Quebec owner and breeder Claude Hamel is becoming a familiar face at the annual O'Brien Awards banquet.
He's been co-owner of finalists for divisional honours four consecutive years - older trotter Musical Rhythm (2016), two-year-old trotter Alarm Detector (2017), two-year-old trotting filly HP Titania Runner (2018), and for 2019, Musical Rhythm (again) and two-year-old male trotter HP Royal Theo.
Alarm Detector was named Canadian champion in 2017, "and we were very happy," said Hamel.
He likes the chances of both of his finalists this time around.
HP Royal Theo, a homebred gelding by Royalty For Life, captured the $370,000 William Wellwood Memorial final last summer, and though he finished the season disappointingly with a break in stride in the $225,000 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final in October, his connections are considering the Hambletonian in 2020, hoping for a better result in that historic event than Alarm Detector`s sixth-place finish behind Atlanta in 2018.
"Winning a race like that would be so prestigious," said Hamel, noting that HP Royal Theo "is back in training and doing very well. He'll be a good three-year-old."
As for Musical Rhythm, whose season was ended prematurely by a fractured cannon bone at the end of July, he's been the gift that keeps on giving to Hamel and his partners.
A $33,000 (U.S.) purchase in Harrisburg at the end of his three-year-old season, he's been a cash machine since they got him, with career earnings of almost $900,000 despite several injury setbacks.
Before his injury last summer, Musical Rhythm had a seven-race win streak at Woodbine Mohawk Park, equaled the track and Canadian record for male trotters with a 1:50.4 mile, and missed a cheque only once in 17 starts while amassing more than $200,000.
"He's an iron horse," said Hamel, noting the eight-year-old son of Cantab Hall resumed jogging in December and is back in training.
If he were to win the O'Brien, Hamel said, much of the credit should go to Sara Baillargeon, daughter of trainer Benoit Baillargeon, "who has taken such good care of him."
Now 60, Hamel is more focused than ever on the sport he first embraced in 1985, having recently sold his farm-equipment business to his son. He and partner Celine Paquin care for about a dozen broodmares and their babies at their 135-acre farm in Quebec's Eastern Townships, and he has shares in about 20 racehorses. Eight of their trotting broodmares are in foal to their own stars, Musical Rhythm and Alarm Detector.
(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Paul Delean)
The 2019 O'Brien Awards Black Tie Gala takes place on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario. Tickets are still available for the O’Brien Awards. To purchase O’Brien tickets, contact:
◈ Kathy Wade Vlaar at [email protected] or 905-858-3060 (Ext. 207).
◈ Hailey Saunders at [email protected] or 905-858-3060 (Ext. 243).
Standardbred Canada has partnered with FitzRoy Dress Rental and Moores for discounts for O’Brien Awards guests.
FitzRoy Dress Rental Discount – Women can rent their dresses from FitzRoy Dress Rentals online or in-store and receive a 15 per cent discount with the promo code OBRIEN15. For an additional fee you can request to have the dress dropped off and picked up at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel. For complete information, click here.
Moores Tuxedo Discount – Click here for info and flyer.
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