Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preview: Picking Winners From The 2009 Sovereign Award Finalists

Those of you hanging onto your New Year's Resolutions by a thread might feel differently but it certainly seems like January is flying by at warp speed.

Rachel Alexandra was crowned Horse of the Year on Monday evening and in two short weeks, Canada's best will be honoured at the 35th Annual Sovereign Awards.

However, before I take a walk through the list of Sovereign Award finalists there are plenty of interesting entries involving Woodbine-based trainers and horses over the coming week.

Of note, Josie Carroll sends out three year-old maiden Capote Ruler on Saturday January 23rd at the Fair Grounds. Click here for the entries.

Later that day, Good and Lucky - a seven year-old gelding owned in part by Carroll - will try the $75K Louisiana Handicap going 1 1/6M on the turf. Two horses that played a big part in the Kentucky Derby trail last year, FRIESAN FIRE and GENERAL QUARTERS, are in the mix and should draw a lot of attention from the bettors. Click here for the entries.

Mark Casse has an interesting Eugene Melnyk homebred by the name of Carlton Beach lined up Friday at Tampa Bay Downs. This $20K MSW features ten three year-olds going 1 1/16M on the turf. Casse has Dream Commander in the same event. Click here for the entries.

Philadelphia Park punters searching for an angle in Friday's Daily Double can take a shot on a pair of Ontario-breds. In the first race, 3YO filly Sharp N Flashy bred by Chiefswood Stable is a solid 8/5 favourite. In the second leg, Scott Fairlie sends out 4YO filly Forcefully who was bred by Kinghaven Farms. Click here for the entries.

If you get lucky, you can put your winnings on Ted Coker Ontario-bred Heart of Cold in Saturday's eighth race at Philly Park.

Mark Frostad and Malcolm Pierce will be very busy with stakes events on Saturday at the Fair Grounds.

Frostad sends out the Sam-Son Farms stalwart Grand Adventure in the F. W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes sprinting six furlongs against six other entrants. Grand Adventure will have his hands full with the Steve Asmussen trained Sok Sok. Click here for the entries.

Grand Adventure in his Woodbine stall earlier this year

Pierce pitches Pin Oak Stable's Get Rich Quick into the $100K G3 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap against just six foes in a winnable 1 1/16M Turf test. The Darley Stable owned Tybalt will offer resistance. Click here for the entries.

Mommie Whiz will try her best to capture the $75K Dr. A. B. Leggio Memorial Stakes for Pierce in a hectic 5 1/2 furlong sprint on the turf. Woodbine stakes winning filly Juliet's Spirit is one of twelve entered in this difficult dash. Click here for the entries.

In case you missed it in Monday's post, Roger Attfield sends out a pair of runners - Society's Chairman and Simmard - in an ALLOWANCE OPTIONAL CLAIMING $100,000 at Gulfstream on January 22nd. This 1 1/8M turf tilt features a full ten-horse field including the Mark Casse conditioned Sterwins.

G3 Connaught Cup winner Sterwins returns at Gulfstream on January 22nd

Rob Landry will get the call on Simmard. This impressive race features Bittel Road and Yate's Black Cat in what should be a highly competitive field. Click on the link to see the entries.

Attfield also sends out Ontario-bred Impossible Time to take on another Ontario-bred Manitoba Miss on January 21st at Gulfstream. Click on the link to see the entries.

All of these races are available for wagering at HorseplayerInteractive.

And now back to regularly scheduled Sovereign Award preview.

The Jockey Club of Canada announced the finalists for the 2009 edition of the Sovereign Awards on Monday afternoon. The awards will be presented at the 35th annual Sovereign Awards dinner to be held Jan. 29 at the Ultra Supper Club in Toronto. Ultra is located at 314 Queen Street West.

It's not too late to get tickets to the event. Tickets are $150 and can be purchased by calling the Jockey Club of Canada, (416) 675-7756 or by email at

Attire for the evening is listed as, "Elegantly Casual", which has kept me busy stitching the rips in my jeans back together for the past few nights.

On with the review. The finalists are:

Champion 2-Year-Old Female
Bay to Bay
Franny Freud

This category should belong to Biofuel. The Reade Baker trainee surprised the punters with a win in the G3 Mazarine at 23-1 and then headed off to the Breeders' Cup nearly pulling out a miraculous win. With a ferocious stretch run, Biofuel was charging down the centre of the track only to be bounced by fellow nominee Negligee in what the Form comments note as being "Bumped soundly 1/8".

