2023 O’Brien Awards finalists announced

Mississauga, ON – Standardbred Canada is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2023 O’Brien Awards, honoring Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season.

There are two finalists in each category, which includes 12 divisional horse categories and five people categories. One of the divisional champions will also be recognized as the Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year.

The winners will be announced at the O’Brien Awards Gala on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, which will take place at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

This will mark the 35th edition of the O’Brien Awards, named in honor of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Its A Love Thing and Pass Line, a pair of Dave Menary-trained rookies, are the finalists in the Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly division.

Just like her stablemate, Its A Love Thing enjoyed a very successful rookie campaign, finding the winner’s circle six times in 12 starts. The daughter of Bettors Delight went on to earn C$560,656 for trainer Dave Menary, which was highlighted by a win in the Shes A Great Lady.

Winning 10 races in 13 starts as a freshman, Pass Line enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign for Menary, her trainer of record on Canadian soil. Her dominance in the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) program was the highlight of her season, courtesy of five OSS wins, which included a Super Final triumph. Her richest payday this season came courtesy of a second-place finish in the Breeders Crown final. The homebred daughter of All Bets Off went on to earn C$682,152 this season for her connections.

The finalists for the Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt category are Captains Quarters and Legendary Hanover.

Despite being lightly raced as a two-year-old, Captains Quarters certainly made the most of his limited starts. The talented son of Captaintreacherous hit the board in all five starts this season, which included two trips to the winner’s circle. His most lucrative payday came after he won the Metro Pace at Woodbine Mohawk Park, harness racing’s richest race for rookie pacing colts. The win vaulted his earnings to C$525,904 for trainer Herb Holland.

Legendary Hanover enjoyed a very successful rookie campaign, winning six times in nine starts. The son of Huntsville enjoyed victories in the Dream Maker, Nassagaweya and Champlain stakes at Woodbine Mohawk Park. His richest payday came in a second-place effort in the Metro Pace. He earned C$405,100 for his connections.

One Last Wish and Sylvia Hanover are the finalists in the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly division.

Having raced primarily in the OSS Grassroots program as a freshman, One Last Wish took on Gold company as a three-year-old and shined while doing so. The daughter of Bettors Delight had four wins and two third-place finishes in six starts in the OSS program this season, including a win in the C$300,000 Super Final. The homebred filly went on to earn C$410,066 this season for trainer Ken Sucee.

After winning an O’Brien Award as a rookie, Sylvia Hanover finds herself as a finalist for the second year in a row, thanks to an outstanding sophomore campaign. The daughter of Always B Miki found the winner’s circle 10 times in 13 starts, and bankrolled C$839,375. More than half of those triumphs came in the U.S., where she went toe-to-toe against the best three-year-old fillies in the division. Trained by Shawn and Mark Steacy, her signature victories included wins in the Mistletoe Shalee, Shady Daisy, Fan Hanover, and the Breeders Crown final.

Stockade Seelster and Moment Is Here will headline the Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt division.

With 17 on-the-board finishes in 22 starts this season, Moment Is Here enjoyed a very consistent sophomore campaign. The homebred son of All Bets Off found the winner’s circle six times this season, with the most notable victory coming in the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final, for Hall of Fame trainer Bob McIntosh. He finished second in both the Simcoe and the Progress Pace, earning C$556,309 this season.

After a star-studded freshman campaign, which earned him O’Brien Award honors, Stockade Seelster is back as a finalist after a strong three-year-old season. With seven wins in 18 starts, the son of State Treasurer amassed C$677,688 in earnings for trainer Dr. Ian Moore. He won three Ontario Sires Stakes Gold legs and was a runner-up finisher in both the Max Hempt Memorial and Breeders Crown final.

Grace Hill and So Much More are finalists in the Older Pacing Mare division.

After finishing off her 2022 campaign on a strong note, Grace Hill set career highs in wins (10) and earnings (C$643,276) in 2023 for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr. The five-year-old daughter of Always B Miki completed the ‘Canadian Older Mares’ double by capturing both the Roses Are Red and Milton Stakes, setting stakes records in each of them.

