12/07/2004 1:00AM

The Sovereign Award votes are in

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The 2004 Sovereign Award balloting, conducted by the Jockey Club of Canada, closed Monday, and the turnout was excellent.

Bridget Bimm, executive director of the JCC, reported Tuesday morning that 76 of 79 eligible voters had cast their ballots either by fax or online.

Approximately 38 percent of the voters used the online option, which was available for the first time this year.

Bimm said she plans to offer only online voting beginning with next year's awards.

Voters were required to list their top three choices in each of 15 categories, excluding Horse of the Year, with points assigned on a 4-2-1 basis. The results will be tabulated by the accounting firm Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, and the finalists will be announced Friday.

The winner in each category, plus the finalists and winner in the Horse of the Year category, and the winners in four media categories, will be announced at the 30th annual Sovereign Awards gala at the nearby Wyndham Bristol Place Hotel on Friday, Dec. 17.

Canceled races won't be made up

Woodbine will not add any races to its cards through the balance of the meeting, despite losing six races to track and weather conditions last week. The 10th and final race Friday was canceled, as were the last five races Sunday.

That means nine races will be offered Thursday and 10 races will be offered for the Friday through Sunday cards.

Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary, said there was a slight chance Sunday's closing-day program could be extended by one race.

"If more than 10 races filled well, we could go with the extra one," said Lym.

As of Tuesday morning, about 900 horses were still on the grounds, according to stabling superintendent Martin Velden.

"That's pretty normal, for this many days of racing left," said Velden.

The Dec. 12 closing is not the latest on record for Thoroughbreds at Woodbine, where the Ontario season has wound up since the closing of Greenwood at the end of 1993.

In 1996, closing day here was Dec. 14, and Whomsoever Proud, at 50-1, won the Valedictory Handicap over a fast track.

Two work for Kennedy Road

The main track was closed for business Tuesday morning, but two candidates for Saturday's $125,000 Kennedy Road were among the seven workers over a good training track.

Dillinger, trained by Steve Attard, went two furlongs in 24.60 seconds, and Dancin Joey, trained by Tony Mattine, went three furlongs in 39.80.

The prospective field for the Kennedy Road, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward, is headed by defending champion Chris's Bad Boy.

Whitson to retire as VP

John Whitson, vice president of Thoroughbred racing, will retire Dec. 31 after 31 years with the Woodbine Entertainment Group, previously known as the Ontario Jockey Club.

Whitson, who will be 57 on Dec. 21, will not be completely absent from the official scene, as his services can be called upon over the next three years.

"I'll be available to help out," said Whitson. "I'll maintain my involvement with international racing."

Whitson has occupied a special niche as a gracious and knowledgeable host for the connections of overseas participants visiting Woodbine for races such as the Atto Mile, Canadian International, and E.P. Taylor Stakes.

"I've really enjoyed working on those races," said Whitson. "There have been a lot of good memories, a lot of great people, and a lot of great horses over the years."

Whitson's remembrances hold a special place for All Along, the supremely talented mare who won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Canadian International, Turf Classic, and Washington D.C. International over two-week intervals en route to being voted North America's Horse of the Year in 1983.

"That was an incredible accomplishment," he said.

Whitson's appreciation of the racehorse began from the ground up, as he came onto the backstretch at age 22 and started out as a hotwalker and groom for Windfields Farm trainer Pete McCann.

In 1972, Whitson took out his assistant trainer's license. That winter, he took eight horses to Santa Anita for Windfields trainer Roy Johnson and won the 1973 San Marino Handicap with Presidial.

Upon returning to Woodbine that spring, Whitson was hired as an entry clerk in the Woodbine race office and later became assistant racing secretary. He also was trained as a patrol judge and placing judge, and put in a stint as racing secretary and horse identifier at Fort Erie.

Whitson moved to the front offices around 1980, acting as an assistant to president Jack Kenney, with his responsibilities including horsemen's relations. From there he became general manager of Thoroughbred racing, then general manager of racing and sales before he took his current title about eight years ago.