12/14/2005 12:00AM

Top trainer among wide-open categories

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A full house of approximately 300 should witness some dramatic highlights at Friday's 31st annual Sovereign Awards gala at the Wyndham Bristol Place Hotel.

The Jockey Club of Canada, which conducts the Sovereign Awards balloting and ceremony, released a list of finalists in each of 15 categories last Thursday.

The winners, along with the finalists and winner in the Horse of the Year category, will be revealed Friday, and several surprises could be in the offing.

One such division involves the outstanding trainer category, where Sid Attard, Reade Baker, and Catherine Day Phillips all are looking for a first individual Sovereign Award.

Attard, who topped the Woodbine trainer standings in races won for the second straight year, was a finalist for the first time last year but finished a distant third.

The star of Attard's stable this season once again was One for Rose, who will be seeking her third straight Sovereign Award in the older filly or mare category.

Baker, Woodbine's leader in money won and stakes races won, has the favorite for the 3-year-old filly award in Gold Strike and a leading contender for champion sprinter honors in Judiths Wild Rush.

The leading lights in the Day Phillips barn were A Bit O'Gold, a nominee for both champion older male and champion turf male, and Jambalaya, also a finalist in the turf male category.

Josie Carroll is the only other trainer with two nominees in the same category, as Edenwold and Vibank are on the short list for the 2-year-old male division.

Completing that list is Seaside Retreat, trained by Mark Casse, who also has a 2-year-old filly finalist in Top Notch Lady.

Knights Templar, the favorite in the 2-year-old filly division, is trained by Danny Vella, who also trains sprinter finalist Mister Coop.

Trainer Malcolm Pierce has finalists in three divisions, with Lemon Maid listed for 3-year-old filly and sprinter and Cryptograph up for the older male award.

Mobil, trained by Mike Keogh, is nominated in the turf male and older male categories.

Eric Coatrieux also trains two finalists in Fifth Overture, older female, and Ambitious Cat, turf female.

While the majority of the finalists are based at Woodbine, three horses from Vancouver's Hastings are in the running for Sovereign Awards with Monashee on the 3-year-old filly list and Alabama Rain and Spaghetti Mouse up for 3-year-old male honors.

Palladio, the one to beat in the 3-year-old male category, also should attract attention in what looms as a fairly wide-open Horse of the Year vote. Other candidates include A Bit O'Gold, Gold Strike, and One for Rose.

Todd Kabel will be looking for his third straight award as outstanding jockey. Due to a tie for third in the voting, the category has four finalists, including Jim McAleney and Alberta-based Quincy Welch and Rickey Walcott.

Corey Fraser, last year's apprentice jockey award winner, will be seeking a repeat, with his opponents being Emma Wilson and Justin Stein.

The outstanding owner, breeder, and broodmare, and the winners in four media categories, also will be announced Friday. Michael Byrne, a longtime owner-breeder and racing executive, will be presented with the E.P. Taylor Award of Merit.