01/24/2012 9:53AM

Sovereign Awards finalists named by The Jockey Club of Canada

Barbara D. Livingston
Never Retreat is a Sovereign Awards finalist in the female turf category and a leading candidate for Canada's Horse of the Year.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Never Retreat, who was not based in Canada but shipped into Woodbine for three impressive performances, is a finalist for a Sovereign Award as outstanding turf female and has to be considered a leading candidate for Horse of the Year honors.

The Jockey Club of Canada released its list of finalists for 2011 Sovereign Award honors on Tuesday morning after the ballots of 37 voters were tabulated.

Voters were asked to list three choices in each of 16 categories, with points awarded on a 4-2-1 basis. To be eligible for consideration, horses were required to have made three starts in Canada in 2011.

The winners, along with the Horse of the Year finalists and honoree, will be announced at the Sovereign Awards ceremony at Woodbine on April 5, the eve of the Canadian Thoroughbred racing season.

Never Retreat, trained by Chris Block, competed in three Grade 2 races and won the Dance Smartly and Canadian after running second in the Nassau. The Kentucky-bred went on to become a Grade 1 winner in Keeneland’s First Lady and was retired early this winter.

Miss Keller, the defending champion in the category, closed out her career with a victory in Woodbine’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor while Marketing Mix, the other turf female finalist, blossomed when switched to the surface this summer and also is on the short list for 3-year-old filly honors.

Inglorious, who defeated males in the Queen’s Plate after capturing the Woodbine Oaks, and Selene winner Smart Sting are the other sophomore filly finalists.

Pender Harbour, who finished third in the Queen’s Plate but went on to take the last two legs of the Canadian triple crown with victories in Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales and Woodbine’s Breeders’, heads the short list for 3-year-old male title.

Moonshine Mullin, winner of Woodbine’s Victoria Park and second in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Jim Dandy, and Freedoms Traveller, who captured the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park, are the other 3-year-old male candidates.

Pender Harbour also is a finalist in the turf male category by virtue of his wins in the Breeders’ and Woodbine’s Bunty Lawless.

Musketier, whose three victories came in graded stakes at Keeneland, Woodbine, and Calder, and Stormy Lord, who won four stakes headed by Woodbine’s Grade 2 Connaught Cup, are the others on the turf male list.

Atlantic Hurricane, who won three stakes at Woodbine after being claimed by trainer and part-owner Stuart Simon last June, heads the female sprint category.

Her opponents are Classic Alley Kat, who was undefeated in four sprint stakes at Hastings, and Embur’s Song, who won sprinting and going around two turns in stakes at Woodbine and also is a finalist for the older female title.

Stars to Shine, who won Woodbine’s Belle Mahone, and the consistent Ariana D are the other older female finalists.

Fifty Proof, winner of Woodbine’s Grade 3 Eclipse last spring, heads a wide-open slate in the older male category.

Don Cavallo, impressive in taking Woodbine’s Grade 3 Dominion Day, and James Street, who won the Grade 3 Seagram Cup, are the other finalists.

Essence Hit Man began and ended his campaign with victories in sprint stakes at Woodbine and is a candidate for champion sprinter along with the hard-knocking Gypsy Ring and Signature Red.

Tu Endie Wei, a double stakes winner at Woodbine, and Hard Not to Like, whose three wins came on turf with two at the expense of male rivals, are joined by Grade 3 Natalma winner Northern Passion on the 2-year-old filly short list.

Maritimer, who closed out his first campaign with wins in Woodbine’s Coronation Futurity and Display, is on the 2-year-old male slate.

According to a story in The Toronto Star, Maritimer has been sold to Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya. The horse will be sent to trainer Seth Benzel at Palm Meadows.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Excaper and Prospective, who took Woodbine’s Grade 3 Grey, are the other 2-year-old male finalists.

Mark Casse, who set records for races won with 119 and money won with $6.76 million at Woodbine, will be looking to deny Roger Attfield a three-peat in the outstanding trainer category. Reade Baker, perennially among the top trainers at Woodbine, is the other finalist.

Luis Contreras, Woodbine’s leading rider with 212 wins and record earnings of more than $11.5 million, will be looking for his first Sovereign Award as outstanding jockey.

Patrick Husbands, runner-up to Contreras in both categories, has won seven previous awards while Emma-Jayne Wilson will be looking for her first Sovereign as a journeyman after being voted outstanding apprentice in 2005 and 2006.

Ryan Pacheco, won 25 races and more than $700,000 in purses while competing mainly at Woodbine, is joined as an apprentice rider finalist by Fort Erie-based Betty-Jo Williams and Scott Williams, who campaigned at Northlands Park.

Adena Springs, which recently received its seventh Eclipse Award in the past eight years as outstanding breeder, will be looking to repeat in the Sovereign Award category.

Arosa Farm, breeder of Inglorious, and Gardiner Farm, breeder of Pender Harbour, are the others on the short list.

There are four finalists in the outstanding owner category, indicating that there was a tie for one of the positions.

Eugene Melnyk’s Melnyk Racing Stable is up for its third win in the category while Danny Dion’s Bear Stable will be looking for its second.

Donna and Verne Dubinsky’s Donver Stable, which campaign Inglorious, and the Vancouver-based Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella are the other finalists.

The broodmare of the year finalists are Noble Strike, the dam of Inglorious; Embur Sunshine, who produced Embur’s Song; and Rahy’s Hope, whose son Rahy’s Attorney was retired this year.

Finalists also were announced in four media categories.