Free-legged Classic Pro "pretty nice"
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Following a two-year-old season rife with bad trips and bad posts, Classic Pro returns to the Grand Circuit stage and will attempt to tap into his potential in the first of two $70,000 Somebeachsomewhere divisions on Saturday at Mohawk Racetrack.
"He was a pretty nice colt as a two-year-old, but he never got the chance to impress," trainer Dr. Ian Moore said. "He raced against all of the good ones in the Metro, the Champlain and in all of those other races. We thought that [with those trips] we left a lot in the tank for him."
Competing for Dr. Moore, who owns with partners R G McGroup and Serge Savard, Classic Pro has won two races in 14 starts, compiling $140,904 in earnings. However, the Shadow Play colt from the Astreos mare Kattimon was winless as a two-year-old, racing 11 times and finishing no better than third.
"During his season, he drew a lot of bad posts and had more than one driver, which I do not like," Moore said. "I like to have a regular, but as a result of that, he seemed to have gotten more test drives and got trips where he didn't pull when he could have pulled, so on."
Leading up to his 2017 debut, Moore opted to remove hopples from Classic Pro, qualifying him free-legged twice in Florida before shipping to Mohawk to win his first race of the year, a 1:57.3 maiden-breaking score in the slop.
"He has grown to be a nice big colt," Moore said. "He had wide strides last year, but now he's even wider now that I've taken the hopples off. He exhibited a lot of good stuff free legged last year training.
"This year, he would take off on some days free legged and I thought ‘we'll train him down as far as he can go [without hopples].' We got him trained down to :54 before we qualified him, so I thought we'd give him a shot [free legged]. He seems a lot happier."
The decision about whether to use hopples or not remains a debate among Moore and the connections.
"I did get him a pair of light hopples, but when we put them on him, he would not go onto the track," noted Moore. "Ron, Serge, and I, have been back and forth about whether to kick the hopples off or not. If something were to happen in a big race that causes him to make a break, I'm probably going to be in trouble. But right now he's doing well free legged."
Classic Pro was a regular in Ontario Sires Stakes action last season, but Moore opted to skip this year's opening leg and focus on the Grand Circuit.
"I intentionally did not take him to London for the Ontario Sires Stakes, being that it's a tight track, because I want to give him every chance to prove that he is a top-level colt. He's a natural pacer."
Classic Pro was steered by WEG driving sensation Louis Philippe Roy in his first two starts this season, winning both as the favourite. However, in his most recent start on May 22, Trevor Henry, who drove the Shadow Play colt twice last season, picked up the drive and finished second.
"In his last race, we had a perfect two-hole trip for him, didn't have to move until the head of the stretch, and he never got moved," Moore said. "He had to wait an eighth-of-a-mile before he finally got clearance up the inside and meanwhile another horse came by on the outside. He could've easily been three-for-three instead of second. Those two wins can ‘braven' some horses, though, so I think they were good for him emotionally."
Moore will use Henry again behind Classic Pro from post-three in the first of two Somebeachsomewhere divisions on Saturday.
"I don't think [Henry] realized how good [Classic Pro] is when he drove him last week. I was actually kind of disappointed in Louis Philippe Roy—he drove the horse to two wins, but then bailed pretty quickly. I like a horse to have a driver that knows their ability, knows what they're like, knows what they can do, and treats them accordingly."
The combination of Moore and Henry has had success in the past, especially in the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.
"I've been a friend of Trevor and his family for many years; I raced against his father in the ‘70s and ‘80s," recalled Moore. "[Trevor] won for us with Rockin In Heaven in the Somebeachsomewhere two years ago as a long shot and we decided to stick with a local driver so we'd have an opportunity to have a consistent driver every week."
Moore has opted to use American drivers in the past with Grand Circuit horses, but finding a local driver for Classic Pro makes the most sense to the veteran conditioner, as the Ontario Sires Stakes schedule can potential cause conflicts when trying to bring in an out of town driver.
From the Somebeachsomewhere, Classic Pro will be taking on the challenge of tackling the division leaders, such as Downbytheseaside and Huntsville, in the Pepsi North America Cup.
"We're basically untested," Moore said. "[Classic Pro] paced probably :50, :51 at his fastest last year, but like I've said, I feel we didn't get to the bottom of his tank as a two-year-old, so it will be interesting to see how he matches up."