(Iron Horse Photo of McClure winning a race in July at Grand River Raceway with Maximus Decimus, one of the driver’s nation-leading 527 victories in 2016)
by Dave Briggs
Canada’s leading dash-winning driver Bob McClure of Elora, ON has had a career year in 2016 thanks to personal records for wins (527), money ($2.8 million) and UDRS (.373) through Dec. 3. All the more reason for the 26-year-old to acknowledge the horse that got him started seven years ago — a Northern Luck mare out of Arabelle Hanover named Shaza Northernbell.
“She was just a cheap mare, but my dad bought her as a yearling for $3,700 and she went on to make about $118,000 all in the $6,000 claimers,” McClure said. “I trained her for awhile. So, when went to get my driver’s license, I did my rated mile on her. I got a lot of qualifying points on her and then I had my first drive on her.”
McClure, the two-time defending driver of the year at Grand River Raceway, has nearly 1,400 career wins and almost $8 million in purse earnings. He said Shaza Northernbell taught him a lot about driving.
“She was just so handy. She could leave and then you followed along and she’d finish up well. She had a lot of class and was good-gaited,” he said.
More importantly, the pacing mare helped give McClure the necessary exposure to get his career rolling.
“She was a good one that I could put down and I’d have my name on the sheet. To pick up drives you have to be down. So, when I wasn’t getting any drives I’d be there every night with her. It was a big help having her there, even just to have me listed to drive, let alone the fact that she was usually competitive,” McClure said. “It gave me a lot of confidence in my first handful of drives to be able to go out with a horse I knew so well.”
Shaza Northernbell raced seven seasons between 2006 and 2012 and retired with a record of 24-30-14 in 132 career starts. She now can be found pulling a sleigh at Lavender Farms in Guelph.
“That was really nice for her. She just hangs out there in retired life and looks pretty happy. Every time we go over to see her, she ignores us. She doesn’t want to come back (to the races),” McClure said, laughing.
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