2019 O'Briens Finalists Announced

Published: December 18, 2019 02:36 pm EST

The ballots have been tabulated and on Wednesday, December 18, Standardbred Canada announced the finalists for the 2019 O’Brien Awards, which honour Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season.

There are two finalists in each of the categories which includes 12 divisional horse categories and five people awards. Horse of the Year will be one of the divisional champions.

The winners will be announced at the annual O’Brien Awards Black Tie Gala on Saturday, February 1, 2020, at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale hotel in Mississauga, Ont.

This will mark the 31st edition of the O’Brien Awards, named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Richard Moreau will be looking to add a record seventh O’Brien trophy to his mantle in the Trainer of the Year Category and is up against Luc Blais, a first-time nominee.

Luc Blais is enjoying a career best season, training horses to 57 victories and more than $2.5 million in earnings including three O’Brien finalists -- Hambletonian Champion Forbidden Trade, Older Trotting Mare Emoticon Hanover and Two Year Old Trotting Colt Port Perry.

Richard Moreau of Puslinch, Ont. has earned six consecutive titles as Canada’s Trainer of the Year. To date in 2019, he has sent 280 winners postward and trained horses to over $4.4 million in earnings including O’Brien finalist Double A Mint and hard-hitting older pacing pacing horse Jimmy Freight. He currently tops the trainer standings in Canadian earnings.

For the second consecutive year, Bob McClure and Louis-Philippe Roy are the Driver of the Year finalists.

Bob McClure of Rockwood, Ont., is en route to a career-best season in the earnings column with more than $5.8 million and 222 trips to the winner’s circle. McClure, who was a finalist in this category in 2018 and 2016, was the regular driver for three O’Brien finalists -- Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt Forbidden Trade, Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt Port Perry and Older Trotting Mare Emoticon Hanover.

Louis-Philippe Roy, of Guelph, Ont., last year’s Driver of the Year and Future Star winner in 2016, has driven 291 winners and horses to more than $6.1 million in earnings. He was the regular reinsman for three O’Brien finalists -- Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly Alicorn, Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt HP Royal Theo and Older Pacing Mare Double A Mint.

Gilles Barrieau is looking for his second title in the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship Category, and is up against first-time nominee Mario Baillargeon.

Mario Baillargeon was one of the top drivers on the Woodbine circuit from 1997 through 2015. In 2019 he turned his hand to full-time training duties for thestable.ca and posted solid results with 17 wins, more than $237,000 in earnings and a UTRS of .263. On the driving side he drove 38 winners and banked over $850,000 in earnings for a UDRS of .225.

In 2005, Gilles Barrieau of Saint John, N.B. won his first O’Brien in the Horsemanship Category. For the next 14 years, he recorded impressive stats in both the driving and training columns. To date this season, he’s trained 40 winners and horses to more than $178,000 in purse earnings and boasts a UTRS of .575. On the driving side, he has 151 winners and over $435,000 in earnings, giving him a .401 UDRS.

Alicorn and Reflect With Me are the nominees in the Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly division. Alicorn boasted 11 top-three finishes in her 13-race campaign which included four Ontario Sires Stakes victories. The daughter of Bettors Delight scored her richest payday with a runner-up finish in the Shes A Great Lady, and her richest victory was in the Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final.

The Captaintreacherous filly Reflect With Me had 10 top-three finishes and banked more than $628,000 in her 11-race season culminating in a Breeders Crown Championship. She also posted victories in the Whenuwishuponastar, Champlain and Eternal Camnation Stakes.

The regally-bred Tall Dark Stranger and Capt Midnight are the finalists in the Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt division.

The Captaintreacherous colt Capt Midnight won six of 10 races during his rookie campaign and topped $385,000 in earnings while posting victories in the Dream Maker, Nassagaweya, Champlain, a Metro elimination, and the International Stallion Stake.

Tall Dark Stranger, a son of O'Brien Award winners Bettors Delight and Precocious Beauty, won eight of nine races and more than $936,000 in earnings. Stakes victories included a leg of the Dream Maker, two Ontario Sires Stakes legs, a sweep of the Metro, the International Stallion Stake and the Breeders Crown Championship.

In the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly division, Ontario-breds Boadicea and Sunny Dee will compete for O’Brien honours.

Boadicea, a daughter of Big Jim, won eight races, including four victories in Ontario Sires Stakes events and more than $417,000 in earnings. Her sophomore season culminated in an Ontario Sires Stakes Super Final victory.

While unraced as a two-year-old, Sunny Dee was all systems go in her sophomore year as the Sunshine Beach filly racked up 21 top-three finishes in 23 races including 13 wins. Her bankroll eclipsed $601,000 with several stakes victories including a sweep of the SBOA, two Ontario Sires Stakes events, and the USS Indianapolis Memorial.

