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A herd of Sovereign Awards trophies awaits their new owners on stage at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

The Sovereign Awards

Date: 12/12/2008

The 34th annual Sovereign Awards, saluting outstanding achievement in Canadian Thoroughbred racing and breeding in 2008, were handed out at a ceremony on Friday night at the Regency Ballroom in the Four Seasons 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 introduced last 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.

Owner Danny Dion accepts the Horse of the Year trophy for Fatal Bullet from Michael Byrne, a steward of the Jockey Club of Canada. He is flanked by jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva and trainer Reade Baker.
The night belonged to Bear Stables, as owner Danny Dion came up on stage to claim a total of four trophies. Not only was he named Outstanding Owner for 2008, but his stable star Fatal Bullet was named Champion Sprinter and Canada's Horse of the Year. The son of Red Bullet won 6 of 8 starts this year, including the Bold Venture at Woodbine, the Tom Ridge Labor Day at Presque Isle, and the Kentucky Cup Sprint (G3) at Turfway. He capped off his championship season with a second place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1). As well, Bear Now was named Champion Older Female on the Main Track. The daughter of Tiznow won the Hill N Dale, Ontario Matron, and Kentucky Cup Distaff (G3), before finishing last after setting the pace in the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (G1).

Dion said of Fatal Bullet, "People ask me why he wasn't named Bear something. Well, Bear Bullet was already taken. So I named him Fatal, after my 'femme fatale', my wife who picked him in the sale. It's the Bear invasion of Toronto! I am shocked! I was not expecting owner of the year or Horse of the Year (for Fatal Bullet). I thank my horses and the Bear team. It's amazing when the little guy has a chance. It's beyond my dreams." Wanting to share the spotlight, Dion handed the microphone off to trainer Reade Baker, who quipped, "Thank God for fast horses!"

Frank Stronach's wife Elfriede and son Andy accept the Outstanding Breeder award for their Adena Springs Farm from Glenn Sikura of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.
Marchfield was named Champion Older Male on the Main Track, with 3 wins in 7 starts this year including two allowance events and the Autumn Stakes (G2) in November. He also finished second in the With Approval (a turf event moved to the Polytrack) and the Durham Cup (G3). Owner-breeder Eugene Melnyk accepted the award, thanking his whole team for their winning efforts. Mark Casse, who trains most of Melnyk's Canadian-based runners, was named Outstanding Trainer for 2008. The 47-year-old Indianapolis native is the first trainer to win this award three consecutive years, and was the leading conditioner at Woodbine with 75 wins, 9 stakes wins, and purse earnings of $5,648,751. As well, Mark Casse's regular rider Patrick Husbands was named Outstanding Jockey for the second year in a row and sixth overall. Husbands recorded his fifth Woodbine riding title, with 166 wins, 9 stakes wins, and purse earnings of $9,433,918. As of December 9 he has 1,860 career victories.

Owners Joe and Ellen MacLellan accept the award for Champion Male Turf Horse for Rahy's Attorney from Harvey Warner, president of the Manitoba Jockey Club.

Frank Stronach's Adena Springs picked up two awards on the night, being named Outstanding Breeder for the fourth year in a row and seventh overall, but also for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly Ginger Brew. The daughter of Milwaukee Brew was never worse than second in her 8 lifetime starts, which included wins in the Calder Oaks on the turf, then the Woodbine Oaks, and the Jammed Lovely on the Polytrack. Her most impressive race was against males in the Queen's Plate when she finished a close second. Frank Stronach's wife Elfrieda accepted the award. She said, "Ginger Brew, Ginger Punch, that name seems to work for us!" Adena Springs also bred Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet.

Janine Stianson was named Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. The 25-year-old from Saskatchewan won 68 of 370 starts at Assiniboia Downs this year, including wins in the Hazel Wright Sire Stakes aboard Blueberry Blonde and the Gold Strike Mile aboard Bella Mariella. On opening day at Assiniboia, her debut at the Winnipeg track, she won the first four races on the card.

The Champion Male Turf Horse award went to Rahy's Attorney. He only had two wins in 8 starts this year, the Connaught Cup (G3) and an upset in the Woodbine Mile (G1) over Ventura and Kip Deville, but he also showed distance versatility on the turf finishing second in the Singspiel Stakes at 1 1/2 miles. He ended off his championship season finishing 9th but only 3 lengths behind in the Mile Championship (G1) at Kyoto, Japan in November. Owners Joe and Ellen MacLellan accepted the trophy.

