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Champagne & Hill Prince
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One of the Hall of Fame trophies (for horses) and two of the rings (for people) waiting to be given out
On Wednesday night the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame welcomed its 2018 class at an induction ceremony and dinner held at the Mississauga Convention Centre with about 300 people in attendance. There were ten new members voted into the Hall this year, five equine and five human, plus two Legends inducteeS. This is the 42nd anniversary of the Hall of Fame which was founded in 1976.
Trainer Bob Tiller bids on a season with Shaman Ghost as his wife Gail looks on. He won all 3 thoroughbred stallion season live auctions.
The two Legends inductees were Hector Clouthier Sr., who was a top breeder and owner of Standardbreds in Ontario in the 1950s and helped form the eventual Ontario Sires Stakes program, and Frank McMahon, who was a top owner and breeder of Thoroughbreds in British Columbia amd Alberta, winning (either alone or in partnerships) the 1953 Hollywood Gold Cup with Royal Serenade, the 1968 Queen's Plate with Merger, and the 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness with Majestic Prince.
Judy the Beauty, in the Female Thoroughbred Horse category, was to be the first inductee of the night but owner-trainer Wesley Ward was delayed arriving from Saratoga so her induction speech was delayed about half an hour. Frank Stronach, who bred her and also owns her sire Ghostzapper, presented Ward with the Hall of Fame trophy. Stronach joked about her getting away for a measly $20,000 at auction to Ward, "in hindsight, a huge mistake" as she would go on to win $1.8 million on the track. The Eclipse Award champion female sprinter in 2014, she won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1), Thoroughbred Club of America (G2), Rancho Bernardo (G2), Madison (G1), and the Las Flores (G3). She also shipped to France to win the Prix Caravelle at Chantilly. After finishing 5th in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at Keeneland, she retired with 9 wins in 22 starts, in the money 20 times. Her first foal in 2017 was a chestnut filly by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Today, that once-ignored $20,000 yearling is worth $5 million.
Bill Andrew was inducted in the Builder category, but could have also been inducted as a Communicator, given his philanthropic efforts to promte the industry. The Standardbred breeder comes from a racing family from Prince Edward Island, his grandfather being a trainer-driver starting in the 1930s through to the early 1960's. He moved to Alberta to build a career as an engineer in the petroleum industry, and later formed Meridian Farms to breed and race Standardbreds, and then added the former Glengyle Farm in PEI, renaming it Meridian Farms East. Class Pays, one of the first yearlings he purchased, earned $100,000 on the track before coming down with pneumonia. She went on to become a foundation broodmare. In 2015 he was presented with the Cam Fella Award by Standardbred Canada recognizing extreme recent meritorious service to the Canadian harness racing industry.
Chancey Lady is the inductee in the Standardbred Female Horse category. Cathy Wade Vlarr presented her trophy to Pat Woods, left and Larry Drysdale of Winbak Farms, where she is a broodmare. Purchased by Niele Jiwan out of the 2006 Lexington yearling sale, she earned $350,340 winning 7 of 10 as a 2-year-old including the OSS Gold Final, Super Final, and her Breeders Crown elimination. At age 3 she won the Fan Hanover, two Gold Finals, and another Breeders Crown elim. Moving south of the border for her 4 and up campaigns under new owner Hal Glestein she finished second to then-stablemate Androvette in the Breeders Crown. She retired with 43 wins in 143 starts, earning over $2 million, and since joining the Winbak broodmare band, has produced two geldings by Somebeachsomewhere, Somebeach Baron and Baron Chancey.
Dave Landry was inducted as a Standardbred Communicator, but could have also been inducted in the Thoroughbred division. Dave Briggs, one of the world's leading Standardbred journalists and editor of The Canadian Sportsman, presented Landry with his ring. Landry is one of Canada's most decorated equine photogaphers, with 7 Sovereign Awards, an Eclipse Award, George Smallsreed Award, Horse Publications of America award, and one from the World Trotting Conference. His images have appeared on the cover of over 500 publications. Although he started in the Thoroughbred industry, in 2002 Dave Briggs invited him to cover Standardbreds. Landry joins his brother Robert in the Hall, the retired jockey Robert being induucted in 2014. When he got wind of possibly being inducted, he joked to his wife during a cottage trip, "You might be sleeping with a Hall of Famer tonight" to which she quipped "Is Sandy Hawley coming?"
Shaman Ghost was inducted as a Thoroughbred Male Horse. Fellow inductee Dan Loiselle presented owners Frank and Andy Stronach with the trophy. The late foaling son of Ghostzapper took 4 tries to break his maiden, doing so at Gulfstream as a 3-year-old. By the end of that season, he had won the Queen's Plate, Marine Stakes, and was 2nd in the Prince of Wales for trainer Brian Lynch. An ankle injury ended the season early, but switched to new trainer Jimmy Jerkens for 2016, he won the Woodward (G1), Brooklyn (G3), was third in the Clark (G1), but a fever prevented him from running in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Last year he came back to finish second to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and second to Keen Ice in the Suburban (G2), along with winning the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and Pimlico Special (G3). He began his stallion career this year at Loveacres in California.
