01/27/2010 1:00AM

Canada's best of '09 await prizes


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Change has come to the Sovereign Awards, which will be presented at the Ultra Supper Club in downtown Toronto on Friday evening.

Held in mid-December in recent years, the Sovereign Awards ceremony honoring the top performers of 2009 has been moved to this later date. The formal sit-down dinner has been abandoned, and the ticket price reduced by 50 percent to $150.

And a new award, for champion filly/mare sprinter, has been introduced.

The Jockey Club of Canada, which conducts the Sovereign Awards balloting, announced three finalists in 16 divisions on Jan. 18 after the voters had submitted their top three choices for each category in an online poll.

The division winners and winner of Canada's Horse of the Year title will be the climax of the evening.

Although followers of Sovereign Awards history have learned to expect some surprises, there are a few categories this year in which there should be little debate.

Tribal Belle, trained by Vancouver-based Terry Jordan but stabled throughout the season at Woodbine, fashioned a 5-for-6 record capped by three consecutive stakes wins and should take home the first filly/mare sprint trophy.

Hollinger, perfect for trainer Roger Attfield in four starts, including Woodbine's Coronation Futurity and Cup and Saucer, is a lock for the 2-year-old title.

At the other end of the spectrum is the 2-year-old filly category, which produced four finalists because of a tie in the voting and includes graded stakes winners Bay to Bay, Biofuel and Negligee.

The male 3-year-old title also would appear to be up for grabs with Eye of the Leopard, winner of the Queen's Plate; Awesome Rhythm, successful in three open stakes at Woodbine; and the talented sprinter El Brujo on the list.

Champs Elysees, who wound up his career with an impressive victory in Woodbine's Grade 1 Canadian International, should be champion turf male and is a leading contender for Horse of the Year.

Points of Grace, a two-time stakes winner and 5 for 9 on the season, strongly figures to prevail in the filly/mare turf category.

Milwaukee Appeal won the Woodbine Oaks and was right there in both the Queen's Plate and Fort Erie's Prince of Wales, and also finished second in Saratoga's Grade 1 Alabama. She would be a runaway winner of the 3-year-old filly title in most seasons. But this year's candidates also include Hooh Why, winner of the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland and the Grade 3 La Lorgnette at Woodbine.

El Brujo, who captured a pair of stakes at Woodbine and another two graded stakes in Kentucky while facing his own age group, also is a male sprinter finalist. Field Commission, who captured graded stakes at Woodbine on both turf and Polytrack, and the very rapid Hollywood Hit complete that short list.

Marchfield, trained by Mark Casse, would not be a surprise to repeat in the older male category, but Palladio, trained by Attfield, could take away that crown.

Josie Carroll will be the trainer of the older filly or mare award winner, but whether that will be Serenading of Smart Surprise is a matter of conjecture.

Attfield, Casse, and Malcolm Pierce, whose charges included Points of Grace and El Brujo, are the outstanding trainer finalists.

Patrick Husbands has the inside track for his seventh Sovereign Award as outstanding jockey, and Omar Moreno should not be denied his first as apprentice jockey.

The criteria for the owner and breeder awards have been altered slightly, with only results within Canada supposed to be considered.

Eugene Melynk is seeking his second award as owner and first as a breeder.

Pico Teneriffe, whose offspring include Marchfield, is a finalist for outstanding broodmare, which is a lifetime achievement award.