08/13/2013 12:52PM

Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame: Soaring Free adds to Sam-Son Farm's rich legacy

Michael Burns
Soaring Free, shown winning the 2005 Highlander Handicap, is the latest in a long line of Sam-Son Farm horses elected to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – If this keeps up, Sam-Son Farm will need its own wing in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Soaring Free, winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and 14 other races in his 27-race career, is the latest Sam-Son inductee and will be honored Thursday evening at the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame’s annual ceremony at the nearby Mississauga Convention Centre.

The late Ernie Samuel, founder and head of Sam-Son Farm, and his daughter and successor, the late Tammy Samuel-Balaz, have been enshrined in the builder category.

Mark Frostad, who trained Soaring Free, and Jim Day, his predecessor as Sam-Son’s trainer, also are inductees.

And then, there are the horses – Dance Smartly, No Class, Sky Classic, Chief Bearhart, Classy ’n Smart, Smart Strike, Wilderness Song, and Dancethruthedawn.

Soaring Free will be feted along with female horse Sealy Hill; trainers Sid Attard and Phil England; the late John Sikura in the builder category; Secretariat, veteran horse; and Bruce Walker, communicator.

Frostad recalls that Soaring Free’s career took off when he was gelded following his final start as a 3-year-old in 2002.

“He was real bad as a colt,” Frostad said. “In his race before he was gelded, he came out of the gate, jumped on a horse, laid on him around the turn, finished second, and was disqualified.

“Gelding him wrought an extraordinary change.”

Soaring Free won his first five starts the following year before finishing second in the Woodbine Mile and was Canada’s champion sprinter.

As a 5-year-old, Soaring Free had an even better campaign, capping another five-race win streak in the Woodbine Mile en route to Sovereign Awards as Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion turf male.

Sealy Hill, owned and bred by Eugene Melnyk, won the triple tiara of the Woodbine Oaks, Bison City, and Wonder Where to take down honors as Canada’s Horse of the Year, champion 3-year-old filly, and champion turf female in 2007.

But she may be remembered best for a race she did not win. Sealy Hill finished a close second while making the final start of her career in the 2008 edition of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

England and Attard both obtained the minimum of eight votes necessary for induction from the 20-member selection committee of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

England was the Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s outstanding trainer in 1992. Canadian champions trained by England include Horses of the Year Thornfield, Benburb, and Afleet. His career stakes-winning total stands at 81.

Attard has trained the winners of 84 stakes, headed by Numerous Times, hero of the 2001 Woodbine Mile and Canada’s champion turf male that season, and One for Rose, winner of three consecutive Sovereign Awards in the older female category.

Sikura was the founder of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, which became a significant force in the racing, breeding, and auction business both in Canada and the United States.

His sons, Glenn and John, have carried forward the Hill ‘n’ Dale banner.

The criteria for selection in the veteran horse category were expanded this year to include any horse who was not necessarily based in this country but had made a significant contribution to Canadian racing.

Secretariat, who concluded his career with a memorable win in the 1973 Canadian International, helped put Woodbine in the world spotlight that day and adds the Canadian Hall of Fame induction to his numerous other honors.

Walker, longtime publicist for the Ontario Jockey Club (now Woodbine Entertainment Group), is the only writer to have won as many as four Sovereign Awards for outstanding feature category and is being honored in the communicator category, which is new this year.

He also was one of the founders of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1975.

The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame’s “Legends” committee also chose Hidden Treasure and the late Jack Hood as their inductees for 2013.

Located at Woodbine, the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame is a dual-breed facility.

Six regular Standardbred inductees and two “Legends” also will be honored Thursday.