03/28/2011 1:29PM

Woodbine set for Sovereign ceremony


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Seeking to inject new life into the Sovereign Awards, the Jockey Club of Canada has thrown a changeup into the annual gala for the second consecutive season.

After replacing the traditional formal format with a more casual affair at a downtown Toronto nightclub in January of 2010, the organization went back to the drawing board and will hold the 36th annual awards gala here at Woodbine Racetrack on Friday evening.

A crowd of 350 is expected for event beginning at 6 p.m. on the third floor, and the cocktail-attire celebration will include a reception and a buffet-style dinner.

Approximately 12 hours after the evening’s windup, most of the participants hope to be back for the opening of Woodbine’s 167-day Thoroughbred meeting and the first day of the 2011 Canadian Thoroughbred racing season.

“Woodbine has moved into a prominent position in international racing and the more we can do to introduce people to the quality of our Canadian program, at an exciting event such as the Sovereign Awards, the better it will be for our industry going forward,” said Jim Lawson, chief steward of the Jockey Club of Canada.

Despite the change in the timing and venue for the program, the players will include a number of former Sovereign Award winners.

Trainers Roger Attfield, Reade Baker, and Mark Casse; jockeys Patrick Husbands and Chantal Sutherland; apprentice jockey Omar Moreno; owners Bear Stable, Eugene Melnyk, and Sam-Son Farm; breeders Adena Springs, Melynk, and Sam-Son; and horses Biofuel and Rahy’s Attorney all have been honored in years past.

The three finalists in each of 16 categories, excepting horse of the year, were determined by 38 voters in an on-line poll conducted by the Jockey Club of Canada early this year.

Attfield, who ended a three-year Sovereign run by Casse last year, is up for a seventh Sovereign as outstanding trainer. Baker was voted outstanding trainer in 2005.

Husbands has won seven awards as outstanding jockey, and Sutherland was a back-to-back winner as an apprentice.

Omar Moreno added to his 2009 Sovereign Award as outstanding apprentice with an Eclipse Award this winter.

Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, also a 2010 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding breeder, will be looking to get back into the Sovereign groove after having a four-year run ended by Melynk last year.

Melynk also took home his second Sovereign for leading owner in 2009 after Danny Dion’s Bear Stable earned its first such honor in 2008.

Sam-Son boasts multiple titles in both the owner category, with its latest in 2006, and as a breeder, most recently in 2004.

Biofuel was Canada’s co-champion 2-year-old filly in 2009 while Rahy’s Attorney was champion turf male in 2008 and runner-up in the category last year.

Awards in four media categories also will be presented with the finalists having been determined by panels of judges with expertise in the respective areas.

The Sovereign Awards will be streamed live beginning at approximately 8:30 p.m. at woodbineentertainment.com/sovereign awards.