It's the only time I've ever seen jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva without his trademark smile. Watch the race for yourself and see if you think Biofuel was robbed. At least one Eclipse Award voter thought so as the Stormin Fever filly earned a single Eclipse vote for Champion Two-Year-Old Female.

Biofuel bumped in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies

Brian Lynch sent out the excellent Sligo Bay filly Bay to Bay for two wins in four starts never missing the board while winning $172K. Her impressive victory in the G3 Natalma over Jungle Tale was one of the highlights of the turf season.

Bay to Bay's a beauty

Franny Freud won four of six starts in 2009 and earnings of $308K. One of those wins was a half length decision over Negligee in the Ontario Debutante Stakes

Negligee is in with a shout in this category. The Northern Afleet filly beat eventual BC Juvenile winner She Be Wild in the G1 Alcibiad at Keeneland before the infamous right turn at the 1/8 pole in the BC Juvenile. Had Negligee kept focus, there might have been a photo finish with Biofuel.

Champion 2-Year-Old Male
Bear Tough Guy
Ghost Fleet

This category should be a walk for Robert and Harvey Wortzman's Hollinger. Undefeated in four starts, the Attfield trainee banked $366K while winning both the Cup & Saucer and Coronation Futurity.

Bear Stables Ltd owns lightly raced Bear Tough Guy who won both his races by a neck. The maiden breaker was an impressive mile on the turf at 12-1 followed by a thrilling victory in the G3 Grey Stakes over Korvette Kid and Mobthewarrior. The latter came back to win the Frost King handily.

Ghost Fleet went three for six in an eventful campaign winning the Vandal and Swynford stakes then weakened late to finish fourth in the Coronation Futurity won by Hollinger.

*The voters did not make much of Hastings Park-based gelding Huitzilopochtli five wins in six starts. The only loss occurred over a sloppy track. Modest winnings of $128K and plenty of room for improvement in 2010.

Champion 3-Year-Old Female
Hooh Why
Milwaukee Appeal
Tasty Temptation

Before you ask, Careless Jewel was not eligible as she had not raced the required number of times in Canada.

I love Milwaukee Appeal for this award. The daughter of Milwaukee Brew was tenacious in all nine of her starts finishing in the money eight times. Her two wins came in the Star Shoot Stakes followed soon after by a smashing run in the Oaks with Stewart Elliott in the irons.

Milwaukee Appeal chilling out on shedrow

Two weeks after the Oaks win, Milwaukee Appeal took on the boys in the Queen's Plate and missed by a neck with a brave stretch run. In the second leg of the Triple Crown, Milwaukee Appeal was denied by the narrowest of margins at Fort Erie in the Prince of Wales Stakes.

A cruel photo finish for Milwaukee Appeal

A month later she chased home Careless Jewel in the G1 Alabama at Saratoga.

Scott Fairlie did an excellent job with this filly and it was a treat to watch her face a new challenge in nearly every start.

Hooh Why earned $452K over eight races including an awesome G1 victory in the Ashland over the likes of Stardom Bound and Gozzip Girl. In May, Hooh Why sizzled a 95 Beyer defeating both Tasty Temptation and Milwaukee Appeal. Her ambitious campaign which included trips to five different tracks is certainly worthy of this award.

Tasty Temptation saved the best for last by winning the Wonder Where Stakes at 1 1/4M on the turf. The Medaglia d'Oro filly spent much of the 2009 campaign in tough against her fellow nominees, but it would appear this roan has much room for improvement.

Tasty Temptation enjoyed her first taste of the Stakes winners circle

Champion 3-Year-Old Male
Awesome Rhythm
El Brujo
Eye of the Leopard

This category is wide open. Eye of the Leopard has $786,340 in earnings thanks to his dramatic Queen's Plate victory. After a third place finish in the Prince of Wales, the colt did not enjoy his 1 1/2M jaunt on the E.P Taylor turf in the Breeders and his campaign fizzled out with a sixth place finish in the Ontario Derby.

Click on the link for a Queen's Plate report entitled Photo Essay: Eye of the Leopard Wins The Queen's Plate

Sprinter El Brujo's pair of G3 wins in Kentucky might earn the Candy Ride gelding the nod here. The sprinter tried his best to keep pace in the distance races of the Triple Crown but his forte is obviously speed.

El Brujo wins the G3 Perryville at Keeneland

Awesome Rhythm won three stakes events in a row early in the season including the Wando, Marine and Victoria Park. In his last start of the campaign, Awesome Rhythm failed to hold on in the G2 Autumn at Woodbine against older horses. A win there might have pushed him into the lead for this award.

I'll give the nod to El Brujo.

