The 30th annual Sovereign Awards ceremony, honoring the champions of thoroughbred racing in Canada for 2004, was held on Friday night at the Wyndham Bristol Place Toronto Airport Hotel. Unlike their U.S. equivalent, the Eclipse Awards, horses must have started at least three starts in Canada to qualify. Winning connections are presented with a trophy, a replica of English racing great St. Simon.
The Sam-Son Farm contingent accepts the Horse of the Year award. Trainer Mark Frostad is on the left, jockey Todd Kabel under the trophy, and owner Tammy Samuel-Balaz is accepting the trophy.
Sam-Son Farm continued its domination of Canadian racing, winning five championships including Horse of the Year. Atto Mile winner Soaring Free led the way, as last year's champion sprinter was named champion turf horse and Horse of the Year, while stablemate Eye of the Sphinx was named champion 3-year-old filly off her wins in the Grade 2 Selene Stakes, the Fury Stakes, and the Labatt Woodbine Oaks. Sam-Son was also named champion owner for the eighth time overall, and champion breeder five years in a row. Tammy Samuel-Balaz said, "It's not every day you win Horse of the Year, and he is an incredible horse. Two years in a row he wins a Sovereign Award, and it's been a remarkable year. It is absolutely a thrill. We couldn't be luckier to have Woodbine as our home track."
Clearly, Soaring Free was the favorite to be named Horse of the Year. Besides his Atto Mile win, he finished a close up fourth place finish to Singletary in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park, ending a five-race winning streak, and he is just $83,000 short of the $2 million mark, in a career with 13 wins and 2 seconds in 22 starts.
Todd Kabel celebrates after he is announced as the champion jockey.
As well, Sam-Son's regular rider Todd Kabel was named champion jockey for the second year in a row. Kabel won 36 stakes race at Woodbine in 2004, tying the record set by Avelino Gomez. The Manitoba native also led the Woodbine colony in wins with 156 and purse earnings with over $10 million. Among his many highlights were wins in the Atto Mile with Soaring Free and the Labatt Woodbine Oaks with Eye of the Sphynx, both
Sovereign Award champions. Kabel said, "This year by far was the best in 20 years. Beating Avelino Gomez's record was something I've been working on for the past 3 years." He choked back tears when he thanked his family for being there, "to share this special moment with my (late) father who would be very proud."
A Bit O'Gold was named champion 3-year-old male, with his stakes wins in the Plate Trial, Prince of Wales Stakes, Breeders' Stakes, and the Ontario Derby, coming up just short in the Queen's Plate. He was 4-3-0 in 7 starts in 2004, earning just over $1.2 million for owner Two Bit Racing Stable and trainer Catherine Day-Phillips. His dam, Annasan, was also named champion broodmare of 2004.
Bob Tiller (right) accepts his champion trainer award from Conrad Cohen, president of the Ontario HBPA.
The 2-year-old filly Sovereign Award went to Simply Lovely, winner of the Muskoka, Victorian Queen, and Fanfreluche stakes, all by open lengths. Her trainer, Bob Tiller, was named champion trainer for the second year in a row and third time in four years, with 68 wins and over $3.8 million in purse earnings. Tiller was away from the track for 6 weeks in the summer, after a tumor was found in one of his kidneys. He had special thanks for his assistant Tommy who "stepped right in there and took over while I played telephone trainer for six weeks", and his wife for ensuring he got the best treatment possible during his hospitalization. "I truly have a great time training thoroughbred race horses. And there's no better place to train thoroughbred race horses than right here in Canada."
The M.A.D. Racing Stable group accepts their Sovereign award.
By far the most excited group to come up to the stage to collect their trophy was the M.A.D. Racing Stable, owner of Wholelottabourbon who won champion 2-year-old male. The son of Foxtrail was a three-time stakes winner (Colin, Silver Deputy and Bull Page), netting four victories in all for conditioner Nick Gonzalez.
In the female turf division, Inish Glora repeated as champion for owner Robert Costigan and trainer Mac Benson, winning the Nassau and Victoriana and finishing close second in the Dance Smartly and the Canadian Handicap, all with champion jockey Todd Kabel aboard. She retired at the end of the season to be a broodmare, with 22 in-the-money finishes in 32 starts, with earnings just short of $1 million.
