Jockey Todd Kabel is a finalist for 2003 Male Athlete of the Year in Manitoba, Canada, which will be announced Sunday night.
The other nominees are Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour and Minnesota Twins third baseman Corey Koskie.
"I've never forgotten my roots, so to win this would certainly mean a lot to me," said the Bolton, Ontario resident, who captured a career-high 29 stakes wins at Woodbine in 2003, second only to the 32 added-money triumphs set by the late Avelino Gomez in 1966. "To be in the same category with Ed Belfour and Corey Koskie is really special."
The 38-year-old jockey, who became the first Woodbine-based rider to eclipse the eight-figure mark in yearly purse earnings ($11,279,655) in 2003, will be on hand for the Athletes of the Year Award dinner at the Delta Winnipeg.
The Sovereign Award-winning jockey won the award in 1995, a year in which he captured his first Queen's Plate aboard Sam-Son Farm's Regal Discovery. He also had 28 stakes scores and 193 wins, the latter representing the second highest total (Mickey Walls won 221 in 1991) ever attained at Woodbine.
There is also talk of recognizing Kabel in McCreary, a town of 600 people eager to hail their hometown hero.
"We don't have anything specifically in mind, but we will definitely be doing something to honour Todd's great accomplishments," said Theresa Labbe, project coordinator for the McCreary Beautification Committee. "I've spoken to the town council about a number of ideas (including a wood statue of Kabel aboard a horse) that we would have on display in Fletcher Park and they were very receptive."
"It was an unbelievable year," said Kabel, of his 2003 exploits at the Toronto oval, including the coveted riding title, courtesy of 160 wins, two more than runner-up Patrick Husbands. "I had set a lot of goals for myself and I was able to achieve them."
When the 2004 thoroughbred season opens on April 17 at Woodbine, Kabel insists he won't be resting on his laurels. "I'm already wound up for it. I'll be giving it everything I've got. Hopefully, we can do even better than we did this past year."