05/24/2001 11:00PM

Canada names Mactaquac top 2000 claimer

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mactaquac, a five-time winner at Woodbine in 2000, will be honored as Ontario's claimer of the year by the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club here next Sunday.

The TTRC, which was founded in 1961, has a membership that includes some horsemen but primarily is composed of racing fans. Members, who pay an annual fee of $35 (Canadian), are entitled to attend monthly meetings here during the live racing season that feature appearances by racing celebrities.

The club also conducts backstretch and farm tours, and offers an annual field trip to an out-of-town racetrack.

A presentation to Mactaquac's owner, Shahina Ahmad, and trainer, Michael Wright Jr., will be a highlight of the TTRC's annual awards day. The "claimer of the year" award first was presented in 1972.

Mactaquac, who began his 2000 campaign at Aqueduct, was claimed for $20,000 when returned to Woodbine for his seasonal bow April 21. A 9-year-old gelding, he quickly paid dividends for his new connections, winning a $25,000 starter allowance three weeks later.

By season's end, Mactaquac had started 11 additional times for Ahmad and Wright, winning for claiming prices of $80,000 and $32,000, and capturing a $76,117 "money allowance" that was a prep for the closing-day Valedictory Handicap.

Though Mactaquac was beaten soundly in the

1 3/4-mile Valedictory, he still wound up his best-ever season with a record of five wins, eight in-the-money finishes, and earnings of $197,148 from 14 starts.

And he will be looking for more this year at age 10. Mactaquac, who was given the winter off after having raced regularly from April 1999 through last November, soon should be back in the entries.

"He looks good, and he's training well," said Wright, who sent out Mactaquac to work six furlongs in 1:14.80 Friday morning.

Previous winners of the claimer of the year award include Show Me the Monte, Uncle Woger, Hawk in Flight, Quest for Lisa, Open Ice Hit, Leggolam, and Victoriously Bold.

Willmot wins award of merit

The winner of the TTRC's 2000 award of merit, which recognizes outstanding contribution to Thoroughbred racing, is David Willmot, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Jockey Club. Willmot, who took the position late in the 1999 season, has overseen a dramatic turnaround by the OJC, and horsemen currently are enjoying the benefits of record purse levels.

Willmot also received the E.P. Taylor Award of Merit, at the 1998 Sovereign Awards ceremony.

Previous winners of the TTRC's merit award include Sandy Hawley, the Hall of Fame jockey turned Ontario Jockey Club ambassador and the only two-time honoree, and Woodbine track announcer Dan Loiselle.

The winners of the "claimer of the year" and merit awards are chosen by TTRC directors.

Other TTRC awards

The TTRC also will be honoring jockey Patrick Husbands, trainer Abraham Kaytran, and owner Sam-Son Farm for their performances at the 2000 Woodbine meeting.

The jockey and trainer awards are based on races won, the owner on purses won.

Husbands, with 178 winners, topped the rider standings for the second straight year and earned his second consecutive Sovereign Award.

Katryan, with 56 winners, was the leading trainer in races won for this first time in his budding career.

The Sam-Son Farm horses earned $3,286,670 at the meeting, topping that category for the fourth straight year.

Trainer Layne Giliforte, the Canadian leader in races won, will be honored by the TTRC in a special ceremony at Fort Erie July 22, Prince of Wales Day. Giliforte sent out 89 winners to run away with the Fort Erie title and had another seven winners at Woodbine.

Geraint heads Steady Growth

The first Wednesday evening stakes of the 2000 season is on tap this weekend, with Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward getting a shot at a $100,000 pot in the 1 1/16 mile Steady Growth.

Heading the list of probables for the Steady Growth are the 5-year-old Geraint, who is two-for-two this year for trainer Catherine Day-Phillips and Kingfield Farm, and 4-year-old Prince of Style, who wound up his first campaign on a high note by capturing the Sir Barton for trainer Grant Pearce and owner Bill Diamant.

Other Steady Growth candidates include Bold N' Fancy, Can You Feel It, Casino Prince, Gallop N' Gold, and Skeete's Bay.

The Steady Growth also will be the highlight of the season's first Wednesday edition of Woodbine Post Time, which will be televised by Sportsnet Ontario from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

*The Ontario Jockey Club officially will become the Woodbine Entertainment Group on Friday, June 1. New corporate and racetrack logos will be introduced on that date.

*Ontario's Ministry of Tourism, Recreation and Culture will be the official sponsor of Woodbine's third annual Festival of Racing, which will climax with Queen's Plate Day here June 24. Tom Hudak, the minister for the government agency, will be the honorary draw master at the June 21 Queen's Plate breakfast.