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Modern Legend Returns

Published: November 30, 2016 6:29 pm ET

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After spending more than 18 months on the sidelines, O'Brien Award winning pacer Modern Legend returns to the racetrack on Thursday.

Bred and owned by trainer Dave Drew, Modern Legend made headlines and believers during his 2014 campaign when the six-year-old son of Modern Art won the Canadian Pacing Derby at massive odds in a time that was the fastest in Canadian harness racing history -- 1:47.2.

Modern Legend - 2014 Canadian Pacing Derby

Modern Legend went onto win divisional honours as Canada's Older Pacing Horse of the Year in 2014, with Drew planning more Grand Circuit tests in 2015. Those plans unfortunately didn't pan out, with Modern Legend's last race coming in May 2015 at Harrah's Philadelphia in the Jerry Taylor Invitational.

According to Drew, what turned out to be a bit of time off ended up being a longer vacation than he had planned. A touch of sickness prompted time off last summer, but the year-plus rest wasn't due to illness.

"He had raced five times during the year and he'd been racing well, he picked up two wins at Mohawk and then went into the U.S. and raced very competitively in all his races," Drew told Trot Insider. "There wasn't any one particular thing...I think since he's raced throughout, his feet had bothered him a little bit. So I backed off initially and continued to let him come along.

"I had trained him down a couple of different times, and then backed off again a couple of times. I think it was all centered around his feet so I was taking my time and trying to be patient with him...I didn't push him any further than I needed to."

Drew's patience is clearly a virtue: his only horse, an award winner widely admired and feared for both his speed and toughness, resting for the remainder of 2015. The calendar turned to 2016. Modern Legend continued to rest, with Drew not staking him.

"I didn't stake him for 2016, I wasn't sure what the outcome would be or how quick he'd get back so I just let time do its thing."

As the old adage goes, time heals all wounds. That statement certainly seems to be the case with Modern Legend, whose recent form has given his owner cause to hit the racetrack for a qualifier at Woodbine Racetrack on Thursday.

"Recently he's been training well and continued to train well and train down. He's got a great attitude so we'll see Thursday and get some more information from the qualifier to see how he's doing then.

"It's obviously taken some time since he's seemingly coming around. I just hope for the best that he'll go well on Thursday."

Drew, who is stabled at Tom Rankin's farm in St. Catharines, has been training Modern Legend both by himself and with horses from Carman Hie's stable. "Carman and I train our horses together so if I need horses to go, he can but he trains down very well by himself.

"He still feels good but that's only in training. Racing, as always, is tough competition so I don't know in terms of how quick he can go or how much stamina he has yet but he's shown in training to be very good."

The main priority for Drew throughout this process was to always do right by the horse and give him all the time he needed or will need.

"I really let the horse determine that. Trained down, tried to get a little quicker, make sure everything's OK and took it week by week," noted Drew. "He's been training well over the last six to eight weeks, and continuing to train down in terms of time.

"The weather's been good but for the most part I've let him determine what the next step is, we'll take it week by week based on what he's doing."

One thing that doesn't concern Drew is something fully out of his control: the weather, more specifically, the winter conditions that spur many to plan a break in the harness racing schedule. Drew has campaigned Modern Legend in the winter months before and notes he's versatile enough to handle changes in track conditions. That versatility has helped the now eight-year-old free-for-aller to boast 21 wins from 68 starts while amassing nearly $970,000 in purses.

"He's a wonderful animal, a great racehorse," said Drew. "My perspective is I'd give him as much time as he needed, because in the end to do otherwise would potentially be detrimental for him.

"If he needs more time after Thursday's test, that's exactly what he'll get...whatever's best for the horse is the first and foremost rule."

On Thursday, James MacDonald will get the call to drive Modern Legend (Modern Art - Ruby Cam) in the session's first qualifier, leaving from Post 1. Trot Insider will provide an update on Modern Legend next week.

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