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Fev Rover Honored as Canada’s Horse of the Year

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The Jockey Club of Canada hosted the 49th annual Sovereign Awards ceremony April 18 where Beverly D. Stakes (G1T) winner Fev Rover  landed the Horse of the Year honor and was named champion female turf horse.

The top three finalists in each category are determined by the online ballots of the Jockey Club of Canada’s knowledgeable voters. The media category award finalists were determined by media professionals within the industry selected from across North America.

The Jockey Club of Canada is pleased to announce the 2023 Sovereign Award winners in the order in which they were presented.

Special Sovereign Award: ROBERT “RED” MCKENZIE    

After more than 80 years working in horse racing in Alberta, you might think that Robert ‘Red’ McKenzie has done it all. A former jockey, and then successful trainer, who has won some 1,600 races, Robert landed in the record books the evening of June 23, 2023 when his mare Entitled Star  won a claiming race at Century Mile. At the age of 96, he became the oldest trainer to saddle a winner in Canadian racing history when his mare circled the field as the longest shot on the board at 25-1.

Considering Thoroughbred racing statistics are hard to come by before 1976, the official number of winners for Robert as a jockey, trainer, and owner, could be much higher than 1,600. But what is known is that the Alberta resident, who was born Jan. 1, 1927, was still bringing horses over to race in 2023. Robert loved horses and started riding at the age of 10 at a riding academy in Edmonton. He accompanied his father and sister to the racetrack and started riding races at bush tracks such as Ponoka, Rimbey, and Red Deer. When he turned 16 and was old enough to ride the ‘A’ tracks, he would travel throughout the Western Canada Association which included tracks in Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Saskatoon.

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Media Awards

Outstanding Writing: JENNIFER MORRISON

Cat’s Long Way Home

Published Dec. 31, 2023 on Canadian Thoroughbred.com 

Outstanding Photograph: JASON HALSTEAD

A Kiss for Commando

Published: Sept. 22, 2023 in The Inside Track Issue #98

Outstanding Audio Visual/Digital Broadcast: WOODBINE ENTERTAINMENT 

Secretariat The Last Race

Aired on TSN Oct. 8, 2023

Outstanding Groom: MICHELLE ARMATA 

Being from one of the most successful racing families in Canada, horse racing is an integral part of Michelle Armata. Her father, Joe, was a trainer at Woodbine and Michelle would often visit the stable, despite being a bit scared of horses when she was young.

Michelle studied early childhood education in the latter part of her school years, working toward her diploma, until one day she decided her life was with horses. There was a litany of family members at Woodbine by then, including brother Steve and sister Josie. She was in her 20s when she started working there, first for Joe, and then for Steve. “My brother and his wife Sharon taught me a lot about grooming horses,” said Michelle. “I was taught horsemanship the old school way.”

After leaving the track to start a family—she has two children with her husband, trainer Ross Armata, Jr.—Michelle returned to work for her brother-in-law, Mike De Paulo and his wife and assistant, Josie, Michelle’s sister.

Outstanding Off-track Worker: JENNIFER BUCK

The inaugural Outstanding Off-Track Worker Award was presented to Jennifer Buck, who has been with Adrian Munro’s Highfield Stock Farm in Okotoks, Alberta, since 2013.

The Jockey Club of Canada introduced the Outstanding Off-Track Worker Award as a way to honor the unsung heroes who make Thoroughbred racing in Canada possible through their hard work and dedication at off-track thoroughbred racing, training, boarding, breeding, sales, and aftercare farms and facilities.

Jennifer, who was born in Ontario, learned to ride horses at a young age when living in Connecticut. Once settled in Alberta as a teenager, she worked for Glenview Stables and manager Brian Ferguson, a Windfields Farm alumni, learning the intricacies of farm management, from painting fences to barn care. She pursued performing arts in school at Mount Royal and worked as a fly-fishing guide on the famous Bow River, which she still does today.

But the lure of horses was too strong. While raising her son Hunter, Jennifer went to work at the famed Bar None Ranches for Mike Vanin. She also had a love for working with polo horses and she played at the Calgary Polo Club before moving over to Highfield.

