It was a big night for the connections of Southern Image at the March 20 Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association annual awards dinner. Southern Image was named Florida-bred horse of the year and champion older horse, while his sire, Halo's Image, who stands at Arthur I. Appleton's Bridlewood Farm, was named sire of the year.Southern Image earned $1,612,150 from winning three of four starts, including the Santa Anita Handicap and Pimlico Special, both grade I, as well as the Sunshine Millions Classic. He finished second in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I).Michael Machowsky conditions the son of Halo's Image for Blahut Stable, Kagele Brothers, and Allen and Josh Tepper.
"I'm the elder of the whole group," said co-owner Don Blahut when accepting the award. "So I want to say thank goodness this horse came along before it was too late."Bred by Appleton, Southern Image was produced from the Dixieland Band mare Pleasant Dixie. Halo's Image was named 2004 Florida stallion of the year. The dark bay/brown son of Halo led all Florida stallions by progeny earnings with $3,478,986. Halo's Image had been named the 2003 leading Florida juvenile sire. In addition to Southern Image, Halo's Image was represented by stakes winners Iowa's Image and stakes-placed Hal's Image. Graded stakes winner Halo's Image was bred and raced by Appleton and Happy Alter Racing Stable. Bridlewood was also honored with the Joe O' Farrell Memorial Award, which is presented annually by the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company to the original consignor of the year's best Florida-bred race horse which was offered at public auction. Bridlewood sold Southern Image for $300,000 at the 2002 OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale. Other divisional winners include: Lady Tak, champion older female. The daughter of Mutakddim was bred by the late John Franks and is owned by Bill Heiligbrodt's Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and trained by Steve Asmussen. Lady Tak earned $439,412 in 2004 from four wins in seven starts, including the Ballerina Handicap (gr. I), Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) and the Winning Colors Handicap. Afleet Alex, champion 2-year-old male. The son of Northern Afleet was bred by John Martin Silvertand and is owned by Cash is King Stable and trained by Tim Ritchey. Afleet Alex won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II). He also finished second in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)."For those of you who bought a (Kentucky Derby, grade I) future ticket on 'Alex', don't throw them away," Silvertand said. "He threw in a clunker Saturday (finished last as the 3-5 favorite in the grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park),but he will be back. The Arkansas Derby (gr. II) is next followed by the Kentucky Derby (gr. I)."Splendid Blended, champion 2-year-old filly. The daughter of Unbridled's Song races as a homebred for Peter Vesgo and is trained by Neil Drysdale. Splendid Blended won three of four starts in 2004, including the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I)."It only took 18 years to get a grade I win," Vesgo said when accepting the award. "And people say the publishing business is tough. She is chicken soup for my soul."Limehouse, champion 3-year-old male. The son of Grand Slam was bred by Cheryl Curtin and campaigned by Dogwood Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher. Limehouse won two of five starts on the year, including the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) and Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III).Hopelessly Devoted, champion 3-year-old female. The daughter of Storm Creek was bred by Dr. Sandy Lynn Price and campaigned by Liberty Stable and trained by Sandra Slivka. Hopelessly Devoted died of a heart attack following a January allowance race. Midas Eyes, champion sprinter. The son of Touch Gold was bred by Jacks or Better Farm and campaigned by Edmund Gann and trainer Bobby Frankel. Midas Eyes won two of five starts on the year, including the Forego Handicap (gr. I).Star Over the Bay, champion turf horse. The son of Cozzene was bred by Four Horsemen's Ranch and is campaigned by G Racing, Carl Van Burger, and Landon Vaughn. Mike Mitchell is the trainer. Star Over the Bay won five of nine starts on the year including the Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes (gr. IT)."I want to thank the Florida-bred program," said Jeff Gerson of G Racing. "And I want to thank (trainer) Mike Mitchell for putting up with our dog and pony show."Additional honors were presented to the late John Franks, breeder of the year; Hold to Fashion, broodmare of the year; Michael J. Gill, leading owner in Florida-bred earnings; Jaye Baillie, Bruce Campbell Award; Jacks or Better Farm, Needles Award; Wild Event leading Florida juvenile sire; Running Stag, leading Florida freshman sire; Diligent Gambler, claiming horse of the year; David R. Brownlee, leading Florida trainer of Florida-breds; Edward Plesa Jr., leading Florida trainer of Florida-breds; and Angel C. Salinas, leading Florida trainer of Florida-breds.