Champion Older Female
Ginger Brew
Smart Surprise

I have a soft spot for Ginger Brew. The Oaks winner in 2008 won only one race in 2009 but it was a ferocious wire-to-wire route of the Belle Mahone which earned a 98 Beyer rating. Narrow losses to Serenading and Points of Grace in the Maple Leaf and Dance Smartly Stakes point to the obvious class of this daughter of Milwaukee Brew.

The photogenic Ginger Brew lived next door to Ventura briefly under the care of Brian Lynch at Woodbine

Serenading charged into the Sovereign picture with a resounding three length win in the G2 Fall City Handicap at Churchill Downs to complete her 2009 CV. In the money four times in six starts with earnings of $251K, the Josie Carroll charge is in tough against her stablemate.

Smart Surprise won $341K under the guidance of Carrol with wins in the Hendrie, Hill N Dale and Ontario Matron. The consistent Smart Strike mare was in the money in seven of eight starts and is my pick for this award.

Champion Older Male
Ice Bear

Marchfield won this award in 2008 and was enjoying a brilliant Woodbine campaign (two wins, two seconds in four Graded events) when jockey Patrick Husbands was forced to pull up the horse after hearing something snap during the stretch run in the Northern Dancer Stakes.

Marchfield kept busy reading about his Stakes wins in Down The Stretch

Now retired, the five-year-old won the G2 Sky Classic stakes keeping eventual Canadian International winner Champs Elysees in his wake.

Chantal Sutherland and Ice Bear teamed up to win three races in 2009 including the G3 Eclipse over Marchfield. With earnings of $296K, the five year-old roan gelding is well known and well backed by the Woodbine faithful going to the post as the favourite in four of seven starts. Ice Bear kept fellow nominee Palladio behind him in the final two starts of 2009.

Chantal Sutherland absolutely beaming aboard Ice Bear.

Palladio won two Stakes races for Roger Attfield in 2009, first the G3 Seagram Cup and in his final race of the year the G2 Autumn Stakes. In five Woodbine starts, the seven-year-old never finished more than four lengths from the winner.

Champion Female Turf Horse
Lady Shakespeare
Much Obliged
Points of Grace

Points of Grace won five races in nine starts in 2009 including a smashing success in the G2 Dance Smartly over Ginger Brew which earned a 100 Beyer rating. The daughter of Point Given ended her campaign with an impressive win in the River Memories over a soft turf course. Earnings of $363K best the bunch here.

Lady Shakespeare won four races on the trot at Woodbine defeating older foes twice along the way. The Attfield charge won the Colleen in exciting fashion driving from tenth to first under jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson.

Pin Oak Stables Much Obliged raced four times in 2009 with three wins and a third to show for her efforts. The third place effort came in the G2 Canadian against Princess Haya and the brilliant Forever Together.

Champion Male Turf Horse
Champs Elysees
Rahy’s Attorney

I've written about Champs Elysees, Marchfield and Rahy's Attorney throughout the 2009 meet.

Champs Elysees was resplendent winning the Canadian International to retire on top of his game. My review of the International noted how lucky fans were to see a horse of this calibre racing so late into his career to which one commenter replied, "What's shocking about Champs Elysees racing at 6 is not just his $3M in earnings, but that he's about the best bred horse presently racing at any age." I couldn't agree more, check out the pedigree.

Champs Elysees was busy digging for carrots when I stopped by on this morning.

Rahy's Attorney set the pace through five consecutive graded races winning twice including a grudge match win over Sterwins in the King Edward and a powerful victory over Champs Elysees on a soft turf course in the 1 1/4M Nijinksky.
What I love about Rahy's Attorney is that he's a local horse who throws it down each and every start and has taken on some of the best horses in the world.

Trained by Ian Black, Rahy's Attorney led throughout in his opening race of 2009 in the GIII Connaught Cup and set a wicked pace despite carrying 126 pounds. Travelling one mile on the turf course, the son of Crown Attorney raced through fractions of 46.94 and 1:10.28 for jockey Slade Callaghan only to be caught at the wire by Sterwins in a track record time of 1:38.99.

Move the gate back an eighth of a mile next out for the GII King Edward and Callaghan took his charge to the lead once again hitting the markers in 47.83 and 1:10.35 before being challenged by the multiple graded stakes winner Sterwins at the top of the stretch. This time, Callaghan and Rahy's Attorney would not be passed as the big horse refused to be headed and sped through the wire in a track record time of 1:44.73. It was a record that had stood for fourteen years, the previous record of 1:45.20 being set by Bold Ruritana on June 18, 1995.

