|2011 Sovereign Award Nominees: 1. Maritimer 2. Tu Endie Wei 3. Embur's Song 4. Inglorious 5. Luis Contreras 6. Pender Harbour 7. Fifty Proof 8. Atlantic Hurricane 9. Musketier 10. Miss Keller 11. Roger Attfield 12. Never Retreat)|
Although they won't be held until Thursday, April 5, 2012 when the new season of Racing commences, the Jockey Club of Canada has announced its 37th Annual Sovereign Award Nominees, honouring the best in Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Racing. Considered a top candidate for Canadian Horse of the Year, seven-year-old mare Never Retreat is poised also to take the award for Champion Turf Female. She was retired last month with a minor foot injury, but sure made Woodbine Fans proud in 2011, winning the important races locally like the Canadian and Dance Smartly Stakes before heading to Kentucky, scoring a major victory in the First Lady Stakes last October. She faces stiff competition also from past Winner and just-retired Miss Keller, who ran a eye-popping race in the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in October.
Another filly entering the Horse of the Year race with strong credentials is Inglorious, based on the strength of two important Summer wins in two of the Country's most important races, the Woodbine Oaks and historic Queen's Plate. Her Dam Noble Strike, is up for Outstanding Broodmare producing also the talented Dixie Strike.
Raising a few eyebrows is possible Champion Two-Year-Old Male Maritimer who was just sold to scandalous Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (remember that Hilary Swank controversy?) for $1.7 million. Campaigned aggressively late in the season, Maritimer went on to win two important races in his division including the important Coronation Futurity. We could be seeing the gelding this Summer in the Queen's Plate or even the Kentucky Derby. Excaper who ran second in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf, flying Canadian colours proudly, hasn't been as consistent but also is a major contender.
The Champion Two-Year-Old Filly division is shaping-up to be a tough one with two deserving young ladies pitted against one another. Hard Not to Like has beat male competitors in the prestigious Cup and Saucer Stakes and ran a respectable fifth against the World's best in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Tu Endie Wei too is dearly loved by Woodbine Fans, having won all three of her races here impressively.
This year's greatest Cinderella Story is that of Atlantic Hurricane, who is a contender to win Champion Female Sprinter competing against lesser competition not too long ago for a claiming price tag of $40,000. The beautiful filly has gone on to win $434k and three important races this season.
Although the category of Outstanding Jockey is filled with talent, it shouldn't be a surprise that Mexican-born Luis Contreras will take it all after a record-breaking season which saw him win a total $11,563,915 in Purse Money.
Congratulations also to my Friend Keith McCalmont for his third Sovereign Award nomination with his piece, Emma's great Excaper!
Click here for a full list of Nominees.
(Photo credit: Mr. Will-W.)