Dan Loiselle was inducted as a Thoroughbred Communicator, but if not for a career change early on, could well have been inducted in the Standardbred division. Dave Perkins, one of the Canada's top sportswriters and a personal friend to Loiselle, presented him with his Hall of Fame ring. Loiselle started in the Standardbred industry in the racing secretary office as a chartcaller, before finally taking the mic as a 17-year-old at Garden City Raceway in St. Catharines, Ontario. After calling harness races at Greenwood, at the time the epitome of Canadian Standardbred racing, in 1986 he was asked to make the switch to Thoroughbreds at Woodbine to take over from fellow Hall of Famer Daryl Wells Sr., who had called every race since the track opened in 1956. During his time in the booth he called 28 Queen's Plates as well as many other moments in Canadian racing history. His final race call, after calling some 55,000 races, was the Lady Angela Stakes on May 31, 2015, finishing the race wth the words "and that's that!"
Jim Doherty was inducted in the Standardbred Driver/Trainer category. Fellow Hall of Famer Bill O'Donnell presented his ring to his widow Marianne and sister Anne Gilbride) O'Donnell and Doherty were fierce rivals on the track but great friends. "Gentleman Jim" Doherty mostly drove and trained in the U.S. after getting his start working for Milton Downey in Saint John, New Brunswick. Over a 40 year career based mostly at the Meadowlands, he developed numerous champions inclucing Fools Goal, No Nonsense Woman, Starship Enterprise, and Green With Envy. He drove or trained 4700 winners with over $45 million in purse earnings. Doherty passed away in 2015 at the age of 74.
Reade Baker was inducted as a Thoroughbred Trainer. Hall of Fame director and Woodbine TV personality Jim Bannon presented Baker and his wife Janis Maine with the ring. The Woodbine-based trainer has developed such champions as Fatal Bullet, Bear Now, and Judith's Wild Rush. In 2005, his high watermark season, he win 1100 races, 126 in stakes company. He started his career as a groom and exercise rider for Pete McCann at Windfields Farm, and added stints as a jockey agent and running a bloodstock service. As a breeder he won stakes with Annihilate, Brock Street, and Mysteriously. His clients include Danny Dion's Bear Stables, Frank Stronach, Jim and Susan Hill, Richard Bonnycastle, John Franks, and Brereton Jones. Along with his equine business, as a hobby he is also a champion breeder of ducks and chickens, winning blue ribbons at the Royal Winter Fair. He will be remembered by attendees at the inductions for having the shortest acceptance speech, saying "It is an honor to be in this Hall with Northern Dancer."
Blissfull Hall is this year's inductee in the Male Standardbred Horse category. Bought by trainer Ben Wallace and owner Daniel Plouffe out of the 1997 Tattersalls Sale in Lexington for $47,000, he went on to a phenomenal 1999 season which alone gets him into the Hall. He won the Pacing Triple Crown (consisting of the Cane Pace at Meadowlands, Little Brown Jug at Delaware County Fair in Ohio, and the Messenger Stakes, run at the Meadows that year), as well as the American National, Adios, Simcoe, and the Progress Pace. Over a 2 year racing career he won 19 of 31 races and earned $1.4 million. That season he was the Champion 3-year-old pacer in both Canada (O'Brien Award) and the USA (Dan Patch Award), and was the U.S. Pacer of the Year. Retired to stud, his offspring have earned over $74 million on track, including millionnaires Marnie Hall and Camelot Hall. He retired from stallion duties in 2017 after spending a few years in Australia. As a surprise at the ceremony, trainer Ben Wallace (at podium, left) presented Blissfull Hall's Little Brown Jug winner's blanket to owner Daniel Plouffe (right), saying "Dan hasn't seen this thing in 19 years, when Blissfull Hall left the track with it that day" and added that he would like the blanket to be on display in the Hall of Fame someday.
John G. Sikura was the final inductee of the night, in the Thoroughbred Builder category. His brother, fellow Hall of Famer and a member of the Hall's Selection Committee, presented him with his ring. Sikura's father John Jr. was inducted into the Hall in 2013, having founded the powerful Hill 'n' Dale Farms north of Toronto. John G. Sikura played hockey through college and had hoped to play in the NHL, but lacking the size or ability for the top league, played in Denmark before suffering a broken nose. Rather than accept a contract offer for a German team, his father insisted he come home to "get a job", which he balked at but eventually his passion for the horse business won out. John Jr. bought a farm in Kentucky which John G. operated, breeding or co-breeding Belmont winner Touch Gold and Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Hill 'n' Dale Kentucky currently is home to Curlin, Kitten's Joy, Flintshire, and Stormy Atlantic. Concluding his acceptance speech he pointed out that Canadians should be proud of their role and influence in the global Thoroughbred racing industry, stating that "if not for Northern Dancer there would be no Coolmore -- no Sadler's Wells, no Galileo".
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