The Jockey Club of Canada announced its 42nd Annual Sovereign Award winners April 14 at The Palais Royale in Toronto, Ontario. The Sovereign Awards are Canada's premier award for Thoroughbred racing and breeding.
Horse of the Year was Robert Marzilli's Caren, a 3-year-old daughter of Society's Chairman out of the Vilzak mare Jo Zak who also took home honors for top 3-year-old filly. Bred by James and Janeane Everatt and Arika Everatt-Meeuse and trained by Michael De Paulo, the bay filly won the Ontario Colleen Stakes (G3), Carotene Stakes, Wonder Where Stakes, and Bison City Stakes. In nine 2016 starts she collected a 4-2-1 record and earnings of $613,550.
A force in its category, Frank Stronach's 10-time winner Adena Springs once again was named outstanding breeder. The farm's 47 individual winners from 82 individual starters in 2016 included Shaman Ghost, who won the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course and the Brooklyn Invitational (G2) at Belmont Park. The son of Adena Springs stallion Ghostzapper also finished third in the Clark Handicap (G1).
Adena Springs was also the breeder of Dan Gale and Richard Hogan's impressive 3-year-old Shakhimat, who won the Transylvania Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and came in second in the Plate Trial at Woodbine. Ice Festival, raced by Stronach Stables, won the Maple Leaf Stakes (G3) in the fall of 2016 and its Charming Delilah won the Sweet Briar Too Stakes. The farm also bred graded stakes-placed runners Romeo O Romeo and Scholar Athlete. Overall, they were represented by an 81-62-70 record from 492 starts, for earnings of $3,567,616.
Stronach was also presented with the E.P. Taylor Award of Merit for his longtime involvement and commitment to Thoroughbred racing in Canada. The recipient of the E.P. Taylor Award of Merit is decided by The Jockey Club of Canada Board of Stewards and is not necessarily awarded annually. Previously called the Man of the Year Award, The E.P. Taylor Award of Merit is earned by those who have positively impacted or contributed to the Thoroughbred industry in Canada.
Outstanding owner went to Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell's Conquest Stables, which burst onto the Canadian racing scene in 2014 with Sovereign Award-winning juveniles Conquest Harlanate and Conquest Typhoon. The stable was a finalist in this cateogry in 2015, and in 2016 led all owners at Woodbine by purse earnings. The stable won 28 races in Canada and close to $2 million in purses. Their top runners were Conquest Enforcer, winner of two stakes at Woodbine and a finalist for three Sovereign Awards, along with the undefeated 2-year-old Ontario-sired filly Conquest Vivi, a half sister to Conquest Enforcer, who won the Nandi and Victorian Queen Stakes. Conquest Stables dispersed its horses in the fall of 2016.
Another dominant contender in his category, Mark Casse's stable continued its roll in 2016, collecting a fifth straight Woodbine training title with its second-highest number of winners, 97, at the Toronto track. Casse was presented with a record ninth Sovereign Award for outstanding trainer.
In 2016 Casse and his team sent out the winners of more than $5.6 million in purses, had a 21% win rate, and saddled 17 stakes winners in Canada. The top Canadian runners for Casse include numerous Sovereign Award finalists for 2016: Lexie Lou won three stakes, including two graded races; King and His Court won the Coronation Futurity and Display Stakes for 2-year-olds; Golden Hawk won the Grey Stakes (G3); Victory to Victory won the Natalma (G1); and Conquest Vivi was an unbeaten juvenile. Casse earned his first Eclipse Award nomination for outstanding trainer for his 2016 season. In Canada he collected a 97-70-79 record from 460 starts, for earnings of $5,613,457.
Outstanding jockey honors went to Eurico Rosa da Silva, who picked up his third award. His 202 Canadian wins from 796 mounts topped the previous year's mark of 201 wins. He also rode the winners of 21 stakes races, the most added-money events he has won since he came to Woodbine in 2004. With a win rate of 25%, Da Silva won the Woodbine Oaks in 2016 aboard Neshama, and took home six graded events at Woodbine, including the Dominion Day Stakes (G3) aboard Melmich, the Mazarine Stakes (G3) on Gale Force, and the Highlander Stakes (G2) with Passion for Action.
The outstanding apprentice jockey was Kayla Pizarro, who comes from a family of jockeys, including father Jorge and brother Tyler.
Pizarro's 40 wins led all Canadian apprentice riders, and she won her first stakes race when she partnered the filly About a Girl to victory in the Miss Royal Gold Stakes.
Dexter Brathwaite was honored with the outstanding groom award for 2016, sponsored by the OLG. Brathwaite has rubbed some of the great Woodbine horses of the past decade. A native of Barbados, he was nominated by his current employer, Barbara Minshall, for whom he has worked since 2004.
Galloping Ami was named outstanding broodmare. Tall Oaks Farm's daughter of Victory Gallop is a great-granddaughter of one of breeder Ivan Dalos' foundation mares, Sybelle Ami, who never raced but more than made up for that in the breeding shed. The mare's fifth foal is champion 3-year-old Amis Gizmo, one of Canada's top 3-year-olds of 2016. Galloping Ami's 4-year-old of 2016, Ami's Flatter, won the Commonwealth Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Champion older male honors went to Are You Kidding Me, who won the Eclipse Stakes (G2), Durham Cup (G3), and Autumn Stakes (G2) for owners Ron Kirk, John Bates, and Michael Riordan, along with trainer Roger Attfield. The 6-year-old son of Run Away and Hide ran to three wins and two seconds from eight starts in 2016.
Champion turf male was 3-year-old Conquest Enforcer, now owned by Loooch Racing Stables, Imaginary Stables, and Raquel Ritchie. The Phil D'Amato trainee, a son of Into Mischief , won the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2T), Charlie Barley Stakes, Allied Forces Stakes, and Queenston Stakes.
Champion turf female honors went to Lexie Lou. The 5-year-old Sligo Bay mare won the Nassau Stakes (G2), Dance Smartly Stakes (G2T), and Victoriana Stakes for Gary Barber and Casse.
Champion 3-year-old male was Ivan Dalos' homebred Amis Gizmo, by Giant Gizmo . The Josie Carroll trainee won the Ontario Derby (G3), Prince of Wales Stakes, and Plate Trial.
Champion male sprinter went to Noholdingback Bear. The 3-year-old Put It Back colt races for Bear Stables and trainer Michael De Paulo, and in 2016 won the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3), Tom Ridge Stakes, and Woodstock Stakes.
Champion female sprinter was The Very Dry Stable's River Maid, winner of the Bessarabian Stakes (G2) and Ballade Stakes. The 4-year-old daughter of Where's the Ring is trained by Robert Tiller.
Champion 2-year-old male was King and His Court, a son of Court Vision raced by Gary Barber and Wachtel Stable and Casse to victories in the Coronation Futurity and Display Stakes.
Champion 2-year-old filly went to Live Oak Plantation's Victory to Victory, another Casse trainee. The Exchange Rate filly won the Natalma Stakes (G1).
In the media awards categories, Cody Gregory won outstanding photograph, Beverly Smith was honored for outstanding writing, and the Woodbine Entertainment Group won outstanding digital audio/visual broadcast.
The inaugural Jockey Club of Canada Award was presented to Tyler Hehn at the School of Media Studies and Information Technology, Humber Institute of Advanced Technology and Advanced Learning in Toronto. This monetary award is presented to a student entering their final year of study, who has exemplified outstanding leadership inside and out of the classroom and who has showcased exceptional knowledge of sport and sport issues, with special consideration given to those who reported on Canadian Thoroughbred racing.