Champion 2-year Old Female: WITWATERSRAND

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Gary Barber 

Breeder: G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

B. F. 2, by Connect  —Carta de Oro, by Medaglia d’Oro  

2023:  3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $107,031

Winner: Mazarine S. (G3), MSW

Stakes Placings: 3rd Glorious Song S.

Vote: Witwatersrand  (132), Tripolina  (41), Living Magic  (32)

Champion 2-year Old Male: MY BOY PRINCE

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Gary Barber

Breeder: Murray Graham Smith

GR./RO. C. 2, by
Cairo Prince  —Hopping Not Hoping, by Silent Name  

2023: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third – $429,638 

Winner: Cup and Saucer S., Simcoe S., MSW

Stakes Placings: 2nd Summer S. (G1T), 3rd Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T)

Vote: My Boy Prince  (156), Babbo  (59), Two Ghosts  (39)

Champion 3-year Old Female: ELYSIAN FIELD    

Trainer: Mark Casse 

Owner: Team Valor International and Gary Barber

Breeder: Anderson Farms Ont.

CH. F. 3, by
Hard Spun  —Elysian, by Smart Strike

2023:     7 Starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds – $492,029

Winner:    Woodbine Oaks, MSW

Stakes Placings:     2nd Breeders’ S., 2nd Fury S., 2nd King’s Plate S.

Vote: Elysian Field  (149), Solo Album  (60), Fashionably Fab  (45)

Champion 3-year Old Male: PARAMOUNT PRINCE

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Langlois, Michael J. and Barber, Gary

Breeder: Ericka Nadine Rusnak

CH. G. 3, by
Society’s Chairman —Platinum Steel, by Eddington

2023: 6 Starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third – $566,568 

Winner: King’s Plate S., Plate Trial S.

Stakes Placings: 2nd Queenston S., 3rd Prince of Wales S.

Vote: Paramount Prince  (144), Patches O’Houlihan  (70), Touch’n Ride  (47)

Outstanding Broodmare: MENDOCINO BEANO     

Dark bay/brown mare, 2008

Smart Strike—Trishyde Slew, by Seattle Slew

5 starters, 5 winners, 1 graded stakes winner, 2 black-type winners, 1 black-type placer

Progeny earnings $1,253,560

Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry bred and raced Mendocino Beano, who provided them with a maiden special weight victory and a third in the Ontario Colleen Stakes (G3T). But, it has been in the breeding shed where the Ontario-bred has really left her mark. From five foals, each of which have run and won, her progeny earnings stand at just more than $1.2 million.

Mendocino Beano’s highest earner is Tone Broke , who captured two-thirds of the 2019 Canadian Triple Crown and finished third in that year’s Queen’s Plate Stakes on his way to amassing more than $500,000 in earnings. She also produced grade 3 winner Millie Girl , overnight stakes winner Stallion Heiress , and the stakes-placed winner Conquest Fleetfeet .

Vote: Mendocino Beano (74), Sunday Affair (54), Game (31)

Outstanding Breeder: ADENA SPRINGS

In Canada:

Starters 42; Winners 19

Earnings $1,934,913

Starts 221; Wins 27; 2nd 33; 3rd 28

Frank and Frieda Stronach’s legendary Adena Springs North, in Aurora, Ontario, was voted Outstanding Breeder for the 13th time, more than any other Canadian breeder in the history of the Sovereign Awards. The Adena Springs-bred star of 2023 was again Moira , the 2022 Horse of the Year who came back at 4 and won the Canadian Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine. Campaigned by Madaket Stables, SF Racing, and X-Men Racing, Moira placed in four graded stakes at Woodbine before ending her season with an impressive third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1T) at Santa Anita Park

The debut victory by their homebred filly Shamans Girl  in the $150,000 Shady Well Stakes was a highlight. A daughter of Adena stallion Shaman Ghost  , by Ghostzapper  , Shamans Girl is out of the Stronachs’ 2008 Woodbine Oaks-winning mare, Ginger Brew . Adena Springs also saw Malibu Mambo  finish third in the Singspiel Stakes (G3T).

