By Ken Weingartner—With the Hambletonian Stakes already on his list of accomplishments, Forbidden Trade will try for the second jewel in the Trotting Triple Crown when he faces seven foes in Saturday’s (Aug. 31) $500,000 Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway.
Nine trotters have captured the Triple Crown since its inception in 1955, the most recent Marion Marauder three years ago.
Forbidden Trade and driver Bob McClure will start the Yonkers Trot from post six. Gimpanzee, the 2018 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter and third-place finisher in the Hambletonian, leaves from post four. Soul Strong, who was a parked-out fourth from post 10 in the Hambletonian, starts from post two.
It will be Forbidden Trade’s first trip to The Hilltop, but the Luc Blais-trained colt is no stranger to success on half-mile-sized tracks such as Yonkers. Forbidden Trade won at Ontario’s Grand River Raceway last season in 1:56.4, the fastest mile by a 2-year-old trotter in Canadian history.
It also will be McClure’s first visit to Yonkers. The 28-year-old, though, did plenty of driving on Ontario’s half-mile ovals before becoming a regular at Woodbine Mohawk Park in 2018. McClure led Canada in wins in 2017 and 2016. He was third last year and in 2015.
“At the end of the day they’re all still going in a circle,” McClure said about racing at Yonkers for the first time. “I know it’s a tight half, but I’ve driven on a lot of (half-mile tracks) here too.
“Good horses, they get around pretty well anything,” he added. “(Forbidden Trade) is just a complete professional. That’s why he was so successful at 2; he was like a 4-year-old to drive. He never made any mistakes; he was just perfect.”
Forbidden Trade, owned by Serge Godin’s Determination stable, won seven of 11 races last year and received the O’Brien Award as Canada’s best 2-year-old male trotter.
This year, Forbidden Trade has won six of nine starts and finished no worse than third in any race. He has won five of his past six races, with his only setback being a third-place finish in his Hambletonian elimination. He won the same-day final by a neck over favorite Greenshoe.
“He came back this year and he’s faster, he’s stronger, he’s always been great gaited, and he’s just as smart,” McClure said. “You look at all the races he’s won, you can leave with him and go out of there in :26 (seconds) or you can take him back and come home in :26. He just does whatever he has to do.
“He’s just a really good horse.”
Forbidden Trade has raced once since the Hambletonian, winning a division of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold on Aug. 12 at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“He was really good that day,” McClure said. “I’m sure he’s in top form. He was feeling so good, Luc decided to go (to the Yonkers Trot).”
Forbidden Trade, who has earned $907,728 in his career, will start the Yonkers Trot from one of the least advantageous post positions from a statistical standpoint. Posts one through five at Yonkers produce winners at a minimum of 14.3 percent, led by post one at 18 percent, while post six is at 8.5 percent.
“It’s just a starting spot,” McClure said. “We’ll probably just get off the gate and see how things turn out. You never know what’s going to happen. Gimpanzee is probably the horse to beat, so we’ll go from there.”
The three legs of the Trotting Triple Crown are the Hambletonian, Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity. The Futurity, held at Lexington’s Red Mile, is Oct. 6.
Racing begins at 6:50 p.m. (EDT) Saturday at Yonkers. The Yonkers Trot is race six on the card and will be followed by the $500,000 Messenger Stakes for 3-year-old pacers. Bettor’s Wish, the sport’s top money-earner this season with $859,544, leads the field of eight in the Messenger, which is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Captain Crunch, who won the first jewel, the Cane Pace, did not enter the Messenger. The card also includes the Hudson Filly Trot and Lady Maud.
For complete entries, click here. Below is the field for the 65th Yonkers Trot.
1-Osterc-Dexter Dunn-Per Engblom
2-Soul Strong-Dexter Dunn-Ake Svanstedt
3-Sheena’s Boy-Andy Miller-Ake Svanstedt
4-Gimpanzee-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander
5-Livinonthedash-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller
6-Forbidden Trade-Bob McClure-Luc Blais
7-HL Revadon-Jim Marohn Jr.-Harry Landy
8-No Drama Please-Jason Bartlett-Tom Fanning