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Kathy Wade's Blog


Winning An O'Brien Award: Priceless!

Published: February 18, 2016 8:56 am ET

Last Comment: February 18, 2016 7:07 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The 2015 O’Brien Awards are now in the books. We're a few days removed from the big event which some of us refer to as “The Academy Awards of Harness Racing”. If you were an award winner, you deserved to celebrate long past the time the “official” celebration of the O’Briens ended in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

We have winners and runner-ups; there are no losers. Every horse, every person who is a finalist has already won...being in the top two in Canada is quite an accomplishment. The difference is that the ones who receive the hardware got the most votes.

As much as the O’Briens honour and recognize the horses and horsepeople in the sport that made an outstanding contribution to Canadian harness racing as determined by our esteemed O’Brien Award voters, it really is more than is a true celebration of Canadian harness racing.

I was trying to figure out how much time goes into developing an O’Brien Award champion. A championship season is not just the result of one calendar year but rather starts with the formative years and foundation.

So to raise, breed, or own a champion is an outstanding accomplishment. It starts long before the mare is bred with the selection of a stallion. From the time a horse is foaled until the time he/she first sets foot on the racetrack as a two year old, how many hours of sweat equity are invested? I’m not great at math but based on some rough calculations, it has to be close to 4,200 hours of care for a two-year-old champion, if you average five hours a day of care. (feeding, grooming, jogging, training, etc.) Then add another 1,800 or so hours per year for each year of the horse’s age.

For the people awards, there’s many more years invested! I think about Dr. Ian Moore who at age 62, put together a career best year in 2015 and was honoured with an O’Brien for Horsemanship and conditioned the talented State Treasurer, Horse of the Year and Older Pacing Horse of the Year. Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz have a 25+ year investment in this industry and were rewarded for their contributions and results in the breeding industry in 2015 with the Armstrong Breeder of the Year Award, the one that Mr. Katz told me he cherishes above all of the others.

For the first time since 2010 and Admirals Express, the Cam Fella Trophy was awarded. Bill Andrew was recognized for his outstanding contributions and meritorious service to the industry as the 2015 winner, and received a standing ovation when presented with the bronze replica of Cam. Bill has been involved in the industry since the 1990s.

Canada’s Driver of the Year Sylvain Filion has worked in the industry for over 29 years and Richard Moreau, Trainer of the Year for the third consecutive year sent his very first starters postward 28 years ago.

Success in harness racing requires hard work, early mornings, late nights. There is a huge investment of time and money and always different challenges to overcome. There is no substitute for hard work but that alone does not guarantee success. There are so many things you can’t control and you also need a great deal of good luck.

On Saturday night we dressed up in our finest attire. We enjoyed a gourmet dinner, watched a fantastic video production (thank you Woodbine Entertainment), and relived some of the greatest Canadian racing moments of 2015. We applauded, cheered and honoured our national champions.

If you or your horse were a finalist, we hope you celebrated and savoured every minute of that night. If you were a winner, we hope you have found that special place in your home to proudly display your trophy! Tell your friends, your family, your colleagues, show them the trophy, show them your presentation photo. (and don’t forget to tweet it out or post it on Facebook!) Brag a bit! You deserve to! Congratulations!

Thank you to all of our Industry Partners who help Standardbred Canada put on the O’Brien Awards Gala. We appreciate your contributions and support!

Thank you to Woodbine Entertainment Group for the video production and video stream; The Central Ontario Standardbred Association for sponsoring the reception; On Track Media & Entertainment, a division of American Teletimer for sponsoring the portraits.

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation sponsored a new and very popular award, the Outstanding Groom Award. Grand River Raceway, The Raceway at Western Fair and Clinton Raceway all contributed as Industry partners as well as many tracks and associations across the country including the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association, Ontario Harness Horse Association, Red Shores Racetrack & Casino, and the Prince Edward Island Horse Racing Industry Association.

Kathy Wade Vlaar

The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.

February 18, 2016 - 7:07 pmI agree with you Kathy, there

I agree with you Kathy, there were no losers this past Saturday night. Everyone nominated certainly earned their spot. The hard work and dedication in this industry is endless. Hard work goes a long way and it shows. And of course the "luck" part - you need to ride that luck as far as it can take you.
It was a fantastic well put together broadcast for those of us at home watching! Hats off to all those who put in the hard work to show all of us in Canada a fantastic celebration of the best in the business!


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