You can't catch me! Rahy's Attorney on the lead

At the end of July, Rahy's Attorney then faced both his fellow nominees in the GII Nijinksy Stakes and cruised through the 1 1/4M event with ease to win by two lengths, After the race, trainer Ian Black offered the following accolades for Rahy's Attorney, "I'm in awe of the horse. He's wonderful. He loves to race. He loves to win. He has so much desire and a great mind. I'm honored to be around him." You can read my full report here entitled, Rahy's Attorney Lays Down The Law.

Marchfield is the mystery horse of the trio. Injured while at the top of his game during the Northern Dancer, with a quartet of 100+ Beyers under his belt, the son of A.P. Indy will be well missed by racing fans. This horse was just coming into his own.

Magnificent Marchfield can win on any surface

All three of these horses are deserving of the award. Any one of them could take home Horse of the Year honours.

Champion Male Sprinter
El Brujo
Field Commission
Hollywood Hit

I was hoping to see the under rated Bogue Chitto make the list here but have no complaints about the excellent trio on show. Bogue Chitto won't win any awards, but fans of the versatile sprinter can click on the link to read my piece about The Remarkable Climb of Bogue Chitto

El Bruno comes is a potential winner in the three-year-old category and looms large here.

Field Commission won $560K over eight races (two wins, three seconds and a show) and won the important G2 Nearctic. The versatile fellow stretched out well in the Woodbine mile finishing sixth just four lenghts back of the winner Ventura.

Field Commission with a commanding charge over Bogue Chitto and Jungle Wave to win the Nearctic

Trainer Terry Jordan had an awesome Woodbine meet spending the better part of the year with a near 50% win rate. Jordan's Hollywood Hit was favoured in his last four starts of 2009 winning each and every one including wins over El Brujo and Bogue Chitto. The three-year-old took on older horses and won both times. In his final outing of 2009, Hollywood Hit tested positive for Acepromazine while setting a track record in the King Corie Stakes and the eventual suspension denied the horse a shot at the Breeders' Cup.

Champion Female Sprinter
Carem Crescent
Smart Surprise
Tribal Belle

Eugene Melnyks' Carem Crescent won $352K in 2009 while winning four of six races. The daughter of Distorted Humour defeated Milwaukee Appeal by a neck in her final start to win the Jammed Lovely.

Eurico Rosa Da Silva was thrilled to get the call aboard Carem Crescent

Smart Surprise looks a likely winner as Older Female but I'm looking elsewhere here.

Tribal Belle - another Terry Jordan sprinter - was incredible in 2009 winning five of six starts. The lone miss was a third place finish trying seven furlongs on the turf finishing third.
In the other five starts, Tribal Belle demanded the lead and refused to let it go. A ten length romp in June led to a freshening that saw the filly return to win the G3 Seaway. In her final race, Tribal Belle won the Bessarabian by a neck over Silver Z and fellow nominee Smart Surprise.

Outstanding Breeder
Adena Springs
Eugene Melnyk
Minshall Farms

The three names listed above provide a wealth of talent for us racing fans to enjoy. I'll follow the money-earned trail to Melnyk on this one, but just look at the horses from these top breeders.

Adena Springs bred horses such as Ginger Brew, Just Rushing and Miss Blakely wowed the Woodbine faithful.

Eugene Melnyk provided names like Sterwins, Carem Crescent, Marchfield and Mullins Beach who helped gather more than $3.6M in earnings.

Minshall Farms Field Commision did the brunt of the work along with fellow Minshall-bred horses Stuck in Traffic and Dance For Us.

Outstanding Trainer
Roger Attfield

Mark Casse
Malcolm Pierce

Mark Casse won the most races (72) and had nine Stakes wins. His showcase horse, Marchfield, had a brilliant final campaign at Woodbine cut short by injury.

Roger Attfield won 52 races and an awesome 14 Stakes victories. His showcase horse, Hollinger,is a lock for two-year-old honours and a potential winner of Horse of the Year.

Malcolm Pierce won 39 races and 13 Stakes wins from the likes of Points of Grace, Sterwins, and El Brujo. Pierce could be in for a very big night if El Brujo swayed the voters as Points of Grace should be a sure winner in her category.

Malcolm Pierce surveys the morning workouts at Woodbine

A tough category that will likely go to Roger Attfield. (Don't bet against Roger if there's a trophy on the line.)

Outstanding Owner in Canada
Bear Stables
Juddmonte Farms
Melnyk Racing Stables

No offence to either Juddmonte Farms or Melnyk Racing Stables, but when it comes to Outstanding Owner, I'll vote the one that earned his nickname BY WINNING A FIGHT WITH A BEAR.

