On Monday, December 21, Standardbred Canada announced the finalists for the 2015 O’Brien Awards, which honour Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season.
The winners will be announced at the annual O’Brien Awards Black Tie Gala on Saturday, February 13, 2016, at the Hilton Mississauga/ Meadowvale hotel in Mississauga, Ont.
This will be the 27th edition of the O’Brien Awards, named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
Eight past O’Brien Award winners are looking to add to their trophy collections and are either defending titles or are nominated in a new division. Past winners include: Artspeak, Bee A Magician, Daylon Magician, Lady Shadow, Richard Moreau, Sylvain Filion, Travis Cullen and Randy Waples.
Sylvain Filion, age 46, and Randy Waples, age 50, are both residents of Milton, Ont., and are both looking to add to their respective trophy collections in the Driver of the Year category.
Filion won this award in 2012 and 2013 and is currently in the midst of his best season since 2012. He’s driven 340 winners and leads all Canadian drivers in the earnings column with over $6.8 million. On November 16 he recorded another career milestone when he recorded his 8,000th driving victory at Woodbine Racetrack.
Waples took Driver of the Year honours in 1998, 2001 and 2010. He’s enjoying another stellar season with 169 victories and over $4.8 million in earnings, good enough for third place in the national standings.
Richard Moreau, 51, of Puslinch, Ont., is back to defend his Trainer of the Year title and is looking to take home his third consecutive O’Brien bronze. Jimmy Takter, who was also a finalist in this category last year, is the other nominee.
Moreau, who has been a regular on the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) circuit for over 11 years, leads all Canadian trainers in the wins column and sits in second behind Takter in the earnings column. Moreau has trained 268 winners and horses to $3.5 million in earnings and operates a large stable of claiming and conditioned horses.
Takter, 55, of East Windsor, NJ, trained 21 winners and horses to $4.2 million in earnings in Canada and competes primarily in stakes events. Takter trains four O’Brien finalists: Wild Honey, The Bank, Pinkman, and Shake It Cerry.
Travis Cullen, 23, of Airdrie, Alta., and Dr. Ian Moore, 61, of Guelph, Ont., are both first-time finalists for the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship and are both enjoying career years.
Cullen, who received an O’Brien in 2013 as Canada’s Future Star winner, posted some incredible numbers racing solely in Alberta. His trainees accounted for 228 wins and just under $1.2 million in earnings, and on the driving side he’s steered 248 winners to $1.2 million in purse money.
Veteran horseman Dr. Moore has trained 62 winners and horses to $2.1 million in earnings. His stable star, State Treasurer, is one of the Older Pacing Horse finalists.
LA Delight and Twin B Thong are the nominees in the two-year-old pacing filly division.
LA Delight, a daughter of Bettors Delight, was almost flawless this season for trainer Bob McIntosh, as she won 11 of her 12 starts and banked over $704,000 in purses. After having recorded a third-place finish in her first start of the season, LA Delight put together an 11-race win streak and captured many stakes events, including a campaign-ending seasonal best 1:51.2 mile in her Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final at Woodbine Racetrack.
Sportswriter filly Twin B Thong boasted eight on-the-board finishes from nine starts and banked over $243,000 in purses. The Casie Coleman trainee took her mark of 1:52.1 while winning an Ontario Sires Stake Gold event at Mohawk Racetrack.
Betting Line and Control The Moment are the two-year-old pacing colt finalists.
Betting Line posted six wins and banked over $540,000 during his rookie campaign for trainer Casie Coleman. In what was just his third start of the year, the Bettors Delight colt took a race record of 1:51.4 in an overnight event at Mohawk. His richest victory of the year was his OSS Super Final victory where he toured the Woodbine oval in 1:52.
Well Said colt Control The Moment dominated the two-year-old pacing colt ranks, as the pupil of trainer Brad Maxwell won eight of his nine starts and banked $461,000 in purses. Control The Moment tackled North America’s best colts successfully when he wheeled off his season’s best 1:49.4 mile in the Metro Pace at Mohawk.
Two Mach Three sophomore pacing fillies, Solar Sister and Wrangler Magic, battled all season long on the racetrack, and they are now competing for O’Brien honours.
Solar Sister, trained by Gregg McNair, won eight races, banked over $554,000 in purses and recorded several stakes victories, including her OSS Super Final. Stephane Larocque trainee Wrangler Magic recorded four wins, banked over $574,000 in earnings, and posted her mark of 1:50.2 in winning the Fan Hanover Stakes, which was her richest payday of the season.
The three-year old pacing colt finalists, millionaires Artspeak and Wakizashi Hanover, enjoyed incredible seasons.
Artspeak, who is by Western Ideal and trained by Tony Alagna, won six races and banked over $962,000 in purses for his efforts, which including a sizzling 1:47.4 score in the Tattersalls over the Red Mile in Lexington, KY.
Dragon Again gelding Wakizashi Hanover, who is trained by JoAnn Looney King, won Canada’s richest harness race, as he paced to a three-quarter-length career best 1:48 win in the Pepsi North America Cup at Mohawk. The victory was the richest of his 11 trips to the winner’s circle during the season – the win was worth a $500,000 paycheque – and amounted to a large chunk of his 2015 earnings, which totalled over $1.2 million.