This is the fourth consecutive year So Much More will be an O’Brien Award finalist, as she hopes to give her connections a third trophy. The daughter of Big Jim has 11 wins in 31 starts this season, marking the fifth consecutive year she’s reached the double-digit mark in victories. With the Fillies & Mares Preferred class not filling on a consistent enough basis, ‘Canada’s Pacing Queen’ has been forced to go up against the boys, where she has always shown to be up for the task. Her most notable victories this season have been winning the Free For All level, which she’s done twice this year – as well as winning the Forest City Pace at Western Fair. She earned C$321,992 for trainer Don Beatson.

Emmetts Buddy and Tattoo Artist are Older Pacing Horse finalists.

Emmetts Buddy has quickly catapulted himself into the Open ranks at Woodbine Mohawk Park, where he appears to be a mainstay for trainer Mike Kwietniowski. The son of In The Irons has 12 wins in 35 starts this season, while earning C$221,310. Of those dozen victories, four of them came at the Preferred level. On Aug. 26, Emmetts Buddy made history by winning in 1:49, becoming the first Manitoba-bred horse to win sub-1:50.

Tattoo Artist is a finalist in the Older Pacing Horse category for the second consecutive year. New Image Media.

An Ontario-bred and sired son of Hes Watching, Tattoo Artist is a finalist for this award for the second consecutive year. After finding the winner’s circle nine times this season, the six-year-old reached the C$1 million mark in earnings for the second year in a row. Of those nine wins, seven of them were recorded on Canadian soil, where he was trained by Dr. Ian Moore. His biggest triumph came at Woodbine Mohawk Park, where he captured the Canadian Pacing Derby. Other notable victories include the Jim Ewart Memorial and Dayton Pacing Derby.

T C I and Willowtime are the finalists for the Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt division.

Rookie trotting sensation T C I had as good a freshman campaign as one could hope. In 12 starts this season, the son of Cantab Hall won 10 races, totalling a whopping C$1,453,370 in earnings for trainer Ron Burke. More than half of T C I’s earnings were banked on Canadian soil, where he was undefeated in three starts, winning both the William Wellwood Memorial, as well as the Mohawk Million.

Despite starting his season in early August, Willowtime was able to make his mark in Ontario, finding the winner’s circle four times in five starts. The son of Lookslikeachpndale captured the Champlain Stakes and was victorious three times in the Ontario Sires Stakes program including a score in the Super Final. The freshman trotter earned C$355,619 for trainer and co-owner Mark Etsell.

The Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly division will be headlined by Drawn Impression and Willys Home Run.

Drawn Impression was bred to be a star and the rookie trotting filly showed the racing world that she was nothing short of that. Winning four times in six starts, the daughter of Muscle Hill earned C$308,900 for trainer Luc Blais. The homebred’s signature victory came in the Peaceful Way, where she dominated her rivals by open lengths.

Trotting filly Willys Home Run had herself a tremendous rookie campaign, winning six times in 10 starts, while never missing the board. All six of her victories came in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, where she never faced defeat. The daughter of Archangel closed out her freshman campaign with a dominant score in the Super Final, which pushed her season earnings C$523,935 for trainer Kyle Fellows.

Righteous Resolve is once again a finalist for an O’Brien Award after receiving those honors as a freshman a season ago. As a sophomore, the daughter of Resolve was the epitome of consistency, hitting the board 10 times in 11 starts. Righteous Resolve bankrolledC $397,514 this season for trainer Matt Bax, which included victories in two Ontario Sires Stakes Gold legs. She was second in the Elegantimage and the Simcoe Stakes, and was a third-place finisher in the Hambletonian Oaks.

After a freshman campaign that saw her go behind the gate just twice, Climb The Pole had a breakout campaign as a sophomore, capturing seven wins in 13 starts, while earning C$295,468. Purchased halfway through her sophomore campaign by Carl & Jody Jamieson, the daughter of Kadabra proved she was much more than just a player in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, capturing Grand Circuit victories in the Casual Breeze and the Simcoe.

The finalists in the Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt division are Ghostly Casper and Hasty Bid.

After a freshman campaign that saw him go winless in 12 starts, Ghostly Casper vastly improved his win total as a sophomore, getting his picture taken four times for trainer Ben Baillargeon. Three of those victories came in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, where he captured multiple Gold legs. The son of Resolve capped off his season with a victory in the OSS Super Final, where he pushed his seasonal earnings to C$404,385.