Vote: Adena Springs (85), Anderson Farms Ont. (68), Chiefswood Stables (32), Sean Fitzhenry (32), Sam-Son Farm (32)

Champion Female Sprinter: LOYALTY

Trainer: Josie Carroll

Owner: Gainesway Stable (Antony Beck) and LNJ Foxwoods 

Breeder: Best A Luck Farm & Godolphin

DK. B./BR. F. 4, by Hard Spun—Slew’s Quality. by Elusive Quality

2023: 5 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $205,599 

Winner: Bessarabian S. (G2), Hendrie S. (G3), AOC

Stakes Placings: 3rd Ontario Fashion S. (G3)

Vote: Loyalty  (160), Our Flash Drive  (61), Fashionably Fab  (39)      

Champion Male Sprinter: PATCHES O’HOULIHAN

Trainer: Robert P. Tiller

Owner: Frank D. Di Giulio Jr.

Breeder: Frank Di Giulio Jr. 

B. G. 3, by
Reload  —Maythefourthbwithu, by Silent Name

2023: 7 Starts – 6 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds – $301,882

Winner: Bold Venture S. (G3), Vigil S. (G3), Lake Huron S., Lake Superior S., OC, OC

Vote: Patches O’Houlihan  (137), Lucky Score  (61), Dream Shake  (31)

Outstanding Apprentice Jockey: SOFIA VIVES 

In Canada:

Starts 600; Wins 100; 2nd 82; 3rd 74

Earnings $2,956,521

In her first full season riding races, Sofia Vives pulled away from the pack with the most wins of any apprentice in 2023, winning 100 races between Woodbine and Fort Erie Race Track. Her impressive win total at Woodbine, 88, put her fourth in the rider standings behind reigning champion Kazushi Kimura, Sahin Civaci, and Rafael Hernandez, and ahead of champions Emma-Jayne Wilson and Patrick Husbands.

Vives also rode at Parx Racing. Born in Walterboro, S.C., and raised in horse country in Ocala, Fla., Vives followed her father, former jockey Lazaro Vives, to the barns of dual Hall of Famer Mark Casse, who gave Vives a leg up to start her riding career. The young rider galloped as many horses as she could each day and rode in her first race late in 2022 at Woodbine. She had just over a dozen mounts that year, winning four of them, and then embarked on a busy first year as a rookie rider.

Vote: Sofia Vives (162), Fraser Aebly (83), Amanda Vandermeersch (35)

Outstanding Jockey: KAZUSHI KIMURA 

In Canada:

Starts 816; Wins 161; 2nd 158; 3rd 113

Earnings $7,177,876 Stakes wins 15

Canada’s riding sensation, Kazushi Kimura, earns his third consecutive Sovereign Award for outstanding jockey only six years into his riding career. The Japanese-born jockey burst onto the scene in 2018 with 104 victories, won the Sovereign Award as outstanding apprentice that year and repeated in 2019. He was also the Eclipse Award outstanding apprentice jockey in 2019. It has been a smooth transition for Kazushi as a journeyman and in 2023, he won more races at Woodbine than he ever has and set a personal best for purse money. He won 15 stakes races including the third jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes, aboard Chiefswood Stables’ Touch’n Ride . Kazushi won graded stakes races aboard Loyalty Wolfie’s Dynaghost , and Treason .

Vote: Kazushi Kimura (162), Sahin Civaci (75), Rafael Manuel Hernandez (28)

Champion Female Turf Horse: FEV ROVER

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Tracy Farmer

Breeder: Manister House Stud

B. M. 5, by
Gutaifan —Laurelita, by High Chaparral

2023: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $787,320

Winner: Beverly D. S. (G1T), E. P. Taylor S. (G1T), Nassau S. (G2T)    

Stakes Placings: 3rd Diana S. (G1T)

Vote: Fev Rover (148), Moira (95), Our Flash Drive (17)

Champion Male Turf Horse: LUCKY SCORE

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Pantofel Stables, Wachtel Stable, and Barber, Gary 

Breeder: James Everatt, Janeane Everatt & Arika Everatt-Meeuse

B. G. 5, by
Lookin at Lucky —Miss Matzo, by Royal Academy

2023: 8 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 3 thirds – $318,220

Winner:    Highlander S. (G2T)

