12/10/2004 12:00AM

And the envelope, please . . .


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Soaring Free, undefeated in five starts at Woodbine, including the Grade 1 Atto Mile, heads the list of finalists for this year's 30th annual Sovereign Awards.

The Jockey Club of Canada, which conducts the Sovereign Award balloting, announced the finalists in 15 categories on Friday after the ballots of 76 voters across Canada were tabulated by the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Voters were asked to list their top three choices in order of preference, with points assigned on a 4-2-1 basis.

The winners will be announced on Friday, at the annual awards ceremony, which will be held this year at the nearby Wyndham Bristol Place Hotel in Toronto.

The highlight of the program will be the announcement of the three finalists for Horse of the Year, and Soaring Free, a prohibitive choice to be named champion turf male, is a leading candidate for that honor.

Soaring Free, a homebred 5-year-old gelding, is owned by Sam-Son Farm, which is up for honors as both outstanding owner and outstanding breeder, and is trained by Mark Frostad, who is on the short list for his category.

In addition to his wins here, four of them in stakes, Soaring Free has a victory in the Grade 3 Shakertown at Keeneland, and closed his season with a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park.

A Bit O' Gold, a winner of four stakes and $1,060,790, is the leading candidate in the 3-year-old male division and also should be prominent in the Horse of the Year voting.

Owned by The Two Bit Racing Stable and trained by Catherine Day Phillips, A Bit O' Gold finished second to Niigon in Woodbine's Queen's Plate but turned the tables in Fort Erie's Prince of Wales for a split of the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown.

A Bit O' Gold later won the Breeders', the 1 1/2-mile turf race and the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Niigon did not run in that race.

Niigon and Organ Grinder, who is based at Woodbine but shipped to Northlands Park to win the Grade 3 Canadian Derby, are also on the solid list of 3-year-old finalists.

One for Rose, a winner of four stakes and $489,832 for Tucci Stable and trainer Sid Attard, will be looking for her second straight award as champion filly or mare. Her main opponents are Brass in Pocket, runner-up in the voting for the division last year, and Winter Garden, who lost the 3-year-old filly vote by one point in 2003.

Winter Garden is one of two cross-nominated finalists; she also appears on the sprinter short list. Blonde Executive is up for both sprinter and the 3-year-old filly awards.

Chris's Bad Boy is the third finalist in the sprint division, which should be hotly contested.

Eye of the Sphynx, winner of three straight stakes here, including the Woodbine Oaks, and Vancouver-based Regal Red, undefeated in five starts while racing exclusively in stakes, are the other 3-year-old filly nominees.

Both 2-year-old categories seem wide open, as are the older male and turf female awards.

One of the tightest races might be for outstanding trainer, as Frostad, Attard, and Bob Tiller each have impressive credentials.

Todd Kabel is a virtual certainty to repeat as winning jockey, while both Corey Fraser and Jillian Scharfstein will have their share of supporters in the apprentice rider category, which is rounded out by Winnipeg-based Shannon Beauregard.