2023 O'Brien Awards Hosts Announced

2023 O'Brien Awards hosts Ken Middleton and Greg Blanchard
Published: January 19, 2024 01:00 pm EST

Standardbred Canada (SC) is pleased to announce that Greg Blanchard and Ken Middleton will co-host the 2023 O’Brien Awards Gala on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Delta by Marriott Prince Edward in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

Greg Blanchard, the Director of Equine Programming for Western Fair District, has co-hosted the O'Brien Awards on three occasions – in 2010, 2015 and 2021. Over his 30-plus years in the industry, Blanchard hosted and managed media communications at Woodbine Entertainment, hosted Bet Night Live, a nationally broadcast weekly show on The Score in Canada, and contributed to racing broadcasts on Sportsnet and TSN. He was also part of the Hambletonian broadcast on CBS. Blanchard also co-hosts COSA TV, a digital platform dedicated to producing content and live racing broadcasts from Ontario racetracks.

Ken Middleton, having co-hosted the O'Brien Awards on 19 occasions, is set to once again grace the podium for the 35th O'Brien Awards in Charlottetown. Renowned as a track announcer and integral member of the broadcast team at Woodbine Mohawk Park, Middleton extends his passion for the sport to his home life, owning, breeding and training horses in his stable. In April 2023, Middleton, along with other industry experts, co-founded the Bill Galvin Racing Alliance.

SC checked in with Blanchard (GB) and Middleton (KM) to talk about the upcoming 35th O’Brien Awards ceremony in Prince Edward Island:

As the hosts for the 35th O'Brien Awards, what are you most excited about?

GB: I always look forward to the O’Briens and I always enjoy seeing the finalists getting recognized on the national stage. It is always a chance to connect with friends and colleagues in the industry which is the part I enjoy the most. The fact that it’s being held in my hometown this year makes it extra special.

KM: Because I spend the majority of my nights flying solo in the announcer's booth, the thing I'm looking forward to the most is networking and catching up with friends and fellow horsepeople, both before and after the awards night. We spend so much time doing our jobs that we lose track of connecting with people. It's a chance to slow down the pace of our hectic lives and to raise a glass and celebrate the horses and the great people involved in our industry.    

How does hosting the awards in Joe O'Brien's hometown hold significance for you?
KM: It's an incredible experience -- one that I had the chance to be a part of a number of years ago. The legend of Joe and his skill and love for the game is a proud part of the island's heritage. The thing I remember the most was the incredible display of pictures and memorabilia they had set up at the Charlottetown Driving Park the last time the awards were held in P.E.I.  

GB: Well, I grew up on P.E.I., so my early introduction to harness racing happened here. There is no other place I’ve been where racing is such a large part of the fabric of the community, so it’s very special to be co-hosting the O’Briens this year at this locale. What Joe O’Brien did and what he represented for the sport has always been a tremendous source of pride for everyone in the P.E.I. harness racing community -- myself included.

What makes your co-host such a great fit for this role?

GB: Kenny has been the face of the O’Brien Awards for a number of years. I know it’s been a difficult year for him personally recovering from serious injury, so it’s wonderful to see him back in this role. We’ve worked together in a variety of roles over the years and he is certainly one of the very best in the business at what he does. His broad knowledge and experience in the industry are second to none and I am looking forward to working with him again on this year’s show.

KM: Well for starters, it's his all around talent and professionalism in addition to his incredible passion for the sport. Greg has quarterbacked a number of broadcast shows in addition to being a part of the O'Brien Awards in the past, and you'd be hard pressed to find someone who has a greater love for the game.  Not to mention, he's a P.E.I. native -- so who better to have on the stage to celebrate the greatness of our sport than Greg? 

What was your favourite moment from the 2023 harness racing season?

KM: It's a dead heat. Sylvain Filion celebrating his 10,000th lifetime win and Richard Moreau nabbing his 7,000th lifetime victory. They're both good friends of mine, and they're both incredibly talented horsemen.

GB: Despite a really busy 2023, its was the first time in a few years, and since before the pandemic, that I was able to make it back home for Old Home Week. A full week of visiting family and friends, amazing beaches, great seafood and, of course, the racing – you can’t ask for anything more. And to cap it off with one of the most memorable editions of the Gold Cup & Saucer was just icing on the cake!

Who’s your Super Bowl pick this year?

GB: I am rooting for the Detroit Lions.

KM: I'm going to lean to the Buffalo Bills. They're a well-balanced team with a lot of weapons. If they can avoid turnovers and silly mistakes, they're certainly a team that can make some noise.

For O’Brien Awards Black Tie Gala inquiries and ticket reservations, please contact Jade Regina at [email protected].

(Standardbred Canada)

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