Stakes Placings:    2nd Nearctic S. (G2T), 3rd Woodbine Mile S. (G1T), 3rd Connaught Cup S. (G2T), 3rd King Edward S. (G2T)

Vote: Lucky Score  (96), My Boy Prince  (88), Palazzi  (30)

Outstanding Trainer: MARK CASSE

In Canada:

Starts 556; Wins 113; 2nd 105; 3rd 81

Earnings $7,821,080 Stakes wins 24

A member of both the Canadian and United States Horse Racing Halls of Fame, Mark Casse has been atop the outstanding trainer category for more than a decade, having won 12 consecutive times. Incredibly, his stable set a record in 2023 for purse earnings at Woodbine and its starters collected more than $7.8 million in Canada. Casse trained the winners of 113 races and 24 stakes races in Canada. His 24 stakes wins in Canada, 10 of them graded, were by 21 different horses, of which 12 are Sovereign Awards finalists this evening. Among the stars for the Casse team in 2023 was Fev Rover. who provided the trainer with his first victory in the E. P. Taylor Stakes (G1T). Already a grade 1 winner on turf in the U.S. during the year, Fev Rover also won the Nassau Stakes (G2T) at Woodbine.

Vote: Mark Casse (160), Kevin Attard (80), Martin Drexler (21)

Champion Older Main Track Female: MILLIE GIRL

Trainer: Catherine Day Phillips

Owner: Kingfield Racing Stable, Braconcrest, and Apricot Valley Thoroughbreds

Breeder: Sean Fitzhenry

B. M. 5, by Hard Spun—Mendocino Beano, by Smart Strike

2023: 7 Starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds – $257,344

Winner: Maple Leaf S. (G3), Ontario Matron S. (G3), AOC

Stakes Placings: 2nd Seaway S. (G3), 3rd Nassau S. (G2T), 3rd Royal North S. (G2T

Vote: Millie Girl  (152), Infinite Patience  (60), Il Malocchio  (39)

Champion Older Main Track Male: TYSON    

Trainer: Josie Carroll

Owner: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings (J. G. Sikura) and Stetch Run Ventures

Breeder: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings and Stetch Run Ventures

GR/RO. C. 4, by
Tapit  —Honouring, by Smart Strike

2023: 7 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds – $319,967 

Winner: Seagram Cup S. (G2), Dominion Day S. (G3), AOC

Stakes Placings: 3rd Jockey Club Gold Cup S. (G1), 3rd Eclipse S. (G2)

Vote: Tyson  (113), Wolfie’s Dynaghost  (100), Treason  (29)

Outstanding Owner: GARY BARBER

In Canada:

Starts 96; Wins 22; 2nd 19; 3rd 15

Earnings: $1,873,307 Stakes wins 6

Gary Barber has been one of Ontario horse racing’s most successful owners in the last decade and this year earned his first Sovereign Award as outstanding owner.

A film producer in Hollywood, Barber is a staunch supporter of racing in Ontario and led all owners by earnings at Woodbine in 2020 and 2021. Barber’s statistics as a sole owner in 2023 were impressive again as he won 22 races, six of them stakes, and his horses collected over $1.8 million. Among those winners were My Boy Prince, a CTHS Ontario Yearling Sale purchase who won the Cup and Saucer Stakes and Simcoe Stakes before finishing a gallant third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T). The colt also placed in the Summer Stakes (G1T) and earned a divisional Sovereign Award. Barber also won graded stakes races with Conglomerate , Palazzi, and Witwatersrand.

Vote: Gary Barber (126), Bruno Schickedanz (71), Chiefswood Stables (27)

Horse of the Year: FEV ROVER (IRE)

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Tracy Farmer

Breeder: Manister House Stud

B. M. 5, by Gutaifan—Laurelita, by High Chaparral

2023: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $787,320

Winner: Beverly D. S. (G1T), E. P. Taylor S. (G1T), Nassau S. (G2T)    

Stakes Placings: 3rd Diana S. (G1T)

Vote: Fev Rover (90), Paramount Prince (44), Elysian Field (32)

This press release has been edited for content and style by BloodHorse Staff.

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