Dion's NTRA Profile reads as follows:
He named his racing stable after himself as he is nicknamed “Bear,” a moniker he picked up in Quebec. “When I was lifting the big logs out in the bush, I'd growl like a bear. To this day nobody calls me Danny,” he said … Many of his horses have names with "Bear," an animal he knows better than most persons. “Oh yeah, I've run into one before,” he said. “Back in Quebec, I was out in the bush growling like a bear, and guess I got this very large old guy pretty ticked off. He came right up to me growling back and attacked me. All I had was my saw and a little six-inch copper tree in my hand. I ran and that big bear started chasing me. I was very lucky that my boss was around and he had a rifle in the truck. So he shot him, we brought him back to camp, the Indians cooked him up, and I ate him!”

To read my pretend interview with Dion, check out my December 2008 post entitled How Danny "Bear" Dion Got His Nickname - The Lighter Side of the Sovereigns.

Dion does have a talented stable of bears including Bear's Hard Ten, Bear Tough Guy, Bearcatt and...err...Fatal Bullet - who many will admit is a bear to battle in a sprint.

In all fairness, Melnyk's horses did extremely well at Woodbine this meet (See the Breeders comments above) and the folks at Juddmonte Farms sent Champs Elysees and Ventura to Woodbine for a successful stretch. The smart money might be on Melnyk - the rest of us vote Bear.

Here I am at the 2008 Sovereign Awards trying not to look terrified

Outstanding Jockey
Eurico Rosa DaSilva
Patrick Husbands
Chantal Sutherland

Patrick Husbands wins and wins and wins. In fact, this year he captured his 2000th win at Woodbine. With 188 victories for the meet and more than $9M in earnings, the Brampton resident is remarkably consistent. Husbands has mastered the timing on when to make the "swoop" for the lead. His 20 stakes victories are best of the bunch. Husbands worked hard for this award and he deserves to have his picture taken once again.

Husbands surges to the lead for his 2000th career win aboard Grazettes Landing

Eurico Rosa da Silva came oh so close to winning a Breeders' Cup event with Biofuel. Earlier in the year, the buoyant Brazilian won the Queen's Plate with Eye of the Leopard. 129 victories, 17 stakes wins and $7M in earnings is nothing to sneeze at. Eurico is a talented rider and there is no ceiling on what he can accomplish at Woodbine.

Eurico Rosa Da Silva gets mobbed by fans following his Queen's Plate win

Chantal Sutherland keeps getting better. Sutherland's composure and patience are impressive. As a handicapper, I put a little "+" beside her horse in the Form because she has the ability to coax a little extra out of each mount. The experience she gains riding against the best of the best in California is paying huge dividends at Woodbine and she might take down Husbands in 2010. 158 wins, 12 Stakes wins and $7M in earnings.

Anyone can take a pretty photo of jockey Chantal Sutherland. Triple Dead Heat is proud to present, "The Lighter Side of Chantal"

Outstanding Apprentice Jockey
Omar Moreno
Tyrone Nelson
Melanie Pinto

Omar Moreno arrived at Woodbine from out West and proceeded to make a very good impression. 48 wins from 480 starts and more than $1M in earnings should be enough to get the young jock the award. You can read all about Moreno's fast rise from jockey school at Olds College to the winners circle at Northlands Park and his eventual journey to Woodbine in a story by TheHorses.Com.

Tyrone Nelson and Melanie Pinto lost their bug over the summer and likely don't have enough stats to compete with Moreno. Regardless both jocks had solid seasons worthy of this nomination. Pinto in particular had a knack for bringing home the longshots.

Jockey Melanie Pinto Tweeted on a regular basis during the Fort Erie meet.

Outstanding Broodmare
Pico Teneriffe
Rahy’s Hope

Eugene Melnyk's Pico Teneriffe, daughter of Red Ransom is the dam of the outstanding Marchfield who is listed prominently in categories above.

Destroy is the dam of two-year-old male finalist Ghost Fleet.

Rahy's Hope is the dam of the much mentioned above Rahy's Attorney. This lifetime achievement award seems destined for Rahy's Hope thanks to the infamous million-dollar 2008 Woodbine Mile victory by Rahy's Attorney.

While there may be disagreement over who should win these awards, there is no denying that 2009 brought a deluge of talent to the thoroughbred racing game at Woodbine. If you don't agree with my picks, by all means check out the Sovereign Awards Voter Info Package and sift through the stats to make your own conclusions.

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