mare Emoticon Hanover did it once last year, in the $150,000 Joie de Vie Trot at Tioga Downs, but Blais doesn’t expect it to happen when Canada’s 2017 champions are announced Saturday at the annual O'Brien Awards gala. Hannelore Hanover and Emoticon Hanover are the two finalists for outstanding trotting mare.

“What a mare Hannelore Hanover is,” Blais said. “She beat males (in the Breeders Crown Open Trot and Maple Leaf Trot). Just being nominated with her is something.”

Blais’ mare also is something special.

Emoticon Hanover won at five different tracks and was in the top three in 12 of 13 starts in 2017; captured the Breeders Crown final for trotting mares; and amassed $446,000, to push her career earnings to $1.2 million for the Montreal-based Determination Stable.

She even set a world record for four-year-old trotting mares with her 1:50.2 clocking in the Joie de Vie, the race Blais says was his personal favourite of 2017, because of the quality of the field and the guts she showed cutting the mile and holding her rivals at bay.

Emoticon Hanover also was an O’Brien Award finalist at three, edged 69-51 in the final vote by Caprice Hill. “She should have won,” said Blais, who has two O’Brien titles to his name with now-retired trotter Intimidate (three-year-old champion in 2012 and top older horse in 2014).

What makes the awards special, he said, is that “they remind you of what was accomplished and the team effort that went into it.”

Blais said Emoticon Hanover’s tentative schedule for 2018 involves most of the same races as in 2017, although her connections are also considering testing her against males a couple of times this year. “I’ll probably start her back at the end of the month. She came out of the campaign well. I’ve never trained a horse like her,” said Blais. “She never gives you a bad race.”

Emoticon Hanover and driver Dan Dube winning the 2017 Breeders Crown Mares Trot (Dean Gillette Photo)

The stable will have a lot of depth in the trotting mare division, since stakes winners Dream Together and On A Sunny Day, who made $411,7076 and $365,936, respectively, as three-year-olds in 2017, will also compete this year.

Blais said he was surprised On A Sunny Day wasn’t a finalist for the O’Brien as three-year-old trotting filly in Canada, since she won three Ontario Sires Stakes Gold finals and the Super Final and twice beat Magic Presto, who did make the O’Brien short list along with the formidable Ariana G.

Honours or not, the Blais stable hit new heights in 2017, with Determination winding up second to the Ron Burke Stable in Grand Circuit points and once again topping $2 million in purses, though it went largely unnoticed because, for the first time, earnings were split almost evenly between Canada and the U.S.

“Having good horses helps,” quipped Blais, 55, full-time trainer for Determination for five years and second runner-up in the vote for Canadian trainer of the year in 2016.

The winner of the O’Brien Award for the outstanding trotting mare division will be announced on February 3 at the O’Brien Awards Gala, which will take 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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