Monday, January 12, 2009

2nd Annual O'Brien Awards Picks

It’s time once again for my picks (I am Greg, the guest poster and Harness Herb contact) for the O’Brien Awards, which are coming up just around the corner. Before we get to the picks, congratulations to all the nominees for just making it this far.

Two-Year Old Filly Trot:

I give the nod here to Elusive Desire, who won three races and failed to hit the board only once in her 14 starts. The biggest win in her campaign, which saw her bank over $395,000 was the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final, and she just seemed to be getting better and better as the year went on.

Two-Year Old Filly Pace:

This is a pretty easy one as St Lads Popcorn steamrolled through the Ontario Sires Stakes program, winning 12 of her 15 starts and over $602,000. Not bad for any two-year old, let alone one who sold for just $5,000 as a yearling.

Two-Year Old Colt Trot:

It looks like Federal Flex should pick up the O’Brien here. He was impressive early, winning the Bridger Series and the Champlain, and late, scoring in the Valley Victory at Woodbine. In total, he won five of his nine starts and over $560,000.

Two-Year Old Colt Pace:

The list of freshman colt pacers who have earned a million dollars is not very long, and Nebupanezzar joined that elite company this year, which should push him past Metro winner Major In Art. Nebupanezzar also won both in the provincial program and against open company, as he was this year’s Governor’s Cup champion.

Three-Year Old Filly Trot:

I found this category very difficult as Lantern Kronos only made a handful of starts in Canada , two of which were in non-winners action, and Bella Dolce was great in the middle of her campaign, but struggled at the start and at the end. I guess because she was impressive in winning the Casual Breeze and Elegantimage when she was north of the border, my vote would go to Lantern Kronos.

Three-Year Old Colt Trot:

Define The World should win this handily thanks to a 14-win campaign and earnings of over $751,000. He dominated the OSS Gold ranks in the summer and fall in addition to setting a world record at Flamboro on Confederation Cup day.

Three-Year Old Filly Pace:

Chancey Lady was top dog in the OSS and won against open company in the Fan Hanover, so she gets the O’Brien vote. The daughter of Camluck won nine of her 17 starts and over $721,000.

Three-Year Old Colt Pace:

This award has already been given to the Monster from the Maritimes, Somebeachsomewhere.

Open Trotting Mare:

Of course I’m biased for Brigham Dream, but I honestly think she should win. Aside from her Breeders Crown win, she was second in a leg of the Classic Series at Mohawk and was second to the boys in an open at Mohawk before the driver switch. Falls For You’s win in the Armbro Flight was great, but she broke in every other start she made in Canada.

Open Trotting Horse:

This is another tough one. Do you reward Armbro Chronicle, the horse who ground out $500,000 and change in Ontario or Arch Madness, who won the Maple Leaf, a leg of the Classic Series, and was second in the Breeders Crown? Let’s give the vote to the “little guy,” Armbro Chronicle. He won 11 times, including the Frank Ryan and the Earl Rowe, and finished third in the Maple Leaf Trot.

Open Pacing Mare:

This category is another toughie with the horse from the States, My Little Dragon, going up against an Ontario product, Southwind Madonna. My Little Dragon won the Breeders Crown, but couldn’t find the winner’s circle in the Milton or Roses Are Red while Southwind Madonna went a huge mile in the Roses Are Red before getting nipped at the wire, and was the terror the WEG open mare ranks in 2008. My vote goes to Southwind Madonna.

Open Pacing Horse:

Secrets Nephew has already been declared the winner.

Horsemanship Award:

I admire both John Kopas and Phil Pinkney for their tremendous skills with young horses, so they are both winners in my mind, no matter what. However, I think Pinkney is one of those guys “behind the scenes” who everyone knows about, but has never got the recognition, and so I hope he gets it here.


I go with Glengate Farms. They had a very good year in 2008, led by Art Official.


Bob McIntosh should be clearing space on his shelf for another O’Brien Award. He trained finalists Nebupanezzar and Windsong Soprano on his way to $3.7 million in earnings and the trophy for leading trainer in the Ontario Sires Stakes program.


Like PTP said on here, I was a little surprised hearing from people that there was sentiment Paul MacDonell was not deserving or was not going to win this award. I said to several people in June at Mohawk that he was going to win after his performance on North America Cup night, and I don’t think he will make a fool out of me. Take away Somebeachsomewhere, and he still drove the likes of Lantern Kronos, Bella Dolce, Define The World, and Elusive Desire, and he steered four Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final winners.

Horse Of The Year:

Somebeachsomewhere…thanks for the memories.

Thanks to Greg for giving us his picks for the second time. Thanks to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame for the photo of Joe

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