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Sugar Ready For "The Big One"


Published: January 26, 2012 2:18 pm ET

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While Northlands Park track announcer Shannon ‘Sugar’ Doyle may not have a skip in his step when he co-hosts the 2011 O’Brien Awards this Saturday, it's more an indication of determination and will than a lack of enthusiasm.

“I suffered an achilles injury two weeks ago and had to spend a morning in the hospital here,” explained Doyle. “All I could think of at the time was, 'Is this going to affect my trip to Ontario?' There were a few anxious moments for sure.”

Doyle told Trot Insider that he's now on the mend and hoping to trade in his air-cast for some fancier footwear by the weekend. The PEI native will be making his O'Briens debut as co-host with WEG's Ken Middleton on Saturday night at the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga, Ont.

“I'm up and around and feeling great but there's still some swelling. If I can get a shoe on my foot come Saturday night -- and I'm thinking I will -- the air-cast will not be making an appearance at the O'Briens. I may appear a little bit lame on post parade, but I'm guessing I'll come out of it when I go behind the gate,” smiled Doyle, noting that there was no chance the injury would prevent him from fulfilling the emcee duties at harness racing’s biggest off-track event of the year.

“I was absolutely thrilled to get the call to co-host the O'Briens,” Doyle told Trot Insider. “When Kathy Wade Vlaar called in December with the invite... to say I was caught off guard would be a huge understatement. I was like 'Wow! This is a big deal!'"

While Doyle admits there is a hint of nervousness that accompanies his excitement to co-host the O’Briens with Middleton, he has a multitude of his own experiences to draw off of and has done some additional studying to prepare for the night.

“I've co-hosted here in Alberta at the ASHA's for a number of years, but this -- this is the big one,” said Doyle. “Kathy's been great. She sent me out a DVD copy of last year's awards and I've had the opportunity to watch it a few times. Ken is a true professional in everything he does and I'm hoping to hang with him a little prior to Saturday night to maybe pick up on a few things. It's all going to be a great experience I'm sure.”

Although the task is not a new one for Middleton, who will be co-hosting the O’Briens for the ninth consecutive year, he says the thrill of it hasn’t worn off.

"I'm very honoured to be asked to host the O'Brien Awards once again,” said Middleton. “I've never had the chance to meet Sugar Doyle, but I'm looking forward to working with him on the weekend. The 2011 season was a memorable year for racing, and I'm excited to find out the winners in all of the categories. I'm also curious to see what Mario Glynn will be decked out in this year. He always dresses to impress."

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