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The Sovereign Awards


Sam-Son Farm was the big winner this year, taking home three awards. Here Tammy Samuel-Balaz (right) and trainer Mark Frostad (left) accept the Outstanding Breeders award from Glenn Sikura of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.
Date: 12/06/2003

As expected, Triple Crown winner Wando was honored as Canada's Horse of the Year at the 29th annual Sovereign Awards dinner at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel on Saturday night. These awards are given for outstanding achievement in Canadian racing and are their equivalent of the Eclipse Awards in the United States. For a horse to be eligible to win, he or she must have started at least three times in Canada. A sell-out crowd of about 800 was on hand for the festivities.


Gus Schickedanz's daughter (center) and trainer Mike Keogh (right) accept the Champion 3-year-old award from the Honourable Stan Keyes, MP for Hamilton.
Unfortunately, Wando's owner Gustav Schickedanz was not in attendance to pick up his awards. Accepting the awards alongside trainer Mike Keogh was his daughter, who explained that he is at their farm in South Carolina for the winter, but that "he will be thrilled." When Wando was declared Horse of the Year, she said, "There's nothing left for me to say. It's been a Wando-ful evening! Amen!"

Although Wando took home both Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male awards, perennial winners Sam-Son Farm were back at it again, capturing the Sovereigns for champion broodmare Radiant Ring, sprinter Soaring Free, and outstanding breeder. Accepting those awards were owner Tammy Samuel-Balaz and trainer Mark Frostad. Soaring Free was a surprise, given that later in the year he was switched to turf and was a mile specialist, finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Mile.


Bob Tiller (left) accepts the Outstanding Trainer award from Conrad Cohen of the HBPA.
Surprisingly, Wando's connections were shut out: owner Gustav Schickedanz lost to Stronach Stables for champion owner and to Sam-Son Farm for champion breeder, and Mike Keogh lost to Bob Tiller for the trainer award. Despite having the most wins this year with 72, 17 in stakes races, Tiller was apologetic when accepting his award, saying, "In my heart, I wish it was a dead heat. I can't say enough for Mike Keogh." To Keogh he said, "I waited 30 years to get up here. I know you will be here soon." Asked afterwards about what the newly crowned Horse of the Year is up to, Keogh said, "I'm going to give him most of December for light training. We'll start him up in January and we should have a better idea in March (about a race schedule). We'll just take it slowly and see how we do." Wando was shipped last week to Palm Meadows in Florida.


Robert Costigan and his wife accept the award for their mare Inish Glora as Champion Turf Female.
Stronach Stables did not disappoint, being voted Champion Owner and also taking Champion Older Male Horse for Phantom Light. The son of Alphabet Soup captured two graded stakes this year, the Eclipse in May and the Dominion Day in July.

An amazing story this year was Inish Glora, the champion female turf horse. In February this year, the 5-year-old mare broke her pelvis but made it back to the races, winning three of six starts including the Victoriana Stakes in August and then the Grade 2 Canadian Handicap in September. Owner Robert Costigan gave full credit to trainer Mac Benson for his work in bringing her back successfully.


Jockey winner Todd Kabel with the permanent Sovereign trophy.
The most emotional win of the day had to be the jockey award. Todd Kabel, who nosed out Patrick Husbands on the last day of the season to win the jockey title for the Woodbine 2003 season, after promising his dying father Alex that he would win. Accompanied on stage with his four children, he said, "I owe it all to my father, who made me wake up and smell the coffee. I've grown a lot wiser this year. I'm not perfect and I never will be, but I made a lot of changes in my life. I made a promise to my father to work harder and I tried my best and although I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to, Dad, this Sovereign is for you. I'd like to thank everyone who's made this possible for me. I've been very fortunate to ride for the best owners. I'm proud of Canada and I'm just blanked now."


Apprentice jockey winner Julia Brimo with her award.
The race for the award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey was a tight one, with 27-year old Julia Brimo defeating Jill Scharfstein and Nicola Wright, in a female sweep of the top three in the voting. Despite not winning a stakes all year, her 623 mounts' earnings totaled $2,768,195. She actually took the latter part of the 2002 season off in order to save her apprentice allowance for this year.

Winnipeg Free Press turf writer Paul Wiecek swept both awards he was nominated for, capturing Best Feature Story for his article "Nightmare at the Track", a story which detailed how the death of a jockey at Assiniboia Downs led to the formation of the Jockey's Guild, and for "Horse Runs Miracle Race", about a horse that escaped the track grounds and ran down a busy highway, then coming back the next day to win a stakes race. Horse Racing Alberta and White Iron Productions completed the Western sweep of the media categories, taking the Outstanding Film/Video/Broadcast award for their telecast of the Canadian Derby from Northlands Park. Copies of all the nominated articles are availble to read on the Jockey Club of Canada website in Word format.

Here are the vote totals for the top three finalists for all the awards.


Triple Crown winner Wando was the obvious choice for Champion 3-year-old and Horse of the Year



Inish Glora was the runaway winner for Champion Turf Female



Perfect Soul cliched the Champion Turf Male title with his successes outside Canada



Soaring Free was a finalist in two categories and won Champion Sprinter
Horse of the Year Wando 215 Perfect Soul 61 Soaring Free 53 Champion 2-year-old Filly My Vintage Port 208 Silver Bird 107 America America 34 Champion 2-year-old Colt/Gelding Judiths Wild Rush 183 Smoocher 97 A Bit O'Gold 77 Champion 3-year-old Filly Too Late Now 112 Winter Garden 111 Dancewithavixen 91 Champion 3-year-old Colt/Gelding Wando 228 Mobil 107 Roscoe Pito 61 Champion Older Female One for Rose 192 Brass in Pocket 125 Winning Chance 56 Champion Older Male Phantom Light 104 Forever Grand 103 Wake at Noon 74 Champion Turf Female Inish Glora 221 Chopinina 62 Strait from Texas 46 Champion Turf Male Perfect Soul 178 Soaring Free 128 Strut the Stage 57 Champion Sprinter Soaring Free 152 Forever Grand 123 Mulligan the Great 42 Outstanding Broodmare Radiant Ring 122 Biddy Mulligan 64 Annasan 61 Outstanding Breeder Sam-Son Farm 155 Gustav Schickedanz 141 Adena Springs 81 Outstanding Owner Stronach Stables 139 Gustav Schickedanz 137 Sam-Son Farm 91 Outstanding Trainer Robert Tiller 193 Michael Keogh 95 Mark Frostad 54 Outstanding Apprentice Jockey Julia Brimo 179 Nicola Wright 132 Jillian Scharfstein 49 Outstanding Jockey Todd Kabel 224 Patrick Husbands 111 Emile Ramsammy 32
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