Champs Elysees may have won just a single race in 2009 but it was the richest event in Canada and was enough to secure Horse of the Year honors in this country at the 35th annual Sovereign Award ceremony, held at the Ultra Club in downtown Toronto.
The now-retired 7-year-old horse, bred in Great Britain by his owner Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, won the $2 million (Can. funds) Pattison Canadian International, a grade I race, on Woodbine’s turf course last October, and placed in four other graded stakes events at both Woodbine and Santa Anita, in California.
The Canadian International victory was not ony Champs Elysees biggest race of the year, it also made the late Bobby Frankel the first trainer to win the Canadian International, the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT, Ventura, Leroidesanimaux, and Riviera), the E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT, Commercante), and The Queen’s Plate (Wild Desert). For the year, Champs Elysees finished in the money five times in seven starts and bankrolled $1,509,683. His total career earnings are $2,864,444.
The British-bred, by world-class sire Danehill, made the required three starts in Canada (he actually started four times) to be eligible for a Sovereign Award. Champs Elysees is the first U.S.-based runner to win the Sovereign Award Horse of the Year title since 1995, when the award went to Pin Oak Stud's homebred Peaks and Valleys. He is one of five grade/group I winners produced by Irish-bred Hasili, by Kahyasi, and is now standing at Banstead Manor Stud in England for 10,000 pounds.
“I guess it’s fitting that he won Horse of the Year in a country other than France that can pronounce his name right,” said Garrett O’Rourke, manager of Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms near Lexington.
Champs Elysees collected 118 voting points and beat out Milwaukee Appeal, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2009 who had 50 points, for the Horse of the Year trophy.
The horse was also named champion male turf runner by the 51 voters across Canada.
The big winner of the evening was businessman Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey League, who was named the year’s outstanding owner and breeder.
Melnyk’s homebred Marchfield (A.P. Indy—Pico Teneriffe) was voted the champion older male runner based on two graded stakes wins and his dam, Pico Teneriffe, also owned by Melnyk, was named outstanding broodmare.
Melnyk was winning his second owner award and his first-ever outstanding breeder award, ending a 12-year-old streak in that category by Sam-Son Farms and/or Frank Stronach.
Trainer Roger Attfield, a Hall of Famer, won a record seventh Sovereign for outstanding trainer, ending a three-year reign by Mark Casse.
Attfield, who has won 42 Sovereigns including those for horses he trained, sent out the winners of 14 stakes races, including the champion 2-year-old colt Hollinger, and the earners of more than $3.6 million.
For the first time in the history of the Sovereigns, two horses tied for an award win.
Brereton Jones’ homebred Biofuel (Stormin Fever —Mrs. Cornstalk, by Indian Charlie) and Sovereign Stables’ Negligee (Northern Afleet —Naughty Notion, by Relaunch) each collected 135 voting points and were dual winners of the champion 2-year-old filly trophy.
“We love Woodbine,” said Jones in a telephone conversation. “We hope to bring more ammunition up there in the near future.”
British Columbia-bred Tribal Belle, owned and bred by Mark Wiltshire’s Canvasback Farm, won the inagural champion female sprinter Sovereign Award. The daughter of Tribunal—B.B. Belle, by Vying Victor) won her maiden in 2008 for $8,000 claiming but rose to the top of her division once she moved from Hastings Park in Vancouver to Woodbine last year.
“I never thought she would be this caliber of horse, that’s for sure,” said Wiltshire, a stockbroker from Cloverdale, British Columbia.
2009 Sovereign Award winners
Horse of the Year: Champs Elysees (GB)
Outstanding 2-year-old filly: Biofuel, Negligee
Champion 2-year-old male: Hollinger
Champion 3-year-old female: Milwaukee Appeal
Champion 3-year-old male: Eye of the Leopard
Champion older female: Serenading
Champion older male: Marchfield
Champion turf female: Points of Grace
Champion turf male: Champs Elysees (GB)
Champion female sprinter: Tribal Belle
Champion male sprinter: Field Commission
Champion broodmare: Pico Teneriffe
Outstanding jockey: Patrick Husbands
Outstanding apprentice jockey: Omar Moreno
Outstanding trainer: Roger Attfield
Outstanding owner: Melnyk Racing Stables
Outstanding breeder: Eugene Melnyk
Outstanding photograph: Michael Burns Jr.
Outstanding feature story: Bruce Walker
Outstanding newspaper article: Curtis Stock
Outstanding film/video/broadcast: Woodbine Entertainment Broadcasting Department