EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The $1 million Hambletonian was supposed to be the showcase for 27-year-old Sweden trainer Marcus Melander and his barn of top 3-year-old trotters.
A bunch of Canadians stole the spotlight.
Long shot Forbidden Trade held off Melander's heavily favored Greenshoe in the closing strides and won trotting's biggest race by a neck at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday.
It was an all-Canadian show with Bob McClure handling the drive and Luc Blais training last year's top 2-year-old in Canada for owners Serge Godin and Distinction Capital Inc.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," said the 28-year-old McClure, who broke his pelvis in a racing accident in April at Woodbine Mohawk Park and missed a month of work. "In a few days, it will but it has certainly been career-changing in the last four years."
Forbidden Trade, who finished two lengths behind Greenshoe in his heat, trotted the mile in 1:51.
The result was totally unexpected with most expecting Melander to dominate with his highly regarded trip of Greenshoe, Gimpanzee and Green Manalish S all advancing out of the heats earlier on the card to get into the 10-horse final.
McClure made all the right moves to spoil the show in his first Hambletonian drive. He made a first over move in the stretch and took the lead halfway to the wire.
For a split second, it seemed Greenshoe and driver Brian Sears, who was seeking his fourth win in the Hambletonian, were going to pass Forbidden Trade. But the son of Kadabra dug in and got to the finish line first.
"He had me halfway down the stretch," McClure said. "One other race he got headed, and he really dug in. He is really a fighter."
Forbidden Trade, who was bred in Kentucky, paid $33.80, $7.60 and $3.80 in winning for the fifth time in eight starts this year. The owners earned $500,000, almost four times more than he earned in his previous seven starts this year.
Blais said he has been watching the Hambletonian since he was a child.
"This is an amazing feeling," said the 57-year-old.
Greenshoe, who won the second heat in 1:50.2, returned $2.60 and $2.10 as the 3-10 favorite. The colt, who trotted the fastest mile this year for a 3-year-old, looked uncomfortable at the start and trailed most of the way before unleashing a late kick.
Gimpanzee, who was undefeated starting the day, finished third with David Miller in the bike and paid $4.
Soul Strong finished fourth and was followed by Green Manalishi S, pacesetter Marseille, Pilot Discretion, Osterc, Cantab Fashion and Don't Let'em, who was trying to make Nancy Johansson the third female trainer to win the race.
Melander won both eliminations with Green Manalishi S and Greenshoe, respectively. Sears drove each of the winners and chose to drive Greenshoe in the final.
Greenshoe won his heat in 1:50.2, winning by two lengths. Green Manalishi S got up in the final strides to edge Osterc by a neck. The Swedish-bred trotted the mile in 1:50.3.
Gimpanzee, who was an undefeated favorite heading into the first heat, finished fourth to qualify for the final. Miller picked up the drive.
In the co-featured $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks for 3-year-old trotting fillies, Dovescry took the lead on the backstretch and posted a two-length victory over previously undefeated Millies Possession. Driven by Simon Allard and trained by his brother, Rene, the daughter of Muscle Hill was timed in a career-best 1:50.2 and paid $6.60 to win.
The Hambletonian kicks off trotting's Triple Crown. The Yonkers Trot will be held on Aug. 31 and the Kentucky Futurity is Oct. 6.