The Sovereign Awards
The permanent Sovereign Award trophy
The 46th annual Sovereign Awards, saluting outstanding achievement in Canadian Thoroughbred racing and breeding in 2020, were announced on a YouTube livestream on Thursday, April 15. Traditionally the ceremony is held a day or two before the start of the Woodbine Thoroughbred racing season, however due to yet another lockdown (downgraded to a stay-at-home order) in Ontario, the start of the season has been postponed to mid May at the earliest, much like how the 2020 season was delayed to mid June. However, this year the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs have been allowed to play at home at Scotiabank Arena (without fans) and Ontario’s golf courses are allowed to operate, so it seems blatantly unfair that Thoroughbred racing at Woodbine and Standardbred racing at Mohawk are banned, even with no fans in attendance. Training is allowed but without live racing there is no betting and thus, no revenue.
Unlike their U.S. equivalent, the Eclipse Awards, horses must have started at least 3 times in Canada to qualify (2 for juveniles). Winning connections will receive a trophy which is a replica of English racing great St. Simon. Woodbine television personality and G98.7 sportscaster Jason Portuondo was in the TV studio alone as the host, opening each envelope to announce the winners, however, with the exception of the Special Sovereign Award, no acceptance speeches were delivered by winners. The official program can be downloaded here.
Canada’s Horse of the Year for 2020 is Mighty Heart, who also took home Champion 3-Year-Old Male honors. The Lawrence Cordes homebred went 3 for 8 earning $922,870, winning both the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes for trainer Josie Carroll and jockey Daisuke Fukumoto, only to tire in the Breeders’ Stakes during his Triple Crown bid as his Carroll stablemate Belichick (and runner-up in the 3-year-old male category) went on to win. The runner-up for Horse of the Year was Pink Lloyd, also voted Champion Male Sprinter for the fourth year in a row, the only horse to accomplish this. In 2020 the 8-year-old went 4 for 5 earning $357,600, winning the Vigil (G3), Bold Venture (G3), Shepperton, and Jacques Cartier (G3) for trainer Bob Tiller, and owner Entourage Stable. He is expected to race as a 9-year-old this year, looking for his 5th title and has probably done enough to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Speaking of Pink Lloyd, for most of his career he was ridden by perennial champion jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, who retired from riding at the end of 2019. Rafael Hernandez not only picked up the mount, but also took home his first Sovereign as Outstanding Jockey. He won 129 out of 637 starts with purse earnings of $5.4 million. Among his 17 stakes wins, he rode Etoile in the E.P. Taylor (G1), Skywire in the Autumn (G2) and Eclipse (G2), to go with his 4 winning rides on Pink Lloyd. Skywire was named Champion Older Main Track Male edging Pink Lloyd, off those aforementioned graded stakes wins in a season where he was 2 for 8 with 2 seconds, earning $321,980 for owner Gary Barber and trainer Mark Casse. The Champion Older Main Track Female award went to Summer Sunday, winner of the Belle Mahone Stakes in a season where the Stuart Simon trainee went 2 for 5 with earnings of $155,520.
Mark Casse continued his Hall of Fame career with his unprecedented 10th straight Sovereign and 13th lifetime as Outstanding Trainer. His runners won 93 of 482 starts, 17 in stakes competition, with purse earnings over $5.3 million, numbers which exceeded his 2019 totals despite the shortened season. Among his stakes winners were Gretzky the Great, who was named Champion Two-Year-Old Male, Skywire, the Champion Older Male, Cup and Saucer Stakes winner Master Spy, and Display (G3) winner Helium, currently a contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Sam-Son Farm was given the Special Sovereign Award recognizing the Samuel family’s over 50 years in racing. Sadly the famous red and gold colors will soon disappear as the family is winding down its racing and breeding operations founded by the late Ernie Samuel. Best known for champions Dance Smartly, Sky Classic, and Chief Bearhart, Ernie Samuel’s legacy was the farm’s broodmare band, and this was recognized yet again as Danceforthecause, a homebred daughter of Giant’s Causeway out of Dancethruthestorm, was named Outstanding Broodmare. Although she was unraced, her first 3 foals produced 2 starters, both graded stakes winners – Say The Word, who was named Champion Turf Male off his Northern Dancer (G1) win followed by a 3rd in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), and Rideforthecause, winner of the Canadian Stakes (G2). Danceforthecause was purchased by Gainesway Farm at the 2021 Keeneland January Sale. However, Sam-Son Farm was edged out by Ivan Dalos’ Tall Oaks Farm for Outstanding Breeder by 10 points, in the closest result of 2020, and was second behind Live Oak Plantation for Outstanding Owner, Charlotte Weber’s first time taking that award.
In the media categories, Will Wong won the Outstanding Photograph award for the first time for his photo “Mambointheforest” taken at Woodbibne for the Ontario Racing website. Chris Lomon won his second Outstanding Writing award for “The Pep-Talking Groom, Willy, and a Queen’s Plate Crown” on the Ontario Racing website, and Santino DiPaolo won his first Outstanding Broadcast award for “Dear Horse Racing” which appeared on the Paulick Report website, for his second Sovereign after winning the 2018 Photograph award. Michelle Gibson was named Outstanding Groom for her work with trainer Bob Tiller, most notably as the groom of Pink Lloyd.
Below are the list of winners and finalists with their vote totals:
For more information: