McClure On His Dream Season
Published: January 8, 2017 11:09 am ET
Last Comment: January 10, 2017 3:56 pm ET | 3 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments
Driver Bob McClure capped a career-best season in 2016. Canada’s dash leader, he won 576 races in his campaign last year, which was almost double his previous win records the two years prior, and amassed $3-million for the first time in his career en route to an O'Brien Award nomination as a finalist for Driver of the Year.
“It’s hard to believe [how incredible last season was],” McClure said. “I’ll definitely appreciate it more further down, but the most amazing part is that I can’t recognize a point where it all started to change. I won way more races than I did last year and it didn’t feel like that big of a difference.
“Through my career there have been a lot of people helping me. Guys like Greg Graham and Gary Kingshott put me down for their whole barns, my cousin Ryan McClure and Chad Milner gave me big boosts as well.”
Bob McClure won 214 races in 2014 and followed it with a 340-win season in 2015. In 2016, his 576-win season secured him the driving titles at Flamboro Downs, Georgian Downs, and Grand River Raceway.
“I can’t really attribute [my success] to one thing. I show up; I definitely put the time in, and I think anyone who wants to have a career driving has to do that. I’ve definitely paid my dues; I started at the small tracks—Hanover Raceway to this day is my favourite racetrack. I spent a lot of years there and I was their leading driver. It wasn’t until I moved to the bigger tracks that I started to have more luck.”
McClure’s milestone season was highlighted by a driving quintuple on September 19 at Mohawk Racetrack while many of the WEG regulars competed in Ontario Sires Stakes events at Grand River.
“There was a trotter I really liked of Jim Ritchie’s, so I told him I’d go up to drive him at Mohawk and I ended up driving the whole card,” McClure said. “I went down, hoping I could make some money, and I came out with five wins.”
McClure attributes some of his success to his uncle, Jim McClure, who also drove horses and taught him how to work with the people in the harness racing industry.
“Anytime I came into a tough situation where I was stuck between the two very good trainers at a track, he was always really good to talk to,” McClure said. “I always had a fairly good understanding of horses, but he helped me to deal with people a lot.”
As a result of his breakout season, McClure was recognized as an O'Brien Award finalist to be Canada's Driver of the Year along with Sylvain Filion, who was the leading driver at both Woodbine and Mohawk in 2016.
“I was driving with my girlfriend to have lunch with my grandparents when I got a call [from Standardbred Canada] and I completely misunderstood the call,” McClure said. “I thought they were calling to tell me I was a finalist, but in the top 10, kind of like ‘Hey! Not bad, good for you!’ I didn’t think at all that I’d be one of the finalists out of two.
“My girlfriend Jodi knew more about the phone call, and it turned out she was right. It was when I woke up from a nap and saw all these people congratulating me that I went ‘Wow.’ I was actually surprised; it’s not very often that a B-track driver gets that kind of recognition. It’s satisfying and surreal; it hasn’t sunk in yet at all.”
All of the McClures are likely to be in attendance at the O’Brien Black Tie Gala on January 28.
Bob McClure with his son, Ryder
“We don’t know yet if my son Ryder is coming, but my grandparents are buying a table, and I’m going to have a table with some friends, so there’s no shortage of room at the O’Briens for family.
“I don’t have a tux ready, though. I’ll have to go rent one.”
Heading into the 2017 racing season, McClure is aiming to improve the quality of his stock and ultimately improve on his current success.
“I’d really like to protect the dash title,” McClure said. “There are no plans to move to WEG anytime in the near future, but I do hope to get on some more stakes horses. Last year was the first year where I was kind of an option for all the trainers, like when I came down [to WEG] when the OSS was [at Grand River].
“Hopefully I can further that because they go for more money, but that will also mean more travelling and less wins because I’ll be away from my regular mounts. I’d like to drive more quality than quantity.”
(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Ray Cotolo)