An ultra-consistent sophomore, Hasty Bid had two wins and nine on-the-board finishes in 2023 for second-year trainer and co-owner Paige Austin. Both of his victories came in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, where he captured two Gold legs. The son of My MVP earned C$372,590 this season, and competed in Grand Circuit events such as the Canadian Trotting Classic, where he was a third-place finisher.

Adare Castle and H P Mama B are the finalists for the Older Trotting Mare division.

For the third consecutive year, Adare Castle will be an O’Brien Award finalist. New Image Media.

For the third consecutive year, Adare Castle will be an O’Brien Award finalist. The daughter of Muscle Mass got her aged career off to a strong start, sweeping all three legs of the Ontario Graduate Series as well as the final. Other notable accomplishments this season include winning a leg of the Miss Versatility Series at Woodbine Mohawk Park and winning the Preferred Trot against male rivals. Adare Castle bankrolled C$201,300 for trainer and co-owner Mark Etsell.

Trained by Ben Baillargeon, HP Mama B finds herself an O’Brien Award finalist in this category for the second time in her career. The daughter of Royalty For Life has competed against the boys at the Preferred level, but that has proved to be no tough task as she’s found herself winning four of those events this season. Her richest paydays this season came in a third-place finish in the Breeders Crown final and a third-place effort in the Dayton Oaks.

A couple of sons of Archangel will battle it out for top honours in the Older Trotting Horse division.

A winner of two O’Brien Awards, Fashion Frenzie will be looking to add a third to his mantle for trainer Richard Moreau. With six wins in 12 starts this season, the son of Archangel has been one of the main players in the Free For All/Open ranks at Woodbine Mohawk Park, with all six wins coming at that level. He won the Earl Rowe for the second consecutive year and was Canada’s representative in the Yonkers International Trot. Fashion Frenzie bankrolled C$204,256 this season.

Logan Park set a new career-high in wins (12) this season, shattering his previous high of five which was done in 2021 and 2022. The son of Archangel has been a force to be reckoned with at the Free For All level at Woodbine Mohawk Park, winning eight times. He won his Breeders Crown elimination and finished fourth in the final, which resulted in his richest pay day of the season. He has bankrolled C$348,970 this season for trainer Kyle Fellows. Logan Park will be looking for his first O’Brien Award of his career.

Mark Etsell and Jason Hughes are the finalists for the Horsemanship Award.

Following a 2022 campaign which saw him exceed C$1 million in seasonal earnings for the first time in his training career, Mark Etsell followed that up with yet another seven-figure season in 2023. The talented horseman has been in the spotlight over the last couple of seasons primarily due to his star mare, Adare Castle, who captured O’Brien Award honors as a sophomore in 2022 and will be a finalist in 2023 for the third consecutive year. Etsell trained a second O’Brien finalist in rookie trotter Willowtime, a two-year-old colt who had a successful campaign. Etsell’s ability to develop young, bargain-priced trotters has been a focal point of his career, and has especially been a strong accent of his over the last couple of years. To go along with his second straight million-dollar campaign, Etsell set career highs in wins (32) and had a sizzling UTRS of 0.321.

In 2023, P.E.I.-based horseman Jason Hughes enjoyed a career season, not only on the driving side, but the training side as well. On the training side, Hughes has amassed C$369,053 in earnings, which is easily a career-best. In addition, he has sent out 83 winners in 406 starts, and has a UTRS of 0.333. The Stratford, P.E.I. resident enjoyed similar success in the bike as well, totalling C$681,703 in purse earnings as a driver, which shattered his previous best of C$475,298 back in 2021. In 844 starts this past year, Hughes found the winner’s circle 161 times, and has been the epitome of consistency, totaling 434 on-the-board finishes.

Desiree Jones and Cassidy Schneider are the finalists for the Future Star Award.

Training horses since 2017, Desiree Jones has not only watched her statistical output increase every year since then, but she’s also watched the number of horses in her stable grow in size as well. The 30-year-old is enjoying a career year, reaching highs in starts (189), wins (23) and total earnings (C$578,957). Her stable, consisting of a plethora of young trotters, was headlined by rookie Top Mast, who had three wins in 10 starts, while totaling C$153,246 in earnings.

For the second year in a row, 23-year-old Cassidy Schneider finds herself as a finalist for the Future Star Award. Following in her father’s footsteps in training horses, Schneider followed up a career year in 2022, by having another strong campaign in 2023. In 567 starts, the young trainer has accumulated 74 wins, with earnings of C$475,032. Doing the bulk of her racing across Ontario’s B tracks, Schneider led Hanover Raceway in wins (nine) and earnings (C$27,230) in 2023. In addition to that, she sits comfortably atop the trainer standings at Western Fair, with 47 wins and C$300,253 in earnings.

The Trainer Of The Year finalists are Mark Etsell and Dr. Ian Moore.

Mark Etsell is a finalist for Trainer Of The Year for the first time in his career. The Rockwood, ON. native set a career high in wins (32) and had his second straight C$1 million season. Headlining his stable are aged trotting mare Adare Castle and rookie trotting colt Willowtime, who are both up for O’Brien honors this year. Willowtime captured the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final and suffered just one defeat in five starts, while Adare Castle competed at the Preferred Trot and competed in multiple Grand Circuit events, which included a second-place effort in the Miss Versatility final in Delaware on Little Brown Jug Day.

Dr. Ian Moore will be looking to capture his first O’Brien Award trophy as Trainer of the Year. The native of P.E.I. exceeded C$3 million in purse earnings for the first time in his career. In 2023, Moore captured the Canadian Pacing Derby for the second time of his career, courtesy of O’Brien Award finalist Tattoo Artist, who finished with more than C$1 million in seasonal purse earnings. His other O’Brien Award finalist, Stockade Seelster, enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign, being one of the standouts in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, as well as strong runner-up finishes in some marquee stakes events in the U.S. He also captured the OSS Super Final for two-year-old pacing colts, courtesy of rookie Storm Shadow. His 51 seasonal wins this season are the second best seasonal output of Moore’s career.

Two previous Driver of the Year winners, James MacDonald and Louis-Philippe Roy, are once again finalists for the Keith Waples Driver of the Year Award.

After taking home this honor in 2021-2022, James MacDonald is looking to become the first driver to win the award for three consecutive years since Doug Brown did it twice (1989-91, 93-96). MacDonald reached the 400-win mark for the second year in a row and exceeded C$10 million in purse earnings, which was the first time he’s done that in his career, and the first time a Canadian-based driver has reached the plateau in more than a decade. The native of P.E.I. has been the consistent pilot for seven of the O’Brien Award finalists – which include So Much More, Its A Love Thing, Legendary Hanover, Willys Home Run, Righteous Resolve, Hasty Bid and Adare Castle. MacDonald also added a third consecutive Lampman Cup title, which is awarded to the leading driver in the Ontario Sires Stakes program. Some of his seasonal accomplishments are winning the Shes A Great Lady, The Forest City Pace and multiple OSS Golds and a Super Final with Willys Home Run.

Louis-Philippe Roy will be looking to capture the fourth O’Brien Award of his career and third Driver of the Year title after winning in 2018 and 2019. In 2023, Roy set a career high in earnings, with just under C$7.6 million. His win total (311) on Canadian soil is third best in the nation. The Quebec native has won a multitude of Grand Circuit events, headlined by wins in the Canadian Pacing Derby, Jim Ewart Memorial and Dayton Pacing Derby with O’Brien Award finalist Tattoo Artist, and the Peaceful Way courtesy of another O’Brien Award finalist in Drawn Impression. Roy has been the regular pilot of a total of four O’Brien Award finalists – Tattoo Artist, Drawn Impression, HP Mama B and Fashion Frenzie.

Tara Hills Stud LLC and Bayama Farms Inc. are the finalists for the Armstrong Breeder Of The Year Award, both of whom will be looking to capture these honors for the first time in their career.

In 2023, horses bred by Bayama Farms won 69 races and bankrolled more than C$1.1 million. The top performers included Funtime Bayama and Camara Moment.

Horses bred by Tara Hills found the winner’s circle 169 times in 2023, while bankrolling more than C$3.4 million. The top performers included O’Brien Award finalist Tattoo Artist and Storm Shadow, who captured the OSS Super Final.

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