Canada's best honored at Sovereigns

TORONTO, Ontario -- Champs Elysees was the horse of the year and Eugene Melnyk was the man of the hour as Canada's outstanding performers of 2009 were feted at the Sovereign Awards ceremony on Friday evening.

A crowd of more than 200 gathered at the downtown Ultra Supper Club also were privy to the first dead heat in the 35-year history of the Sovereign Awards as Biofuel and Negligee shared the 2-year-old filly title.

The champions in 17 categories were determined by 51 voters from across Canada whose top three choices were ranked on a 4-2-1 point basis.

To be eligible for consideration, 2-year-olds must have made at least two starts in Canada during the 2009 season and older horses required three starts. The Jockey Club of Canada conducted the on-line poll and organized the Sovereign Awards ceremony.

Champs Elysees, racing for Juddmonte Farm and trained by the late Bobby Frankel, made the final four starts of his career at Woodbine and went out on a high note with a victory in the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International.

In addition to the horse of the year title, Champs Elysees was a clear choice as champion turf male.

"Obviously this is a huge, huge honor for Juddmonte," said Garrett O'Rourke, the outfit's Kentucky farm manager, who dedicated the award to Frankel in his acceptance speech. "To come away with the big one is exceptionally special for us."

Marchfield, owned and bred by Melnyk and trained by Mark Casse, finished third in both the horse of the year and turf male categories but took home the older male title for the second straight year.

His dam, Pico Teneriffe, was voted outstanding broodmare and Melnyk himself was the recipient of his second Sovereign Award as an owner and his first as a breeder.

"Any time you win an award, in any category, you have to be thrilled," said Melynk, after the evening had concluded. "There are hundreds and hundreds of owners and breeders who would love just to be nominated.

"To come in here and win four awards ... I'm absolutely speechless."

Roger Attfield made two trips to the podium, the first to accept his seventh career award as outstanding trainer and the second as the conditioner of Hollinger, who was undefeated in four starts for owners Bob Harvey and Al Wortzman and the runaway winner of the 2-year-old male title.

"The first time I won was in 1986," said Attfield, after accepting the trainer honor. "Since then, the competition has been getting tougher and tougher. The racing gets better and better."

The Sovereign Awards added a female sprinter category and the inaugural winner was Tribal Belle, who put together a stakes triple at Woodbine for trainer Terry Jordan and owner/breeder Canvasback Farm.

Field Commission, who won the Grade 3 Vigil on Polytrack and the Grade 2 Nearctic on the turf at Woodbine, was the champion male sprinter for trainer Danny Vella, who owns the horse in partnership with Ed Seltzer.

The winners of Canada's top 3-year-old races were honored in their respective categories. Eye of the Leopard, victorious in the Queen's Plate, was the male champion and Milwaukee Appeal, a close third in the Plate after capturing the Woodbine Oaks, took down the filly title.

Older filly and mare honors went to Serenading, who concluded her career with stakes wins at Woodbine and Churchill Downs.

Points of Grace, a two-time stakes winner at Woodbine, was a solid choice in the turf female category.

Patrick Husbands, Woodbine's leading rider, earned his third straight Sovereign Award and seventh overall as outstanding jockey. Omar Moreno, who made his mark at Woodbine last fall after moving over from Northlands Park, was the apprentice jockey champi8on.

Awards also were handed out in four media categories. Woodbine Entertainment Group was honored for film/video/broadcast, Michael Burns Sr. for photograph, Curtis Stock for newspaper article, and Bruce Walker for feature story.