Classic Pro might be the easiest horse to identify in Saturday’s $738,550 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old pacers, but not because of any markings or equipment — or even a number — on the colt.
It is because what Classic Pro will be missing: hobbles.
Classic Pro, trained by Dr. Ian Moore, has raced free legged this year and enjoyed a fair amount of success along the way. The son of former Moore standout Shadow Play has won three of seven races and earned $101,975 this season for owners Moore, R G McGroup Ltd., and hockey legend Serge Savard.
In fact, excluding one race in which Classic Pro went off stride prior to the start, the only 3-year-olds to finish ahead of the colt this season are Fear The Dragon, Huntsville, and Downbytheseaside. Those three horses are ranked Nos. 1, 6 and 7, respectively, in the sport’s Top 10 poll.
Last year, Classic Pro was winless in 11 races but finished third on six occasions and earned $93,272.
He was a nice colt last year,” Moore said. “He raced against some of the best ones last year. He just drew bad or just the way things went in the race. He never had a win but he still made a nice bit of money for us.
“He’s filled out more and got bigger and stronger. I trained him down free legged and he seemed good so we thought we’d try it. He seemed so much happier and had a big longer gait to him, especially behind. So we just left him alone and that’s the way he’s been.”
Moore can recall racing two other horses free legged during his training career. The first was in the mid-1970s. The second, Astronomical, was a decade ago. In 2007, Astronomical became the fastest free-legged pacer in history when he won in 1:50 at Georgian Downs.
Classic Pro has a mark of 1:52.1 this year, which came in a conditioned race at Mohawk.
Moore accepted a bye for Classic Pro to advance directly to the Meadowlands Pace final rather than race in last weekend’s elimination for the event. The bye was based on seasonal earnings. The connections of Downbytheseaside and Miso Fast also accepted byes.
Huntsville won the Meadowlands Pace elimination by 2-1/4 lengths over Blood Line in 1:48.4. Ray Schnittker, who trains and co-owns Huntsville, turned down a bye.
“At first I thought we would go and race,” Moore said. “Then I got thinking about it. He’s free legged and you never know if something might happen and he might not make the final. And I figured Huntsville was going to race because he hadn’t raced in two weeks, so I decided to take the bye. I trained him on Saturday and he should be ready to roll.”
Moore’s decision to race Classic Pro without hobbles is not without trepidation since the colt went off stride in a division of the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes on June 3 at Mohawk. Moore drove the horse in a qualifier three days later and the horse made a break behind the gate again, this time wearing hobbles.
“The little bump we did have, he started to get pretty hot behind the gate,” Moore said. “After he got a few wins this year, it seemed to change his temperament a little bit. He’s getting a bit more aggressive now.
“He started getting geared up behind the gate. He hit the stirrups of the bike (sulky) and it was driving him crazy. We got a big bike for him now and have got ear plugs in him. He seems much better. But it’s still kind of an adventure at that level with that speed.”
Classic Pro will start the Meadowlands Pace from post nine with Trevor Henry in the sulky. The horse is Moore’s second Meadowlands Pace finalist and Henry’s first. Moore finished seventh with State Treasurer in 2012.
“That’s the way it goes,” Moore said about drawing post nine in the 10-horse field. “It would have been nice to draw better. There are at least three good ones there in Huntsville, Downbytheseaside and Miso Fast. After that it’s kind of open a bit. We’ll just hope to get a little bit of racing there.”
Following is the field for the $738,550 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old pacers in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line.
1-Blood Line-Mark MacDonald-Jimmy Takter-5/1
2-Mac’s Jackpot-David Miller-Jim Campbell-15/1
3-Boogie Shuffle-Scott Zeron-Mark Harder-30/1
4-Huntsville-Tim Tetrick-Ray Schnittker-1/1
5-Downbytheseaside-Brian Sears-Brian Brown-4/1
6-Miso Fast-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-10/1
7-Filibuster Hanover-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-10/1
8-Santafe’s Coach-Corey Callahan-Leo Iordan-20/1
9-Classic Pro-Trevor Henry-Dr. Ian Moore-15/1
10-Talent Soup-Eric Abbatiello-Bruce Saunders-30/1
Scheduled post time: 9:34 p.m.