Shadow Play bay Lady Shadow graduated to the older pacing mare ranks this year and was a top performer, as she won five races and banked $360,000 in purses. Lady Shadow, who was trained primarily by Ron Adams, scored back-to-back victories in a life’s best 1:48.3 when she swept the elimination and final of the Roses Are Red Stakes.
Jeff Bamond pupil Venus Delight is the other candidate in the Older Pacing Mare division. The daughter of Bettors Delight recorded 15 top-three finishes from 19 starts and bankrolled over $653,000, which made her the richest pacing mare of the season. She was a consistent performer from March through November and posted a career-best 1:49.4 mile in winning the TVG at the Meadowlands Racetrack. She also captured her Milton Stakes elimination and the final at Mohawk.
The Older Pacing Horse pool always runs deep, and this year’s two finalists were at the top of their game in 2015.
All Bets Off, by Bettors Delight and trained by Ron Burke, earned over $539,000 in purses. His three 2015 victories all came while racing in Canada (the elimination and final of the Confederation Cup and the Prix d’Ete).
State Treasurer, who was a finalist in this category in 2014, scored his richest 2015 payday while winning the Canadian Pacing Derby, Canada’s oldest stakes event, at Mohawk. The Canadian Pacing Derby win was one of nine victories for the six-year-old son of Real Desire, who also added over $966,000 to his bank account. The student of trainer Dr. Ian Moore also posted his third victory in the Molson Pace at The Raceway at Western Fair District.
On the trotting side, All The Time and Caprice Hill are the two-year-old filly nominees.
All The Time, who is by Muscle Hill and is trained by Jimmy Takter, won seven races and over $578,000 during her juvenile campaign. She recorded victories in several stakes, including her elimination and the final of her Breeders Crown division at Woodbine.
Kadabra filly Caprice Hill was never worse than third in any of her 10 starts in 2015. The pupil of trainer Tony Alagna recorded seven wins and bankrolled $593,000. She put together an impressive five-race win streak that kicked off with an OSS Gold event at Georgian Downs in June and concluded with an OSS Super Final win in November.
The Ron Burke-trained Muscle Hill colt Southwind Frank was almost invincible in 2015, as he won 11 of his 12 races and banked $941,000 in purses. The Breeders Crown champion has earned himself a nomination in the two-year-old trotting colt category against Tony Soprano.
Trainer Bob McIntosh’s Kadabra colt Tony Soprano won four races in 2015, including a 1:55.1 win in his OSS Super Final. Tony Soprano concluded his season with over $294,000 in purse earnings.
Millionaire sophomore trotting fillies Mission Brief and Wild Honey are finalists in their division. Ron Burke trainee Mission Brief, by Muscle Hill, won 10 races, including her elimination and the final of the Elegantimage Stakes. Wild Honey, by Cantab Hall, won seven races, including the Breeders Crown Championship for trainer Jimmy Takter.
Pinkman, North America’s richest trotter in 2015, is up against The Bank for O’Brien hardware in the three-year-old trotting colt division.
Pinkman, a son of Explosive Matter trained by Jimmy Takter, won 11 races and over $2 million on the year. He scored his richest payday in winning the $1 million Hambletonian at the Meadowlands in a career best 1:51, a world record for sophomore gelded trotters on a mile oval.
Donato Hanover colt The Bank, who is also trained by Jimmy Takter, won five races and almost $1.1 million during his campaign, which included a win in the Breeders Crown and a win in the Stanley Dancer Memorial where he posted his life’s mark of 1:50.4.
Bee A Magician, Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2013, will be looking for another O’Brien trophy, this time in the older trotting mare division. The Kadabra mare had an incredible season winning 10 races and $1.1 million and highlighted by a spectacular victory in the prestigious Maple Leaf Trot at Mohawk Racetrack for trainer Richard ‘Nifty’ Norman.
Jimmy Takter trainee Shake It Cerry is the other finalist. The daughter of Donato Hanover won five races and $446,000 this season, highlighted by an impressive win in her final start of the season in the TVG Trot for mares at The Meadowlands.
Daylon Magician and Resolve are the Older Trotting Horse finalists. Kadabra bay Daylon Magician enjoyed a solid campaign for trainer/driver Jack Moiseyev. The seven-year-old won seven races and $223,000 in purses while being a regular competitor in the Preferred trotting ranks on the WEG circuit. Resolve, a son of Muscle Hill, won four races and $780,000 for trainer/driver Ake Svanstedt. One of Resolve’s most impressive victories came in the TVG Free for All Trot at the Meadowlands.
In the Armstrong Breeder of the Year category, William Andrew, Calgary, AB. / Meridian Farms, Milton, P.E.I. and partners Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON and Al Libfeld, Pickering, ON are the finalists.
Meridian Farms, owned by William and Denise Andrew of Calgary, is a family-run Standardbred breeding operation with two farms: a home farm in Milton, Prince Edward Island, and the western farm at High River, Alta. Both offer full services for breeders, and each year their yearlings enter public auctions in Atlantic Canada and Alberta. William Andrew-bred horses won 129 races and $662,000 to date in 2015 and Meridian-bred horses won 126 races and $702,000.