Captain Crunch, a son of Captaintreacherous and the Mach Three colt Century Farroh are the Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt finalists.

Captain Crunch won six of 16 races and more than $1 million in earnings. His stakes wins included The North America Cup, Pennsylvania Sires Stakes, Meadowlands Pace elimination, Cane Pace and an elimination of the Progress Pace.

Century Farroh won 12 of 16 races and almost $720,000 in earnings. Five of those victories were in Ontario Sires Stakes events with other victories including the Somebeachsomewhere, North America Cup Consolation, Simcoe Stakes and the Jenna's Beach Boy at Hoosier Park.

Two daughters of Bettors Delight, Caviart Ally and Double A Mint, are finalists in the Older Pacing Mare category. A finalist in 2018, Caviart Ally had another impressive season in 2019, never finishing worse than third while banking almost $760,000. She added many stakes victories to her impressive resume including the Milton, Allerage, Breeders Crown and the TVG.

Double A Mint was a consistent campaigner at Woodbine Mohawk Park racing 31 times and recording top-three finishes in 23 of those races. She banked more than $262,000 while racing from January through December.

McWicked is back to defend Older Pacing Horse honours and is up against Lather Up. Both of these horses recently retired to stud duty but provided many thrills to their connections on the racetrack this past season.

Lather Up won eight of 12 races and more than $815,000 in earnings while taking victories in two legs and the final of the Graduate in a World Record time of 1:46, Ben Franklin elimination, William Haughton Memorial, Sam McKee Memorial and the Dan Patch. The four-year-old son of Im Gorgeous ended his career with a runner-up finish in the Canadian Pacing Derby.

McWicked won six of 17 starts and more than $1 million in earnings this season with victories in the Gerrity, Roll With Joe, the Jim Ewart Memorial, and the Dan Rooney Invitational. Lifetime, the eight-year-old son of McArdle sports more than $5 million in earnings, making him the richest stallion in harness racing history.

On the trotting side, a pair of Hanover Shoe Farm fillies, Dip Me Hanover and Wine Rack Hanover, will compete for Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly honours. Dip Me Hanover won two of 12 starts and more than $307,000 in her rookie season, which included a sweep of the Peaceful Way at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Wine Rack Hanover scored three victories in her freshman season, all in Ontario Sires Stakes events during her 12-race campaign while bankrolling more than $233,000.

In the Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt division, HP Royal Theo and Port Perry are the finalists.

HP Royal Theo, a gelded son of Royalty For Life, won three of nine races and more than $286,000 in earnings. His richest payday came in the William Wellwood Memorial Final this past summer at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

The Kadabra colt Port Perry posted top-two finishes in seven of his nine races and earned more than $303,000. His two victories both came in Ontario Sires Stakes events.

Evident Beauty and Only Take Cash were two of North America’s top trotting sophomore fillies this season and are the finalists in the Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly division.

Evident Beauty won 10 of 18 races and more than $617,000 in earnings. The Trixton filly’s biggest win of the season came in the Elegantimage Stake where she overcame the outside post position 10 to get up for a neck victory. She also added wins in two divisions and the final of the New Jersey Sire Stakes, the Del Miller, a Casual Breeze division, and the Moni Maker to her impressive resume.

Only Take Cash was a model of consistency this season, scoring top-three finishes in 12 of her 13 races and earning more than $511,000. A wire-to-wire effort in the Ohio Sires Stakes Final was the Cash Hall filly’s richest payday of the season. She also scored wins in a division of the Casual Breeze, and two Ohio Sires Stakes events.

On August 3, Forbidden Trade joined an elite group of trotters when he won the $1 million Hambletonian Final. The victory combined with four Ontario Sires Stakes wins and more than $1 million in season’s earnings has earned the son of Kadabra a nomination in the Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt category. The Muscle Hill colt Pilot Discretion, a winner of four races including the Goodtimes elimination and final and more than $475,000 in earnings is the other finalist.

Atlanta will attempt to usurp Emoticon Hanover’s title in the Older Trotting Mare category on the strength of a solid season which included eight wins and more than $871,000 in earnings. The Chapter Seven mare’s victories included two legs and the final of the Graduate, a sweep of the Armbro Flight, and the Charlie Hill Memorial Trot.

Emoticon Hanover, a six-year-old daughter of Kadabra, won five of 21 races and more than $378,000 while racking up victories in the Miss Versatility and the TVG Trot for mares.

In the Older Trotting Horse category, Musical Rhythm and Lindy The Great are the finalists. Musical Rhythm had seven wins and more than $206,000 in earnings, all at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Lindy The Great won six races and nearly $269,000 in earnings. The son of Crazed put together a five-race win streak that kicked off at Woodbine Mohawk Park on August 12 and continued through to a victory in the Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier Park on September 20.

