It was only six years ago that Danny Dion purchased his first racehorse, a claiming runner that eventually got him hooked on Thoroughbred racing. On Dec. 12 at a lavish ceremony in downtown Toronto, Canada, the Quebec-born Albertan won his first Sovereign Awards honoring Canada’s racing finest. Dion’s Fatal Bullet was named Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion sprinter; Bear Now, whom Dion recently sold for $950,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select sale was named champion older mare; and his Bear Stables was named outstanding owner for 2008.
"I am shocked," said Dion. "I was not expecting owner of the year or Horse of the Year (for Fatal Bullet). I thank my horses and the Bear team. It's amazing when the little guy has a chance. It's beyond my dreams."
Bear Stables runners won stakes races in Alberta, Ontario, and Kentucky and his Canadian starters earned purses of more than $1.5 million (statistics provided by The Jockey Club of Canada).
Dion, who now resides in Bonnyville, Alberta, is president and founder of Bear Slashing, an oil exploration and mulching business in his home province. Three-year-old Fatal Bullet, purchased for $27,000 at the 2007 Adena Springs 2-year-olds in training sale in Ocala, Fla., won six of eight starts this year including the Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III) at Turfway Park.
It was the bay gelding’s brave second-place finish in the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) to champion Midnight Lute at Santa Anita Park that was one of the most impressive efforts by a Canadian-based horse during the year. Fatal Bullet, a son of Red Bullet out of the Regal Classic mare Sararegal, is trained by Reade Baker and is currently in California prepping for the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) run on Santa Anita’s opening day program Dec. 26.
Baker also trained Bear Now, a finalist for champion 3-year-old filly in 2007, who won the Kentucky Cup Distaff (gr. III) at Turfway Park on the same day Fatal Bullet won the Kentucky Cup Sprint. A 4-year-old daughter of Tiznow , out of the In Excess mare Controlled, Bear Now also won the Ontario Matron and Hill ‘n’ Dale Stakes at Woodbine in 2008. Bear Now is expected to race in 2009 for Town & Country Farm.
Fatal Bullet collected 177 voting points (from 62 voters based on a 4-2-1 point system) to beat out the champion turf male Rahy’s Attorney (76 points) for the Horse of the Year trophy.
Rahy’s Attorney won the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) over stars such as Ventura and Kip Deville, at Woodbine in September. Owned and bred by Ellie-Boje Farm of Joe and Ellen MacLellan, Rahy’s Attorney (Crown Attorney-Rahy’s Hope, by Rahy) also won the Connaught Cup (Can-IIIT) and his two wins in eight starts earned the 4-year-old gelding a total of $822,837.
Rahy’s Attorney was trained by Ian Black.
Not Bourbon, the Ontario-sired winner of the Queen’s Plate (Can-IR), was named the champion 3-year-old male for breeder/owner Charles Fipke. The chestnut colt (Not Impossible—Bourbon Belle, by Storm Boot), trained by Roger Attfield, won four of eight races including the restricted Queen’s Plate Trial and Overskate Stakes.
Ginger Brew, owned and bred by Stronach Stables and trained by Brian Lynch, was almost unanimous as the champion 3-year-old filly at the Sovereign Awards. The daughter of Milwaukee Brew --Coral Necklace, by Conquistador Cielo, won the Woodbine Oaks, Calder Oaks, and Jammed Lovely Stakes and was second, beaten only a neck in the Plate to Not Bourbon.
Mine That Bird was bought for just $9,500 (US) by owner/trainer Dave Cotey on behalf of his Dominion Bloodstock and Derek Ball and Hugh Galbreath and was named champion 2-year-old male. Cotey and company watched Mine That Bird win three stakes races including the Grey Breeders’ Cup Stakes (Can-III). Mine That Bird was sold privately to Double Eagle Farm before finishing 12th in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita. The gelding is from the first crop of Birdstone , out of the Mining mare Mining My Own.
Richard Day’s homebred 2-year-old filly Van Lear Rose (Stroll--Devaluation by Conquistador Cielo) won the Mazarine Stakes (Can-III) and was named champion juvenile filly. She was trained by Day’s sister Catherine Day Phillips.
Irish-bred Callwood Dancer, owned by Harlequin Ranches and trained by Attfield, was named champion turf female based on a victory in the Nassau Stakes (Can-IIT) and second-place finishes in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-I) and Pattison Canadian Stakes (Can-IIT).
Marchfield, owned and bred by Eugene Melynk on Ontario, was named outstanding older horse. The 4-year-old is by A.P. Indy, out of the Red Ransom mare Pico Teneriffe.
Mark Casse, who trains Marchfield, won his third consecutive Sovereign award for outstanding trainer, edging out Attfield. Jockey Patrick Husbands was a narrow winner for outstanding jockey over Jim McAleney--his sixth such award.
Winnipeg apprentice rider Janine Stainson was named the top bug rider. Adena Springs won its fourth consecutive breeder title and Kathie’s Colleen, owned and bred by Gus Schickedanz, was named outstanding broodmare. Kathie’s Colleen, by Woodman, produced 2003 Horse of the Year Wando and 2008 stakes-placed mare Half Sister.
34TH SOVEREIGN AWARD WINNERS
HORSE OF THE YEAR
2-YEAR-OLD FILLY: Van Lear Rose
2-YEAR-OLD MALE: Mine That Bird
3-YEAR-OLD MALE: Not Bourbon
3-YEAR-OLD FILLY: Ginger Brew
OLDER FEMALE: Bear Now
OLDER MALE HORSE: Marchfield
SPRINTER: Fatal Bullet
MALE TURF HORSE: Rahy’s Attorney
FEMALE TURF HORSE: Callwood Dancer
JOCKEY: Patrick Husbands
APPRENTICE JOCKEY: Janine Stainson
TRAINER: Mark Casse
OWNER: Bear Stables
BREEDER: Adena Springs
BROODMARE: Kathie’s Colleen
PHOTOGRAPH: Matt Waples
FILM/VIDEO/BROADCAST: Horse Racing Alberta & Whiteiron Productions
NEWSPAPER STORY: Bev Smith
FEATURE STORY: Peter Gross