03/27/2013 9:57AM

Secretariat tops nominees for Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame

Secretariat is on the ballot for the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame this year.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Secretariat in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame?

Under updated eligibility criteria, horses who were not necessarily based in Canada but are deemed to have made a significant contribution to Canadian racing are eligible for induction in the veteran horse category.

Secretariat’s lone Canadian appearance, a smashing career-finale victory in Woodbine’s 1973 Canadian International, put the race and the racetrack in the world racing spotlight and puts him atop the list of 2013 nominees released by the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Three nominees in each of six categories, for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, were selected by the organization’s eight-member nominations committees and will be put to the 20-member election committees for consideration.

Any nominee with a minimum of eight votes will be inducted, with the results of the votes scheduled for April 9. The induction ceremony will be held at the Mississauga Convention Centre on Aug. 13.

Secretariat’s numerous accomplishments include two Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year, a Triple Crown, and induction into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1974.

His fellow nominees in the veteran horse category are the great racemares All Along and Dahlia, who invaded from Europe to win the Canadian International in 1983 and 1974, respectively.

All Along was Horse of the Year in both the United States and France in 1983, while Dahlia was the United Kingdom Horse of the Year in 1973 and 1974 and the Eclipse Award winner in the turf horse category in 1974.

Both All Along and Dahlia also are members of the U.S. Hall of Fame.

This year’s male horse nominees are Mt. Sassafras, Peaks and Valleys, and Soaring Free, all of whom took home Sovereign Awards as Horse of the Year.

Mt. Sassafras earned his title in 1996 following a campaign climaxed by a lapped-on fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine. He became a Grade 1 winner in the following year’s Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Peaks and Valleys won two Grade 1 stakes, Woodbine’s Molson Million and the Meadowlands Cup, and earned more than $1.3 million through his championship campaign in 1995.

Soaring Free’s championship season included a five-race win streak capped by a victory in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and a close fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Lone Star Park in 2004.

The female horse nominees are Apelia, One for Rose, and Sealy Hill.

Apelia, Canada’s champion sprinter in 1993, won stakes races at Woodbine, Saratoga, Belmont, Garden State Park, and Turfway Park during her three-year career.

Woodbine stalwart One for Rose won nine stakes and three consecutive older filly or mare Sovereign Awards from 2003 through 2005.
Sealy Hill, Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2007, won Canada’s triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies that year and concluded her career with a strong second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

Trainers dominate the jockey/trainer category, with Sid Attard, Phil England, and Jerry Lavigne the nominees.

The 62-year-old Attard, perennially among the leading trainers at Woodbine, heads into this year’s meeting with 1,795 career wins, 84 stakes wins, and purses of almost $53 million on his résumé. His top performers have included Canadian champions Numerous Times, winner of the 2001 Woodbine Mile; Woodbine Oaks winner Ginger Gold; and One for Rose.

England also remains active at Woodbine and has career stats of 574 wins, 81 stakes, and $17.5 million in earnings. His stars have included Canadian horses of the year Afleet, Benburb, and Thornfield and other multiple stakes winners including Apeila. He was the Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s champion trainer in 1992.

Lavigne, 84, won Queen’s Plates with Almoner in 1970 and Son of Briartic in 1982. His portfolio also included Canadian champion Nice Dancer and multiple stakes winners Bejilla, Fabe Count, Lost Majorette, and Park Romeo.

Nominated in the builder category this year are Bill Graham, Jim Sabiston, and the late John Sikura.

Graham has served in numerous industry positions, including a 26-year stint on Woodbine’s board of directors, and also has made his mark as an owner and breeder. He had a banner year last year and is a Sovereign Award finalist in the breeder category with his performers including Uncaptured, River Seven, and recent Grade 1 winner Joyful Victory.

Sabiston, 89, was honored last year by the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society of Ontario in recognition of his 50 years as an owner and breeder in Ontario.

Sikura founded Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in the 1960s, and that outfit developed into a major player as an owner, breeder, and sales agency both here and in Kentucky.

The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame created the category of communicator this year, and the late Wally Wood is among the nominees.
Wood, who died in 2009, was Daily Racing Form of Canada’s Toronto-based correspondent from 1968 until 1994 and a freelance contributor to numerous other publications.

Bruce Walker, former Ontario Jockey Club publicity director and three-time Sovereign Award winner in the feature story category, and Curtis Stock, a 10-time Sovereign Award-winning writer for the Edmonton Journal, are the other finalists.