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Auciello An 'Exhilarated' Finalist

Published: January 17, 2019 10:05 am ET

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Fresh off one of his best seasons, trainer Carmen Auciello will attend his first O'Brien Awards ceremony as a finalist thanks to the consistent and successful efforts of a special lady in his life.

Just over two decades after attending his first O'Brien Awards with his dad Rocco, who won with trotting mare Kawartha An Worthy in 1996, the younger Auciello will have his chance at O'Brien glory with the iron-tough Exhilarated.

"She's my favourite horse in the barn," said Auciello. "Not only because my dad and I also own her, but she shows up every week and has raced 93 times in the last two years, I think...She's just so tough, week in and week out."

The now eight-year-old daughter of Mach Three and Animated Art in fact won 11 of her 44 starts last year and banked over $200,000. While she fell short against the top mares in the continent in the Roses Are Red and the Milton, Exhilarated cemented herself among the top mares at Woodbine Mohawk Park with four Preferred-level wins and two upper-level conditioned wins through the season. Her season's best mark of 1:51 came this past August at Mohawk, but it was a Preferred win this past November against the likes of Kendall Seelster and 2017 O'Brien Award winner Sandbetweenurtoes that Auciello recalls most fondly.

"At no point in the race did she look like a winner," recalled Auciello, "but she kept coming and coming and coming and got up by a head."

Exhilarated is a finalist in the older pacing mare category with Milton Stakes winner Caviart Ally.

"I was super excited when I got the call," Auciello explained. "I just thought for sure she would have been overlooked because she didn't win any stake races or anything, but when it comes to earnings and being able to race week after week at the highest level, there aren't any better than her!"

Auciello, who sent his first starter to post in July 2004 and comes into the current year on the heels of six straight $2 million seasons, attributes much of his success to the man with whom he shared his first O'Brien experience: his dad.

"I owe all of my success to him," Auciello said. "He still works with me every day and is a huge part of the team, but he has taught me so much and allowed me to step into a ready-made stable 10 years ago and let me run with it to see if I could grow the business and the brand and become more successful. So far, it has worked!"

. . . and for Carmen Auciello, an O'Brien Award would be the perfect topper to an 'Exhilarating' season.

"I can't wait for the awards! I've always said it's something that I will never attend unless I am nominated. That gave me more motivation, and hopefully now it's something that my family and I can attend more often...hopefully down the road for being nominated for trainer of the year as well."

A talented musician when not training horses, Auciello confirmed to Trot Insider that he watched the video of driver Scott Coulter singing at the 2017 O'Brien Awards and wouldn't rule out a similar performance in a few weeks time.

"I saw the video and there’s a good chance I will be trying to do the same thing...Whether they let me sing or not remains to be seen!"

Standardbred Canada will present the 30th edition of the O’Brien Awards on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale Hotel. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by contacting the Member & Stakeholder Relations Department at 905-858-3060. Tickets are $200 each (includes HST) and include a cocktail reception, gourmet dinner, wine, and complimentary portrait.

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