Bob McClure will steer several favourites in Saturday’s (Oct. 17) $2 million Super Finals at Woodbine Mohawk Park, but even before the starting gate swings open for the first final the Rockwood resident has achieved a goal that has been in his sights since his Ontario Sires Stakes driving debut.
After a back and forth battle with five-time champion Sylvain Filion, McClure has locked up his first Lampman Cup title as the leading driver in the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program, helped along by a trio of Gold Series victories late last week with Super Final mounts Macho Martini, Threefiftytwo and Tattoo Artist.
“I don’t know what drew me about it, but I always wanted to win it,” said McClure, who has kept an eye on the Lampman Cup point standings since he started appearing regularly in OSS winner’s circles five years ago. “It’s pretty tough to win. Sylvain (Filion) is very dedicated to the OSS program and he’s a great driver, and you look at Trevor Henry with the accounts he drives for, they have a lot of stake horses, and then with Doug (McNair) and his dad having a big stable of OSS horses, it’s kind of tough to compete with them. I think you kind of need a year where everything just falls into place for you and that’s exactly what happened this year. When I found out the other night that I kind of sealed it up I was pretty proud of that, because I have so much respect for Sylvain Filion as a driver.”
Established in 1987 in memory of long time Ontario Jockey Club harness racing publicist Jim Lampman, the Lampman Cup has been won by some of the province’s top reinsmen but the driver that sparked McClure’s interest in the title is one whose name is not listed among the winners, his uncle Jim McClure.
“He mentioned something to me when I was first starting out, and he never talked about awards much, but he did mention that (Lampman Cup) and he said that was something he always wanted to win,” recalled McClure, who launched his driving career in 2009. “He drove for a lot of the OSS trainers so I’m sure he was always up there, but he did mention that he always wished that he’d had a chance to win, so it’s nice that I got to win it for my family.”
McClure has been a contender for the award for the past three years, helped along by his association with trainer Luc Blais and owner Determination’s powerful stable of trotters. The driver will steer a trio of Blais trainees on Saturday’s rich Super Final program starting with two-year-old trotting filly Dicentra from Post 1 in the first final, followed by two-year-old trotting colt division point leader Macho Martini from Post 5 in the fifth $250,000 showdown and wrapping up with three-year-old trotting colt Threefiftytwo from Post 10 in the seventh of eight finals.
“They come with such a powerhouse stable, and a lot of them are Ontario Sired, so that right there gives me a big boost in the OSS ranks. Other drivers are trying to find a top OSS trotter, where you know my situation, between Threefiftytwo, Dicentra, Macho Martini, mine are just there and they’re highly competitive,” said McClure. “If you don’t have the horses in front of you, you might as well be pushing a rope.”
In addition to the trio of trotters, McClure will also wrap up the 2020 OSS season behind three-year-old pacing filly division point leader Lauras Love, who gets Post 3 in the second final, two-year-old pacing colt Lawless Shadow, who will start from Post 3 in the fourth battle, two-year-old pacing filly Alumni Seelster from Post 4 in the sixth final and three-year-old pacing colt division point leader Tattoo Artist from the outside Post 9 in the finale.
“I feel very fortunate that I got to drive horses like Tattoo Artist and Macho Martini and Lawless Shadow and Lauras Love. It’s not very often you can string together five, six horses with such a serious chance going into the Super Final,” said McClure. “I can name six right now that have a very strong chance at winning the Super Final and it’s not very often a driver is lucky enough to get that in one year, so I feel very fortunate.”
Once the Super Final wraps up McClure plans to spend the next four weeks plying his trade south of the border, which may prevent him from accomplishing another item on his career bucket list.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, but I would like to win a driving title at Woodbine (Mohawk Park) one day. I wouldn’t say it’s a big priority for me, it would just be nice. It would be like a feather in the cap,” said the driver. “I think I have the lead right now and I still don’t think it will be possible to win it this year, just because my big accounts are about to go dormant for the winter and I’m about to do some travelling for the Breeders Crown, Fall Four, etcetera, and so I’m going to be away for some time, but if there was one bucket list (item) I would say that’s probably it.”
Heading into the Super Final McClure had piloted 199 starters in OSS action this summer, recording 44 wins, 26 seconds and 30 thirds for earnings of $1,860,669 and a Lampman Cup point total of 513, 34 points ahead of Sylvain Filion. Through the 2020 Woodbine Mohawk Park season he boasts 1,061 starts for 182 wins, 141 seconds, 136 thirds and earnings of $5,323,882, 11 wins ahead of Filion. Both men will steer seven horses in Super Final action on Saturday.
The $250,000 Super Finals, which feature the top 10 point earners from the Gold Series regular season, will go postward in Races 1 through 4 and 6 through 9 on Woodbine Mohawk Park’s Saturday, Oct. 17 program. All the excitement gets under way at 7 pm.
Feature Image: Bob McClure piloted two-year-old trotting colt Macho Martini to four wins in Gold Series action this summer and looks to cap off the season with a win in the $250,000 Super Final at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, Oct. 17. (Mario Glynn_New Image Media photo)