10/26/2006 11:00PM

Fernandeses' meet ends with four awards


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Owner and trainer Vern Fernandes and his wife, Pat, lived their dream Thursday night at the Fort Erie Awards banquet held at Leisure Place in downtown Fort Erie.

Before a crowd of 250, Vern and Pat Fernandes picked up four awards, including horse of the year honors for Cold War, a winner of 10 races this year.

"That's what this game is all about," said Nick Coukos, executive director of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the sponsors of the awards night. "We all live for the dream. The common man, winning an Academy Award. They were so proud."

Cold War was also named the top male distance runner. Heading into the banquet, Cold War was tied with Philadelphia-based Stringtown Wonder as North America's winningest horse in 2006. He scored seven times in 11 tries at Fort Erie. He was 3 for 3 at Woodbine, winning over three different tracks there - the original main track, then the temporary inner track, followed by the Polytrack.

The Fernandes-owned Harvest Singing was awarded the title of best female sprinter. Harvest Singing had four wins, including the Longshot OTB Cup.

Vern Fernandes was named the most outstanding trainer at the meeting, which will end Tuesday.

Three awards went to the barn of trainer Daryl Ezra. He was judged to have made the best claim of the year, Grab the Cat. Claimed for $5,000 from a win for owner Stephen Chesney, Grab the Cat followed with three more wins, including two Cup races, the Golden Horseshoe and the Turf Writers. Grab the Cat was also named distance female of the year.

The Ezra-Cheney combination also picked up the award for turf female of the year, Lindsey's Dove.

Bruno Schickedanz was the track's leading owner for the ninth time in 10 years. He also picked up a second award when his Fire the Firm, trained by Mark Fournier, was chosen as turf male of the year.

The top male sprinter award went to the Tino Attard-trained Shipman.

The female claimer of the year title went to Majestic Delight, who was trained by Pierre Crete before being claimed from her last start. Vorticity, owned and trained by Kevin Buttigieg, received the male crown.

Also receiving awards:

* Bermuda Triangle, trained by Bob Williams, was selected as the champion of the quarter-milers.

* Rob King Jr. was the track's leading jockey and was also named the outstanding rider of the year.

* Dean Deverell was the leading apprentice.

* Natalie Brinda, of Justin Nixon's outfit, was named assistant trainer of the year.

* Groom of the year honors went to Debbie Johnson.

* Nick Gonzalez was awarded the leading trainer title. At the time of the banquet, there were four racing days left at the meet, which concludes Tuesday. Should trainer Layne Giliforte overcome Gonzalez's two-win lead, he will receive a duplicate trophy.