What started as a partnership that focused on buying yearlings and racing horses has evolved into one of harness racing's most respected breeding enterprises for Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld. Horses bred by this partnership won 53 races and $2.2 million this season.
The Future Star Award finalists are trainer Ron Adams, 28, of Lasalle, Ont. and driver Clarke Steacy, 25, of Lansdowne, Ont.
Adams trained 42 winners and horses to $940,000 in earnings while racing primarily on the WEG circuit.
Steacy drove 78 winners and horses to over $420,000 in earnings while competing primarily at Rideau Carleton Raceway.
One of the 24 horse nominees will be honoured as Canada’s Horse of the Year. The winners will be announced at the O’Brien Awards Gala on Saturday, February 13, 2016, at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, Ontario.
2015 O’BRIEN AWARD NOMINEES
TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACER
L A Delight
Owned by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Windsor, ON – CSX Stables, Liberty Center, OH, and Al McIntosh Holdings, Inc., Leamington, ON
Twin B Thong
Owned by West Wins Stable, Cambridge, ON, Mac T Nichol, Burlington, ON and Steve Calhoun, Chatham, ON
TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT PACER
Owned by West Wins Stable, Cambridge, ON, Christine Calhoun, Chatham, ON and Mac T Nichol, Burlington, ON
Control The Moment
Owned by Brad Maxwell, Guelph, ON, Howard A Taylor, Philadelphia, PA,
Edwin J Gold, Phoenixville, PA, and Ben D Mudry, Toronto, ON
THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY PACER
Owned by David S Willmot, King City, ON and Clay Harland Horner, Toronto, ON
Owned by Thomas Kyron, Toronto, ON, Dr. Maurice N Stewart, Leduc, AB, Brian R Paquet, Quebec, QC and Bayama Farms Incl, Saint-Andre-D’Argenteuil, QC
THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT PACER
Owned by Brittany Farms, Versailles, KY, Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON, Joe Sbrocco, Brecksville, OH, and In The Gym Partners, Staten Island, NY
Tri County Stable, Truro, NS
OLDER PACING MARE
Owned by David Kryway, Amherstburg, ON, Carl L Atley, Xenia, OH,
Edwin J Gold, Phoenixville, PA and Bfj Stable, Philadelphia, PA
Owned by Bamond Racing LLC, Brick, NJ
OLDER PACING HORSE
All Bets Off
Owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA, Frank D Baldachino, Clarksburg, NJ, and The Panhellenic Stb Corp, Oyster Bay, NY
Owned by Sally A MacDonald, Souris, PE and Paul G MacDonald, Toronto, ON
TWO-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROTTER
All The Time
Owned by Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON and Al Libfeld, Pickering, ON
Owned by Tom Hill, Hamilton, ON
TWO-YEAR-OLD COLT TROTTER
Owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA, Our Horse Cents Stables, Clifton Park, NY and J and T Silva Stables LLC, Long Beach, NY
Owned by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Windsor, ON, Mardon Stables, Loretto, ON, Paradox Farm Inc., Caledon East and Dave A Boyle, Bowmanville, ON
THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY TROTTER
Owned by Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown, Our Horse Cents Stables, Clifton Park, NY & J and T Silva Stables LLC, Long Beach, NY and
Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA
Owned by Christina Takter, East Windsor, NJ, John D Fielding, Toronto, ON, Herb A Liverman, Miami Beach, FL and Jim H Fielding, Toronto, ON
THREE-YEAR-OLD COLT TROTTER
Owned by Christina Takter, East Windsor, NJ, John and Jim Fielding, Toronto, ON, Joyce A McClelland, Zanesville, OH and Herb Liverman, Miami Beach, FL
Owned by Christina Takter, East Windsor, NJ, Goran C Falk, Allentown, NJ and Goran N Anderberg, Malmo, Sweden
OLDER TROTTING MARE
Bee A Magician
Owned by Melvin Hartman, Ottawa, ON, Herb A Liverman, Miami Beach, FL and David H Mc Duffee, Delray Beach, FL
Shake It Cerry
Owned by Solveigs Racing Partners, East Windsor, NJ
OLDER TROTTING HORSE
Owned by Daylon Farms Ltd., Komoka, ON
Owned by Hans G Enggren, Abbotstown, PA
O’BRIEN AWARD OF HORSEMANSHIP
Travis Cullen, Airdrie, AB
Dr. Ian Moore, Guelph, ON
ARMSTRONG BREEDER OF THE YEAR
William Andrew, Calgary, AB / Meridian Farms, Milton, PE
Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON / Al Libfeld, Pickering, ON
DRIVER OF THE YEAR
Sylvain Filion, Milton, ON
Randy Waples, Milton, ON
TRAINER OF THE YEAR
Richard Moreau, Puslinch, ON
Jimmy Takter, East Windsor, NJ
FUTURE STAR AWARD
Ron Adams, Lasalle, ON
Clarke Steacy, Lansdowne, ON