12/10/2008 1:00AM

Honoring Canada's champs


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Bear Stable of Danny Dion figures to be a major presence Friday night at the 34th Sovereign Awards ceremony at Toronto's Four Seasons Hotel.

A crowd of approximately 280 is expected to be on hand to fete Canada's best of the year in Thoroughbred racing and breeding as determined by 62 online voters in a poll conducted by the Jockey Club of Canada.

Dion is a finalist for outstanding owner and would seem certain to have two champions in older main-track female Bear Now, who won two stakes at Woodbine and one at Turfway Park, and sprinter Fatal Bullet, who won stakes at three different racetracks and finished second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint. Reade Baker trains both horses.

Fatal Bullet also is among the three finalists in the 3-year-old male division, which includes Queen's Plate winner Not Bourbon, and is a leading contender for Horse of the Year honors.

Rahy's Attorney, winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, is the other leading Horse of the Year candidate and the probable recipient of the male turf horse award.

Sealy Hill, who won awards as Canada's Horse of the Year, 3-year-old filly, and turf female in 2007, is a finalist in the turf female category.

Her trainer Mark Casse, who topped the standings in races and money won at Woodbine, will be seeking his third straight award, and her jockey, Patrick Husbands, is seeking his second straight.

Casse also trains Marchfield, who is a finalist in a rather inscrutable older male main-track division, and Seaside Retreat, who is on the short list for male turf honors.

Roger Attfield, an outstanding trainer finalist, and Mac Benson also have nominees in more than one category.

Attfield trains Not Bourbon and Callwood Dancer, who is a turf female finalist. Benson conditions Sugar Bay, a four-time stakes winner who is short-listed in both the 3-year-old filly and turf female categories, and Ice Bear, an older male finalist.

Adena Springs is in line for its fourth straight award as outstanding breeder, with Fatal Bullet and Ginger Brew its Sovereign Award finalists.

Ginger Brew, a leading contender for 3-year-old filly honors, won both the Woodbine Oaks and Calder Oaks and was a close second in the Queen's Plate.

Mine That Bird and Southern Exchange, both multiple stakes winners at Woodbine, are joined by turf stakes winner Utterly Cool in a

potentially competitive 2-year-old male division.

Van Lear Rose, a graded stakes winner at Woodbine and a respectable sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, could have the edge over the undefeated Ontario-sired stakes sensation Cawaja Beach and turf specialist Laragh in the 2-year-old filly category.

Jockey Jim McAleney, who finished second in the Woodbine jockey standings, should give leading rider Husbands a run for his money and maybe more in the Sovereign balloting.

The apprentice jockey award is up for grabs, with Janine Stianson, Catherine O'Brien, and Melanie Pinto all having decent but not overpowering credentials.

Awards also will be presented for the outstanding broodmare and in four media categories.