Kentucky Derby Contenders
Saffie Joseph 1000 wins
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Sovereign Award finalists
Owner Eugene Melnyk cleaned up winning 4 awards including Horse of the Year for his 3-year-old filly Sealy Hill.
The 33rd annual Sovereign Awards, saluting outstanding achievement in Canadian Thoroughbred racing and breeding in 2007, were handed out at a ceremony on Friday night at the Frontenac Ballroom of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in downtown Toronto. Unlike their U.S. equivalent, the Eclipse Awards, horses must have started at least three times in Canada to qualify, with a new exception for this year where juveniles need only make two starts in Canada. Winning connections are presented with a trophy which is a replica of English racing great St. Simon.
Eugene Melnyk accepts the Horse of the Year award for his filly Sealy Hill from Dick Bonnycastle, Chairman of the Jockey Club of Canada.
Melnyk said of his star filly, "When you see things come together in our program, like Sealy Hill, it is most satisfying." When claiming his award as champion owner, he said, "When I look at the (awards ceremony) program here and see who has won this award before, I see names like Ernie Samuel, Frank Stronach, Kinghaven Farm, Steve Stavro. These were people I looked up to, and I always wanted to do what they were doing. This business is a lot of work but it's the most fun you can have. It takes so much patience and money to invest in this business. The decisions you make each autumn, well, you don't see the results for four years."
Mark Casse accepts the Outstanding Trainer award from Sam Lima, president of the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club.
Patrick Husbands accepts his 5th Sovereign as Outstanding Jockey from Lou Cauz, Managing Director of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall Of Fame.
Jockey Patrick Husbands was named Outstanding Jockey of 2007, his fifth time winning, with most of his stakes wins being aboard horses owned by Eugene Melnyk and trained by Mark Casse. The native of Bridgetown, Barbados led all riders at Woodbine with 149 wins in 717 starts, with 147 seconds and 89 thirds, earning $9,171,168 for the year. He is best remembered not only as Mark Casse's regular rider but also as the jockey of 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, which earned him accolades in his home country including the Barbados Service Star.
Tyler Pizarro was named Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, as his 124 victories and $5.2 million in earnings were tops among all apprentices at Woodbine this year.
Lover's Talk was named Outstanding Broodmare, a lifetime achievement award. Of her 14 foals, 12 raced, including stakes winners Love Grows, Barley Talk, Torrid Affair, Wild Whiskey, and Lyrically. The daughter of Vice Regent has recorded total progeny earnings of $1,768,047 to date.
Dr. Jerrold Schwartz and his wife accept the award for Champion Male Turf Horse for Cloudy's Knight from Woodbine CEO David Wilmot.
Frank Stronach's Adena Springs edged out Eugene Melnyk for the Outstanding Breeder award. Their stakes winners in Canada this year include Awesome Action, Executive Choice, Just Rushing, and The Niagara Queen. 148 Adena Springs horses made a total of 844 North American starts, with 132 wins including 13 stakes. Farm manager Mike Rogers was on hand to accept the trophy.
Owner K.K. Sangara accepts the award for Champion Older Female for Financingavailable from Andy Bryant, President of Horse Racing Alberta.
The 6-year-old grey mare Financingavailable took home two awards for her owner K.K. Sangara, as she was named Champion Older Female and also Champion Sprinter, a category in which three of the four finalists were distaffers. She raced exclusively at Woodbine in 2007, with wins in the Ballade, the Victoriana on turf, the Classy'n Smart, and then the Ontario Fashion. The daughter of Kiridashi earned $451,151 in 7 starts this year.
Kodiak Kowboy, winner of the Bashford Manor and Saratoga Special, was named Champion 2-Year-Old Male. Although he mostly raced in the U.S., closing out he year with a 3rd place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), he qualified for the award under the new rule where juveniles only need 2 Canadian starts. The Steve Asmussen trainee started off his career with a close fourth place finish in a 1/4 mile dash at Woodbine, and then after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs, he returned to Woodbine to win the Victoria Stakes.
Prince of Wales Stakes winner Alezzandro was named Champion 3-Year-Old Male, edging out stablemate Leonnatus Anteas. Alezzandro made his debut in May a winning one, and after finishing second in the Queen's Plate to Mike Fox, came back to take the second jewel of the Triple Crown. He closed out the year with a runner-up finish in the Ontario Derby.
Owner Bob Cheema accepts the Champion 2-year-old Filly for Dancing Allstar from Jim Lawson, a steward of the Jockey Club of Canada.
In the media categories, Horse Racing Alberta and White Iron Productions took home the award for Outstanding Film/Video/Broadcast for "The Alberta Derby", which was shown on CTV in Alberta. Allan Besson wrote the Outstanding Newspaper Article, "Graduation Day Celebration" which appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. Michael Burns Jr. won the Outstanding Photograph award for the seventh time, with "By Dawn's Early Light" which appeared in the Toronto Star. Finally, Paul Wiecek wrote the Outstanding Feature Story with "Holding Life by the Reins" which appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. This is Wiecek's fifth Sovereign Award.
Before the equine awards were handed out, the Jockey Club of Canada awarded a Special Sovereign Award to Louis Romanet, Director General of France Galop and Chairman of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. The Special Sovereign was last awarded in 2002. Romanet is heralded as a principal architect behind contemporary French horse racing, and just days before the awards ceremony, was instrumental in securing a new sponsorship deal for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) which increased its purse to 5 million euros, making it the second richest race in the world. While at the help of the International Cataloguing Standards Committee, he assisted the Jockey Club of Canada in establishing the Canadian Graded Stakes Committee. He steps down from his position at France Galop at the end of the year, but will continue to serve as chairman of the IFHA until October 2009.
Here are the vote totals for the top three finalists for all the awards along with photos for several of the equine winners. Votes were cast for the top three choices, 4 points for first, 2 for second, and 1 for third, in each category by voters and the top point getters were named the finalists. The voters are individuals serving in industry positions such as senior racing officials, racing journalists and commentators, as well as provincial representatives of the Breeding and Horsemen's organizations.
Sealy Hill was Champion 3-year-old Filly, Champion Turf Female, and Horse of the Year
Cloudy's Knight was Champion Turf Male
Kodiak Kowboy was Champion Two-Year-Old Male
Alezzandro was Champion 3-year-old Male
True Metropolitan was Champion Older Male for the second year in a row
Outstanding Trainer Mark Casse (far left) with Sealy Hill at Turfway Park
The 48th Highlander Pipes and Drums carry in the permanent trophy for the Sovereign Awards ceremony.
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