12/18/2004 12:00AM

Soaring Free voted Canada's Horse of the Year


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Soaring Free, winner of Woodbine's Grade 1 Atto Mile and undefeated in five starts in his homeland this year, was honored as Canada's Horse of the Year at the 30th annual Sovereign Awards ceremony Friday night.

A sellout crowd of approximately 350 was on hand at the nearby Wyndham Bristol Place Hotel to fete the outstanding performers in Canadian Thoroughbred racing and breeding in 2004.

A total of 76 voters participated in the Sovereign Awards balloting, naming three choices in each category with points assigned on a 4-2-1 basis.

A 5-year-old gelding owned and bred by Sam-Son Farm, Soaring Free also was voted outstanding turf male and outpointed A Bit O'Gold, who was a handy winner of the 3-year-old colt or gelding award, in a fairly close Horse of the Year vote.

Both Soaring Free and A Bit O' Gold, who is owned by The Two Bit Racing Stable and trained by Catherine Day Phillips, earned more than $1 million this year.

Soaring Free's coronation capped a big night for Sam-Son Farm, which was a runaway winner in the owner and breeder categories and also campaigned Eye of the Sphynx, who was voted champion 3-year-old filly.

The breeder award was the fifth straight and seventh overall but the first in the owner category since 2001 for Sam-Son, which now has captured that award eight times.

Todd Kabel, Soaring Free's regular rider, was close to being a unanimous choice in the outstanding jockey balloting.

Kabel, who captured 36 stakes races at Woodbine this year to equal the Ontario record set by the late Avelino Gomez in 1966, was the meet's runaway leader in both races and money won. The award was the second straight and fifth overall, including one as champion apprentice, for Kabel.

This year's outstanding apprentice award went to Corey Fraser, who led his category in both races and money won at Woodbine in his first full campaign.

Mark Frostad, Sam-Son Farm's private trainer, was the runner-up in his category behind Bob Tiller, who was named outstanding trainer for the second straight year and third time in the past four seasons.

Tiller registered 15 stakes wins this year with three coming courtesy of Simply Lovely, who is owned by Rocco Marcello and was honored as champion 2-year-old filly.

Sid Attard, Woodbine's leading trainer in races won, was the other finalist in his category. Attard's runners included One for Rose, owned by Tucci Stable, who repeated in the older filly and mare division and was the third Horse of the Year finalist.

The closest vote of the evening came in the sprinter category, with Blonde Executive prevailing over Winter Garden.

Owned and bred by Bruno Brothers Farm and trained by Radlie Loney, Blonde Executive also was the runner-up in the 3-year-old filly balloting.

Winter Garden, owned by Frank DiGiulio Jr. and trained by Bob Tiller, was a dual runner-up, also finishing second in the older filly and mare vote.

The female turf horse award was hotly contested, as expected. Inish Glora, owned by Bob Costigan and trained by Mac Benson, prevailed in the category for the second straight year with Classic Stamp a solid runner-up.

The 2-year-old colt or gelding award also had been billed as being up for grabs but went to Wholelottabourbon by a convincing margin.

Wholelottabourbon is owned by M.A.D. Racing Stable in partnership with Martha Gonzalez, whose husband, Nick Gonzalez, is the trainer.

The older male award went to Mobil, a multiple stakes winner for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz and trainer Mike Keogh.

Annasan, dam of A Bit O'Gold, was honored as outstanding broodmare, which is a lifetime achievement award.

Awards also were presented in four media categories, with the winners determined by the votes of panels of judges.

Dave Landry was the recipient of the outstanding photograph award and the Woodbine Entertainment Group was honored in the film/video/broadcast category.

Paul Wiecek was the recipient of the newspaper article award and Darryl Kaplan was the feature story winner.

Canada's best

2004 Sovereign Awards winners

2-YEAR-OLD FILLY Simply Lovely
2-YEAR-OLD COLT OR GELDING Wholelottabourbon
3-YEAR-OLD FILLY Eye of the Sphynx
TURF MALE Soaring Free
SPRINTER Blonde Executive
JOCKEY Todd Kabel
TRAINER Bob Tiller
OWNER Sam-Son Farm
BREEDER Sam-Son Farm