Owner-breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Roger Attfield (left) accept the award for Champion 3-Year-Old Male for Not Bourbon from Vicki Pappas of the LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society.
The Champion Female Turf Horse voting was close, with Callwood Dancer edging out Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf runner-up Sealy Hill. Callwood Dancer was 3 for 7 in 2008, including a win in the Nassau Stakes (G2) and runner-up finishes in both the Canadian (G2) and the E.P. Taylor (G1), finishing in front of Sealy Hill on both occasions. She finished off the season with a close fourth in the Cardinal Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs. Owner Richard Bonnycastle Jr. was unable to attend so trainer Roger Attfield accepted the award on his behalf.

Queen's Plate winner Not Bourbon was named Champion 3-Year-Old Male, edging out Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet in the voting. In his championship year where he won 4 of 6 starts, Not Bourbon also won the Queenston, the Plate Trial, and the Overskate, with his only out-of-the-money finish being in the Prince of Wales Stakes. Owner-breeder Charles Fipke accepted the award. He talked about Not Bourbon's unraced sire Not Impossible, who had physical problems as a yearling and veterinarians had written him off, recommending he be put down.

Owner Michelle Manfredonia (right) accepts the award for Champion 2-Year-Old Male for Mine That Bird from David Willmot, president and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment Group.

Kathie's Colleen, best known as the dam of 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, was named Outstanding Broodmare, a lifetime achievement award, in her first year of eligibility. The daughter of Woodman won the Monmouth Oaks and was second in the Woodbine Oaks for owner-breeder Gus Schickedanz before going on to produce Wando and stakes winner Six Sexy Sisters, both by Langfuhr, and stakes placed Half Sister, by More than Ready.

Van Lear Rose was named Champion 2-Year-Old Filly. The daughter of Stroll won the Muskoka and the Mazarine (G3) at Woodbine, and was third in the Shady Well in July. She finished off the season with a sixth place finish to Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Santa Anita. Mine That Bird was named Champion 2-Year-Old Male. The son of Birdstone won four races in a row for trainer David Cotey including the Silver Deputy, Swynford, and Grey (G3), before being sold privately to Double Eagle Farm who sent him to California and trainer Richard Mandella, where he finished last in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

Janine Stianson accepts the award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey from Robert King Jr., secretary manager of the Jockeys' Benefit Association of Canada.
In the media categories, Horse Racing Alberta and White Iron Productions took home the award for Outstanding Film/Video/Broadcast for "The Ky Alta Stakes", which was shown on CTV Alberta, their fourth award overall and second in a row. Beverley Smith wrote the Outstanding Newspaper Article, "Race for Life" which appeared in the Globe and Mail, winning her second Sovereign. First-time winner Matt Waples took home the Outstanding Photograph award for "Not Bourbon Gets Kissed" which appeared in Canadian Thoroughbred Magazine. Finally, Peter Gross wrote the Outstanding Feature Story with "How Many Horse Can One Man Save" which appeared in Down The Stretch Newspaper, his second Sovereign Award.

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.

Fatal Bullet was Champion Sprinter and Horse of the Year

Ginger Brew was Champion 3-Year-Old Filly

Callwood Dancer was Champion Female Turf Horse

Rahy's Attorney was Champion Male Turf Horse

Marchfield was Champion Older Male on the Main Track

Bear Now was champion Older Female on the Main Track
Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet 177 Rahy's Attorney 76 Ginger Brew 58 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly Van Lear Rose 141 Laragh 88 Cawaja Beach 70 Champion Two-Year-Old Colt Mine That Bird 187 Southern Exchange 83 Utterly Cool 74 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Ginger Brew 227 Sugar Bay 120 Authenicat 40 Champion Three-Year-Old Male Not Bourbon 172 Fatal Bullet 155 Marlang 42 Champion Older Female on the Main Track Bear Now 220 Akronism 68 Against the Sky 54 Champion Older Male on the Main Track Marchfield 144 Ice Bear 78 Spaghetti Mouse 50 Champion Female Turf Horse Callwood Dancer 171 Sealy Hill 159 Sugar Bay 88 Champion Male Turf Horse Rahy's Attorney 212 Seaside Retreat 112 Marlang 50 Champion Sprinter Fatal Bullet 238 Disfunction 37 Akronism 33 Outstanding Broodmare Kathie's Colleen 71 May Time 43 Forty Gram 40 Outstanding Apprentice Jockey Janine Stianson 113 Catherine O'Brien 97 Melanie Pinto 56 Outstanding Jockey Patrick Husbands 137 James McAleney 121 Eurico Rosa da Silva 55 Outstanding Trainer Mark Casse 148 Roger Attfield 130 Terry Jordan 47 Outstanding Owner in Canada Bear Stables 120 Stronach Stables 96 Tucci Stables 58 Outstanding Breeder Adena Springs 208 Eugene Melnyk 101 Gardiner Farms Limited 55

The 48th Highlander Pipes and Drums carry in the permanent trophy for the Sovereign Awards ceremony.
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