Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sweet Sovereign! Photos and Notes From Canada's Horse Racing Gala

Friday night I attended the 34th Annual Sovereign Awards held at the oh-so-swank Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto. The star-studded event was a black tie affair and Patrick Husbands, Jim McAleney and Eurico Rosa Da Silva shunned their usual silks for tuxedos.

Patrick Husbands in the glow of an 80s inspired Sovereign set.

Before a top jockey could be decided, the Sovereign Award for Top Apprentice was awarded to 25 year-old Saskatchewan native Janine Stianson who won 68 races at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs.

Janine Stianson smiles for the camera.

An excited Stianson said, "this is the most prestigious award I've ever won." Based on her success this past season, it won't be the last award Stianson claims. She's come a long way from her first winner as a 15 year-old on Lead Me To The Mine, and perhaps a season in Toronto is in her future.

Mark Casse capped off a strong year to win for Outstanding Trainer over fellow nominees Terry Jordan and Hall of Famer Roger Attfield. Casse said his biggest thrill of 2008 was Sealy Hill running second in the Breeders' Cup. I asked Casse about his star rider, Patrick Husbands, and the trainer was full of superlatives, "Patrick showed great determination...he's my go-to guy, it doesn't matter when I go, Patrick is the guy I depend on. It doesn't matter if it's the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders' Cup, I have faith that he'll give me what I need." Casse went on to praise Husbands work effort and you can sense a strong bond between Woodbine handicappers' favourite one-two punch.

Pre-Sovereign Award action from the Four Seasons Hotel

Patrick Husbands overcame what seemed an insurmountable Jim McAleney lead, to win the jockey's title on the last day of the year and was a deserving winner of the Sovereign for Outstanding Jockey. Husbands thanked a lot of his success to working with trainers like Scott Fairlie and Bob Tiller and showed great respect to trainer Mark Casse who provided him with not only live mounts, but friendship and encouragement when the physical effects of a long season were taking a hard toll. It was good to see a smiling Patrick Husbands enjoying the result of his hard work.

Triple Dead Heat with the King of Woodbine - Patrick Husbands

The big winner of the night was undoubtedly Danny Dion of Bear Stables, who took home four awards including Champion Sprinter (Fatal Bullet), Champion Older Female (Bear Now), Outstanding Owner, and topped it off with Fatal Bullet beating out Ginger Brew and Rahy's Attorney for Horse of the Year. Dion said, "this is a dream come true...we came here hoping to win an award or two, but to win Owner of the Year and Horse of the Year is out of this world." Many of Dion's horses have the "Bear" name and Bear Now is just one example of the great horses Dion has brought to the track.

One of my favourite "Bears" from 2008 is Jimmymac Bear, named for top jockey Jim McAleney. Dion explained, "Jimmy Mac was in Florida at the auction sale and he told me that he liked Hip Number 55...the next day the horse was selling for $35,000 and I decided to take a chance. Jimmy will always ride that horse as he's part of the story. He's a nice horse and has potential." Jimmymac Bear is currently in Florida with the rest of the Bear crew so keep an eye out.

Dion made it known that his main goal is to one day find a Bear in the winner's circle of the Kentucky Derby. Dion wasn't the only Sovereign winner gunning towards the Run For The Roses, the connections of Champion 2 Year-Old Male, Mine That Bird, also announced they were pointing toward the first Saturday in May. Look out Kentucky!

Brazilian born jockey Eurico Rosa Da Silva took time to talk a little footy with me and profess his support for Corinthians as well as Real Madrid. Da Silva rode over 100 winners this season and hopes next year he will score as often as his favourite footballer Romario.

Eurico Rosa Da Silva and his beautiful wife Claudia.

For me, the most important story of the night though belongs to Down The Stretch editor Peter Gross who won the Sovereign for Outstanding Feature Story for his piece on Alex Brown titled, How Many Horses Can One Man Save. Alex Brown has been featured several times in Triple Dead Heat and the work Brown does is so important in promoting the safety and welfare of race horses. On a night that rewarded so many people for their investment in race horses, it seems fitting that a story about saving the stars of the show raced out a winner.

Peter Gross and Ron Waples sharing a laugh.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my night, it is apparent that my wish list for 2009 will include a new camera. More photos and stories from the night will be posted soon. Congratulations to all the nominees!

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Visit Alex Brown Racing and read about the issues and get involved.

Visit Long Run Thoroughbred Retirement Society and adopt a horse or volunteer.

Visit Phase 2 Thoroughbreds and help a race horse find a second career.

Get political with the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition.

Donate funds directly from your HorsePlayerInteractive account to the Long Run Retirement Society. 1500 points can be redeemed for a $5 donation.

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Here's a listing of the winners from the 34th Annual Sovereign Awards.

2-YEAR-OLD FILLY: Van Lear Rose
2-YEAR-OLD MALE: Mine That Bird
3-YEAR-OLD MALE: Not Bourbon
3-YEAR-OLD FILLY: Ginger Brew
SPRINTER: Fatal Bullet
MALE TURF HORSE: Rahy’s Attorney
FEMALE TURF HORSE: Callwood Dancer
JOCKEY: Patrick Husbands
TRAINER: Mark Casse
OWNER: Bear Stables
BREEDER: Adena Springs
BROODMARE: Kathie’s Colleen

FILM/VIDEO/BROADCAST: Horse Racing Alberta & Whiteiron Productions