Tonight is the night. The 35th Annual Sovereign Awards kick off at 6:30PM at the Ultra Supper Club in downtown Toronto with the big question to be answered being , "Who is Canada's Horse of the Year"?
There'll be a blur of activity at tonight's Sovereign Awards
With a requirement of three starts on Canadian soil, Juddmonte Farms talented Champs Elysees looms the favourite off his Canadian International winning swan song. However, three-year-old sprint specialist El Brujo and turf warrior Rahy's Attorney could just as easily take the spoils.
For a full preview of the nominees and my picks to nick a trophy, please see my post entitled, Preview: Picking Winners From The 2009 Sovereign Award Finalists.
As well, I'll be Tweeting winners live from the event assuming I can figure out how to hold a camera, a drink, an appetizer, a program and my Blackberry while typing out tweets.
If you're following along from home, why not print out your own copy of the Sovereign Award program.
I haven't touched much on the media side of the Sovereign Awards here at Triple Dead Heat, but I'm very pleased to be nominated in the category of Outstanding Newspaper Article for a piece I penned regarding the Woodbine gate crew.
This is the first time I've submitted a story for a Sovereign Award and I couldn't be more honest when I say that it's an honour just being nominated. As a life long fan of the sport, it's surreal seeing my name in the program alongside some of the biggest names in Canadian racing.
The Outstanding Newspaper Story award has been won previously by writers I grew up reading and admiring such as Milt Dunnell, Jim Proudfoot and Dave Perkins.
In the spirit of the sport, I thought it would be fun to handicap my own bracket of the Sovereign Awards.
Undoubtedly, the favourite will be nine-time Sovereign Award winning writer Curtis Stock who ships in from Edmonton for this event. Stock will have to knock off the three-headed uncoupled entry of Down The Stretch writers Perry Lefko, Eleanor Yeoman Leblanc and Keith McCalmont.
Lefko, a three-time Sovereign Award winning writer, is also nominated in the category of Outstanding Feature Story.
First time starters, Yeoman Leblanc and McCalmont are hoping to make a splash against a pair of graded winners but will most certainly be sent to post as long shots by punters at the Ultra Supper Club.
Let's take a look at the entries and past performances.
Outstanding Newspaper Article Handicap, Submission Guidelines for works in this category are the following: timely hard news articles, columns and opinion pieces, essays and viewpoints. (Track Conditions: Elegantly Casual)
1. (Even) Curtis Stock, Lifetime of horse racing brings love, happiness and tragedy, Edmonton Journal, September 2009
The story of Lorne Dupont, an 86-year-old horse trainer, who is retiring after spending 70 years in the horse racing business.
Yawning shadows of an autumn afternoon -- a day as warm as a mother's embrace -- stretched beneath an old, weathered lawn chair Lorne Dupont sat upon for the final time in his barn area at Northlands Park.
With his opening lines, Stock surges to the lead in a race he's won nine times previously. The one to catch.
2. (9-2) Perry Lefko, Fate of the Fort, Down the Stretch, January 2009
Lefko covered one of the most important stories of 2009 for Canadian horsemen with his entry, Fate of the Fort.
Every horse player has experienced the anxiety of waiting on a close photo or the decision of a stewards' inquiry. Even in the coldest patch of winter, the horse people are sweating this one out.
The strong conclusion to Lefko's lament leaves no doubt surrounding the class of this veteran warrior. He'll be looming large late.
3. (12-1) Eleanor Yeoman LeBlanc, Racing stars change hats for a good cause, Down the Stretch, September 2009
Known as Queen of the Commas by her Down The Stretch colleagues, Yeoman Leblanc clearly has the technical merits to survive her first time to the gate. A story covering the efforts of racing stars Sandy Hawley, Emma-Jayne Wilson and Rob Landry competing to raise money for the Ontario Veterinary College is a vital reflection on the importance of giving back to the community. The Queen dug up several newsworthy quotes.
