12/14/2006 1:00AM

Awards time for Canada's best


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The 32nd annual Sovereign Awards ceremony, honoring the best in Canadian Thoroughbred racing and breeding, will take place Saturday evening at the InterContinental Toronto Centre.

A total of 20 awards will be presented and the festivities will climax with the announcement of the three finalists and winner of the Horse of the Year award for 2006.

The three finalists in 15 other categories were announced on Dec. 7 by the Jockey Club of Canada.

Awards also will be presented in four media categories, with the finalists being determined by panels of judges and announced last month.

The Horse of the Year vote is expected to boil down to Arravale, the leading candidate for turf female honors, and Sky Conqueror, the favorite in the turf male category.

Arravale won two Grade 1 races, the Del Mar Oaks and Woodbine's E.P. Taylor, while Sky Conqueror won a pair of Grade 2 stakes and finished third in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine.

Judiths Wild Rush and Strike Softly are the only horses who are finalists in more than one category.

Canada's champion sprinter last year, Judiths Wild Rush is back in the running for that award with his rivals being Main Executive and Just Rushing. He is also a finalist for older male.

Strike Softly is a finalist for both outstanding 3-year-old filly, a tightly matched category that also includes Kimchi and Vestrey Lady, and for outstanding female turf horse, a category in which last year's winner, Ambitious Cat, is the third nominee.

Edenwold, the Queen's Plate winner, is up against Shillelagh Slew and Malakoff in the 3-year-old male division.

Leonnatus Anteas and Barilko, both undefeated at Woodbine, will vie for the 2-year-old male title along with Skip Code, while Catch the Thrill, Midnight Shadow, and Sealy Hill are in the race for 2-year-old filly honors.

Emma-Jayne Wilson, Woodbine's leading rider in races won for the second straight year, is nominated in both the outstanding jockey and outstanding apprentice jockey categories.

Wilson, who was champion apprentice last year and lost her apprentice allowance this Aug. 12, is joined on the jockey list by Todd Kabel and Patrick Husbands, who both are based at Woodbine.

Kabel will be seeking his sixth award in the category and Husbands his fifth.

The other apprentice finalists are Woodbine's Justin Stein and Mario Gutierrez from Hastings.

Reade Baker, who outpointed Sid Attard to win the outstanding trainer award in 2005, again is a finalist along with Attard, Mark Casse, and Terry Jordan. The listing of four finalists indicates that there was a tie for third in the voting.

Sam-Son Farm is short-listed for both the outstanding owner and outstanding breeder awards. Stronach Stable is up for its 11th award as outstanding owner and, under its Adena Springs banner, its sixth award as outstanding breeder.

Bob Cheema, owner of True Metropolitan, is the other owner finalist, while Gardiner Farm rounds out the breeder list.