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Expect A Better Forbidden Trade

Published: June 28, 2020 11:20 am ET

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On paper, a sixth-place finish to start the year for a returning superstar horse isn't ideal. But trainer Luc Blais is expecting a much improved Forbidden Trade for the second start of his four-year-old campaign on Monday (June 29).

The 2019 Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year in Canada, Forbidden Trade made his debut as an older competitor one week ago in a $30,000 conditioned trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park. With regular pilot Bob McClure at the controls, Forbidden Trade finished sixth and trotted his mile individually in 1:53.2.

"As I told the pre-game show, he's hard to get into race shape because he's very smart," McClure said during the Friday morning qualifying session at Woodbine Mohawk Park. "And when he's qualifying, he's going to win but he's going to do the bare minimum to win...We kind of had to get him under the lights before he's ready to go with Preferred horses so I think it will be three starts in before he hits his gear."

McClure said that Forbidden Trade felt strong in that Monday start but he wasn't trotting 100 percent. Trainer Luc Blais told Trot Insider on Friday that he expects to see an improved Forbidden Trade in his first Preferred test.

"I think he should be better this week; we did some vet work on him after the race last week, and I'm going to train him a little bit [on Saturday], said Blais. "Last week I put bell boots on him to put a little bit more weight [up front]...this week he should be better.

"He came his last half in :55; [Bob] said he had a lot."

As McClure also acknowledged in the Friday interview, the inability to train horses at Mohawk in preparation for the 2020 harness racing season added a wrinkle of complexity for many in the province's harness racing industry. Blais noted this as well, stating that his ideal training plans for Forbidden Trade were scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"He had a big season last year, and I gave him a very good break. To bring him back, usually I start earlier and train at Mohawk but this year I couldn't do it because of COVID. It was different training, but he's going to be more in racing shape now.

"You need to start somewhere. Like I always say, training and qualifying is one step, qualifying to overnight racing is another step, and stakes races is another step. It's not the same competition at all."

Competition wasn't much of a problem in 2019 for Forbidden Trade, who posted a 8-3-1 record from 14 seasonal starts with more than $1 million in earnings en route to Horse of the Year honours. The son of former O'Brien Award winners Kadabra and Pure Ivory sports a career summary of 15-3-2 in 26 starts for owner Determination of Montreal, Que. with more than $1.3 million in his bankroll.

Depsite his success at two and three, Blais is fully aware that the competition is going to be more fierce for Forbidden Trade at each step going forward but he's also confident that his easy-going trotter will be better this time out.

This Monday's test in the Preferred Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park, the seventh race on Monday's card, will in fact be close to a Grand Circuit level test with the likes of the decorated triple millionaire Marion Marauder (PP9, Paul MacDonell, 4-1), O'Brien Award winner and Canadian record holder Musical Rhythm (PP3, Mario Baillargeon, 7-2) and the current queen of the Preferred ranks PL Jill (PP8, Sylvain Filion, 5-2). Blais has a ton of respect for those horses and realizes this Preferred class is Grade A competition for Forbidden Trade (PP6, Bob McClure, 7-2).

"I was going to mention, in that class there are some horses that can race Grand Circuit. And that's why I think it will be a very good race for him. There's likely to be lots of flow with 10 horses, lots of movement. I like that."

It's a Monday night card with a ton of talent, the kind of card that will attract attention and the kind of card that makes everyone realize how fortunate the industry is to both compete and watch these talented participants active and on the racetrack.

"I think we're very lucky that we can race right now. I hope everyone realizes that. I think Woodbine's doing a really good job with distancing and managing that in the paddock.

"People are very careful," stated Blais. "I know it's a pain in the ass [to follow some of the protocols] but that's nothing compared to being sick."

Clearly not racing in the second leg of the Graduate Series, Blais revealed his first stakes target for Forbidden Trade, and that will come at the location of his biggest victory in a few weeks time.

"We'll play it by ear, but the plan is to get him in the best shape we can for the Hambletonian Maturity. That's the goal. We'll focus on that, and that's a race I'd like to see him in. I think I can do maybe two more starts and be alright."

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