Each year here at PTP, our pal Greg makes his O'Brien picks. His record has been pretty pristine. Since I can't hit a 1-5 onto a 2-1 ex at times, he has the reins this year as well. Here they are:
The time has come once again for the annual O’Brien Awards banquet, which will be held Saturday night at the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga, Ontario. There are some competitive categories this year, and we’ll run through them here and attempt to look into the minds of the voters to pick a winner.
Three-year-old colt pacer: Well Said & If I Can Dream
Well Said won the North America Cup and a division of the Simcoe north of the border, taking the former in a track, stakes, and national record, while If I Can Dream won the Confederation Cup and the Breeders Crown.
Well Said did throw two clunkers in Canada, missing the board in both the Burlington and in the Breeders Crown, but I’m guessing his connections and that North America Cup performance will push him over the top and to the O’Brien Award. Pick: Well Said
Three-year-old filly pacer: Not Enough & Yellow Diamond
Not Enough was the talk of the early season in Ontario while Yellow Diamond came on towards the end of the year after a bit of a dry spell in the summer months. Not Enough won an OSS Gold Final at Western Fair, the Fan Hanover in 1:50 flat at Mohawk, and the Canadian Breeders in 1:50 flat at Mohawk. Yellow Diamond clicked for victories in an OSS Gold Final at Kawartha and the Breeders Crown at Woodbine.
With both these fillies owned by Bulletproof Enterprises and trained by Tracy Brainard, there isn’t much to choose from them, but I’ll give it to Yellow Diamond based solely on her Breeders Crown win. Pick: Yellow Diamond
Three-year-old colt trotter: Muscle Hill & Equity
Muscle Hill swept through the Canadian Trotting Classic and the Breeders Crown at Mohawk and Woodbine. None of his wins were overly fast, but he crunched the competition each time, just like he did all year long wherever he raced. Equity was the star of the provincial program, winning Gold Finals at Mohawk, Georgian, and Western Fair, and the Canadian Breeders at Mohawk.
Unfortunately for Equity, once Muscle Hill hit the required three starts by racing in the Breeders Crown, the award was decided. Pick: Muscle Hill
Three-year-old filly trotter: Elusive Desire & Yursa Hanover
Elusive Desire was the top Ontario-sired filly all year, winning Gold finals at Georgian and Kawartha; the Canadian Breeders at Mohawk, and the Super Final at Woodbine. She also didn’t disgrace herself against open company, winning the Simcoe at Mohawk in gutsy fashion and just missing in both the Hambletonian Oaks and in the Breeders Crown. Yursa Hanover did most of her damage in the States, taking the Matron and a division of the Del Miller, but she did win a Bud Light split at Flamboro and a section of the Casual Breeze at Mohawk.
Elusive Desire should win this one handily. Yursa Hanover had a good season, but Elusive Desire was better all around. Pick: Elusive Desire
Two-year-old colt pacer: Sportswriter & Wellthereyougo
Sportswriter came within a head of finishing his two-year-old campaign undefeated, losing the Breeders Crown at Woodbine to All Speed Hanover. Before that, the son of Artsplace broke the world record in the Metro, and won in both the Nassagaweya and the Champlain. Wellthereyougo, a Camluck colt, won the Battle of Waterloo at Grand River and an OSS Gold Final at Flamboro on his way to a $295,000 campaign.
Sportswriter should be one of the locks of the night. Wellthereyougo was good early but didn’t finish off his provincial campaign in top form while Sportswriter raced and beat the best two-year-olds out there. Pick: Sportswriter
Two-year-old filly pacer: Fancy Filly & Put On A Show
This is probably the biggest toss-up of the night. Fancy Filly didn’t miss the board in 12 tries, winning ten of them while Put On A Show had seven wins from nine starts to go with a pair of second place finishes. Fancy Filly won the Breeders Crown at Woodbine and a division of the Eternal Camnation at Mohawk and Put On A Show won the Shes A Great Lady and a split of the Eternal Camnation at Mohawk.
As I noted, this is a complete toss-up as both of these fillies are more than worthy. I will give it to Put On A Show for her Shes A Great Lady win, and although she didn’t win the Breeders Crown, she went a very tough trip and just missed to Fancy Filly by a length. Pick: Put On A Show
Two-year-old colt trotter: Il Villaggio & Text Me
Il Villaggio was a terror at Mohawk, winning the Champlain and the Wellwood Memorial before breaking stride in his Breeders Crown elimination. Text Me was this year’s Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final champion in his group and also won a Gold Final at Mohawk. He only missed the board once in 13 starts, winning three of them.