The Sovereign Award for older male horse went to Mobil, owned by Gus Schickedanz and trained by Mike Keogh. The son of Langfuhr showed his versatility, winning the 7 furlong Vigil Stakes and then the 1 1/4 mile Dominion Day Handicap by almost 13 lengths, both main track events. He then finished a close second in the 1 3/8 mile Chinese Cultural Centre, and then won the 1 1/8 mile Halton, both on the turf.
Tucci Stables with trainer Sid Attard on the left accept their award for One for Rose.
The connections of champion older female One For Rose were appropriately dressed, as each sported a single rose boutonniere on their lapels. She won four stakes events in 2004, capped off by a 6 1/2 length romp in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes. The Sid Attard stable star is also part of an exclusive club, having topped the $1-million mark($1,047,243) in career earnings.
Blonde Executive beat the boys in her category, being named champion sprinter. The 3-year-old filly enjoyed a
highly productive campaign for Bruno Brothers Farm, taking four added-money scores, the Lady Angela, Passing Mood, Duchess and La Prevoyante. Tough as nails in the late going, the Radlie Loney trainee was a definite double threat in 2004, winning two races on the main track and two on the turf.
Corey Fraser accepts his award from Stacie Roberts of The Game.
Corey Fraser became the first male rider in four years to be named champion apprentice rider in Canada. The highly touted rider racked up 66 wins (ranking eighth at Woodbine) and $3.4-million in purse earnings. He
teamed with longshot Velvet Snow to take the Ontario Damsel Stakes on July 10, one of many smart rides from the
27-year-old. Fraser dedicated the award to his mother who died of lung cancer 3 years ago. He said of his agent Lorne Spearman, "If there was ever to be a Hall of Fame for jockey agents, he would be the founding member."
In the media awards categories, David Landry was honored for Outstanding Photograph, and Woodbine Entertainment Group's broadcast team won the trophy for Outstanding Broadcast. Darryl Kaplan was honored for his Outstanding Feature Story, and the award for Outstanding Newspaper Story went to Paul Wiecek. Copies of all the nominated articles are availble to read on the Jockey Club of Canada website in Word format.
Sonny and Cher?
As part of the entertainment for the evening, the band Legends Live was on hand along with celebrity impersonators. To the left is their Cher impersonator on stage with Sam Lima, president of the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club, who she dressed up with a Sonny Bono costume complete with wig and moustache while they sang "I Got You Babe". Other "celebrities" who performed were Shania Twain and Mick Jagger.
Here are the vote totals for the top three finalists for all the awards along with photos for several of the equine winners.
Atto Mile winner Soaring Free was named both Champion Male Turf Horse and Horse of the Year
Inish Glora was a repeat winner for Champion Turf Female
A Bit O'Gold was Champion 3-year-old Male
Eye of the Sphynx won Champion 3-year-old Filly
Mobil won Champion Older Male
Horse of the Year
Soaring Free 239
A Bit O'Gold 182
One For Rose 30
Champion 2-year-old Filly
Simply Lovely 200
South Bay Cove 145
Higher World 119
Champion 2-year-old Colt/Gelding
Dance With Ravens 114
Moonshine Justice 101
Champion 3-year-old Filly
Eye of the Sphynx 226
Blonde Executive 132
Regal Red 60
Champion 3-year-old Colt/Gelding
A Bit O'Gold 290
Organ Grinder 80
Champion Older Female
One for Rose 278
Winter Garden 107
Brass in Pocket 46
Champion Older Male
Mark One 100
Norfolk Knight 75
Champion Turf Female
Inish Glora 185
Classic Stamp 159
Hour of Justice 67
Champion Turf Male
Soaring Free 286
Slew Valley 68
Shoal Water 56
Blonde Executive 109
Winter Garden 101
Chris's Bad Boy 68
Queen of Egypt 101
Native Rights 89
Sam-Son Farm 261
Adena Springs 105
Gustav Schickedanz 51
Sam-Son Farm 240
Stronach Stables 148
Laura & Eugene Melnyk 36
Robert Tiller 211
Mark Frostad 159
Sid Attard 111
Outstanding Apprentice Jockey
Corey Fraser 259
Shannon Beauregard 102
Jillian Scharfstein 80
Todd Kabel 294
Patrick Husbands 86
Quincy Welch 41
Back to Horse-Races.Net main page
Want to keep up with what's new on this site? Sign up for my weekly newsletter here.