The barrel racing was as exciting as it sounds. Emma-Jayne Wilson, no stranger to going as fast as possible on the back of a horse, lost her stirrup in the race to the finish.
"I'm not used to riding that long," she admitted. "I tried to jack them up as high as I could and they still weren't high enough for me!"
The full-page piece has the stamina to last the race and a result here could be the making of a future Classic winner.
4. (15-1)Keith McCalmont, They’re really at the post, Down the Stretch, July 2009
McCalmont has worked hard preparing for this opener and endured a fair bit of gate schooling. With a piece focusing on the nano-seconds of chaos as horses burst from the gate, McCalmont went behind the scenes - and into the the gate itself - to appreciate the hours of hard work that goes into a task that looks so easy.
“Look at this idiot coming out here,” interjects one crew member laughing at the television. In the paddock before the upcoming race a horse is dancing sideways and tugging his groom like a rag doll. Everyone laughs and then each of them take a look at their program and make a mark.
I ask innocently if colts or fillies cause more trouble and half the crew hollers, “Ontario sires!” More laughter.
“Tell him about the day the bomb went off,” cries another crew member. “The gate blew open and it sounded like we’re in Viet Nam. Pieces flew an eighth of a mile away. We’re lucky we all got out with our lives.”
The experienced Stock threatens to wire the field so smart players will key that one on top and look for value with the exotics.
Given that I do not expect to see the podium, I would like to take the opportunity here to thank some of the people who provided opportunity, encouragement and love.
The Gate Crew - Drew Brown and crew were funny, inviting and provided hard, honest answers to some difficult questions.
Down The Stretch - My colleagues inspire me to be a better writer and I appreciate their efforts, editing and sense of humour.
Woodbine Media Department - Chris Lomon, John Siscos and the crew treated this fledgling writer like a professional despite all evidence to the contrary. Their kind words, quickly provided info and good natured digs made the first steps easy to take.
Owners, Trainers, Jockeys, Grooms, Exercise Riders, LongRun - To all the people who answered questions, posed for photos and opened their barns, I thank you.
And finally, The Lovely Amy who was so very understanding of 6AM backstretch mornings and 645PM Wednesday post times.
Good luck to all the nominees this evening. Let's get 'em all home safe.
If you haven't been taking advantage of the new tabs splashed underneath the Triple Dead Heat banner at the top of this page, I encourage you to become familiar.
The SnowBirds tab lists out all the recent entries of Woodbine-based trainers from Attard(s) to Vella. Check it out now to see the entries for locals Brian Lynch (Amazing) and Roger Attfield (Palladio) competing in Saturday's Sunshine Millions card.
As well, if you click into the Woodbine News tab you can catch up on all the latest from the interweb regarding the world of Woodbine.
Latest stories include the closing of Hippiques; Chantal Sutherland's shot at Sunshine Millions glory aboard Pretty Unusual; the possibility of Bruceontheloose shipping to Woodbine; and the latest on the Michael Gill controversy.
Jockey Constant Montpellier might be retired but he is still doing his best to gather speed while circuiting clockwise in a circle. As noted by an Alex Brown piece in The Rail, Montpellier is an accomplished speed skater.
Con has an interesting background. He is 48 but did not start riding in races until he was 30. He did not start riding horses until he was 28. At that time, he was a photographer on a shoot at a horse farm. He decided to switch careers. Con has a passion for speed skating, and he only started in that sport two years ago. He has already set provincial records. In his youth, Con was a good hockey player: too small perhaps, but fast. Con has about 1300 wins to his credit as a jockey. He has ridden at Woodbine for 16 years
Recently, while sifting through the barrage of emailed news stories accumulating in my Inbox there appeared a link to SpeedSkatingResults.com highlighting several of Con's races.
This past week the jockey completed the triactor in the Masters International Open in the 3000M event in a time of 4.56, 18
TGIF kind readers, may your weekend be full of Sunshine (and millions.) - a full report of the Sovereign Awards to appear in this spot over the weekend.