I have to give this one to Il Villaggio. He showed real potential at Mohawk, beating the best trotters on the continent while Text Me only ventured outside of the Sires Stakes program once, where he was defeated by Il Villaggio in the Champlain. Pick: Il Villaggio
Two-year-old filly trotter: Costa Rica & Poof Shes Gone
Costa Rica won ten of 16 starts overall this year, earning just shy of $1 million. She was this year’s Peaceful Way winner at Mohawk, but then didn’t have as much success in the Breeders Crown, finishing fourth. Poof Shes Gone did make over $1 million, thanks to a 10 win campaign. Included in those victories were the Breeders Crown, the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final, a division of the Champlain, and a Gold final at Mohawk.
My choice here is Poof Shes Gone. Costa Rica got the better of her in the Peaceful Way, but that was the only time. Pick: Poof Shes Gone
Older male pacer: Bigtime Ball & Shark Gesture
Bigtime Ball had a big year, winning 14 of his 21 tries. He won the Gold Cup at Woodbine, the Ontario Masters at Georgian, and several editions of the open pace at the two WEG tracks. On June 30 at Georgian, Bigtime Ball became the first horse to tour that oval in sub 1:50 fashion, winning in a stunning 1:49. Shark Gesture claimed the Canadian Pacing Derby in 1:48.1 for his only win in Canada. In the United States, Shark Gesture won the W.R. Haughton Memorial and the Graduate to go along with several invitational paces at The Meadowlands.
As much as I’d like to see Shark Gesture win this because he’s probably one of the toughest horses I’ve ever seen, I think Bigtime Ball will win. Shark Gesture defeated Bigtime Ball in the Pacing Derby, but Bigtime Ball got the better of him in two subsequent starts. Pick: Bigtime Ball
Older Mare Pacer: Darlins Delight & Dreamfair Eternal
With Southwind Tempo disqualified from this category due to Ross Croghan’s positive, Darlins Delight gets the nod as a nominee. Darlins Delight won seven times from 17 starts in 2009, banking $371,052 and going over $3 million in lifetime earnings in the process. Dreamfair Eternal was the terror of the open mare ranks at WEG, and won the Roses Are Red at Mohawk in upset fashion, sweeping by in the stretch to win in 1:49.2.
My pick is Dreamfair Eternal. She was great in the opens all year and then added that Roses Are Red victory to put her over the top. Pick: Dreamfair Eternal
Older trotting horse: Armbro Chronicle & San Pail
Armbro Chronicle banged out another $340,000 campaign last year thanks to a multitude of wins in the open trot at WEG. San Pail also won the open several times, but added a big pot when he took the Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk against some of the best trotters in the world, including Lucky Jim.
This one would’ve been close if not for San Pail’s dramatic win in the Maple Leaf Trot. That was a race to remember and will give him the O’Brien Award. Pick: San Pail
Older trotting mare: Classic Lane & Gostreet
Classic Lane was this year’s Classic Oaks champion at Mohawk, winning the final by a nose after winning a leg of the event the week before at the Campbellville oval. Gostreet had a big year on the “B” tracks, taking the Ontario Masters final at Georgian and setting a track record at Grand River among her 14 wins.
Give the O’Brien here to Classic Lane. Gostreet had a solid campaign, but Classic Lane came out on top in the Classic Series in gritty fashion and probably would’ve won the Armbro Flight as well later in the year had she not gotten locked in behind a tiring Buck I St Pat. Pick: Classic Lane
Driver of the Year: Jody Jamieson & Brad Forward
Jamieson won the dash wins title in Canada and North America, set a single season record for wins in Canada, won the WEG driving title and banked $11 million. Brad Forward represented his country well in the World Driving Championship, but this is a no-contest. Pick: Jody Jamieson
Trainer of the Year: Casie Coleman & Tracy Brainard
Coleman conditioned Sportswriter to a great campaign and had over $4.4 million in earnings. Brainard won the WEG training title, earned $5.89 million, and had top horses like If I Can Dream, Yellow Diamond, Not Enough, and Shacked Up.
History has already been made with two women being finalists, and I think Casie is going to win in a highly-politicized vote. Pick: Casie Coleman
O’Brien Award for Horsemanship: Per Henriksen & Rick Zeron
Henriksen sent out solid trotters like I Wont Dance and Magic Fruit as part of a successful campaign while Zeron continued to be the most successful trainer-driver on the WEG Circuit. Pick: Rick Zeron
Breeder of the year: Charalambos Christoforou & Harry Rutherford/Diane Ingham
Christoforou bred Equity, who is a finalist in the three-year-old trotting colt and gelding division along with Parlay, who was also successful in the provincial program. Rutherford while Ingham bred Il Villaggio and top three-year-old trotting filly Raising Rachel. Pick: Ingham/Rutherford
Horse of the Year: Muscle Hill
Like I said above, I think once Muscle Hill hit three starts in Canada, this was his year.
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