This year marks the seventh for the Future Star Award, with Dave Kelly of Rocky View County, Alta., and Austin Sorrie, a native of Montague, P.E.I. as the finalists.

Kelly drove 101 winners and horses to almost $640,000 in purse earnings while training 50 winners and horses to $261,000 in earnings, competing at Century Downs, Century Mile and The Track On 2.

Sorrie, who moved from P.E.I. to Ontario to compete on the B Track circuit, has driven 76 winners and horses to more than $390,000 in earnings while training five winners and horses to more than $47,000 in purses. On December 7, he scored his first victory at Woodbine Mohawk Park, driving pacer Bugsy Maguire to victory.

The partnership of Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz, and Robert McIntosh Stables Inc. are finalists in the Armstrong Breeder of the Year Category. Libfeld-Katz have won this award on three previous occasions while McIntosh Stables Inc. have four bronzes to their credit.

In 2019, horses bred by Libfeld-Katz won 39 races and earned more than $2 million. These 14 starters, which included millionaire Greenshoe, Soul Strong, O Narutac Perfetto and Bautista, averaged more than $148,000 in earnings per starter.

Horses bred by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc. earned more than $2.8 million in 2019, led by Sunny Dee, a winner of over $601,000. Only Take Cash, Quite A Sight and Thats Incredible were other top performers that contributed to the 167 wins and $40,792 average earnings per starter.

One of the winners in the divisional categories will be awarded the Horse of the Year title.

The 2019 O’Brien Award finalists were announced live on the SC wesbite on Wednesday (Dec. 18) by 2019 O'Brien Awards hosts Ken Middleton and Jason Portuondo.

A complete list of finalists follows.





Owned by Windermere Stable LLC, New York, NY

Robert K Muscara, Ivyland, PA

Reflect With Me

Owned by Brittany Farms LLC, Versailles, KY

Bradley J. Grant, Milton, ON


Capt Midnight

Owned by Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON

Kenneth E. Jacobs, Baldwinsville, NY

Bradley J. Grant, Milton, ON

Capt Midnight Racing, Boynton Beach, FL

Tall Dark Stranger

Owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Syracuse, NY

Marvin Katz, Toronto, ON

Caviart Farms, Vienna, VA

Howard A. Taylor, Philadelphia, PA



Owned by C E Lawrence Stable Inc., G A Lawrence Stable Inc., Blenheim, ON

Sunny Dee

Owned by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Windsor, ON

C S X Stables, Liberty Center, OH

Al McIntosh Holdings Inc., Leamington, ON


Captain Crunch

Owned by 3 Brothers Stables, New York, NY

Christina Takter, East Windsor, NJ

Rojan Stables, Wilmington, DE

Caviart Farms, Vienna, VA

Century Farroh

Owned by Ratchford Stable NS, North Sydney, NS


Caviart Ally

Owned by Caviart Farms, Vienna, VA

Double A Mint

Owned by Adriano Sorella, Guelph, ON


Lather Up

Owned by Gary L. & Barbara N. Iles, Harrington, DE

George Teague, Harrington, DE

Taylor Made Stallions, Nicholasville, KY


Owned by S S G Stables, North Boston, NY



Dip Me Hanover

Owned by Camelot Stable Inc., Freehold, NJ

Dreamville Stable, Cambridge, ON

Randi Farms LLC, Brookville, NY

Wine Rack Hanover

Owned by Pinske Stables, Plato, MN

Bridgette S. Jablonsky, Hanover, PA


HP Royal Theo

Onned by Claude Hamel, Ayer’s Cliff, QC

Michel Damphousse, Louiseville, QC

Port Perry

Owned by Determination, Montreal, QC


Evident Beauty

Owned by Mel Hartman, Ottawa, ON

Little E LLC, New York, NY

R A W Equine Inc., Burlington, ON

Only Take Cash

Owned by Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Windsor, ON

Dave A. Boyle, Bowmanville, ON

Mardon Stables, Loretto, ON


Forbidden Trade

Owned by Determination, Montreal, QC

Pilot Discretion

Owned by Robert J. Leblanc, Austin, TX

David Anderson, Aurora, ON

John A. Fodera, Staten Island, NY



Owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Syracuse, NY

Bradley J. Grant, Milton, ON

Howard A. Taylor, Philadelphia, PA

Emoticon Hanover

Owned by Determination, Montreal, QC


Lindy The Great

Owned by K R Breeding LLC, Enfield, CT

Robert A Rudolph, Vineland, NJ

Musical Rhythm

Owned by Santo Vena, Brampton, ON

Nunzio Vena, Bolton, ON

Claude Hamel, Ayer’s Cliff, QC

Benoit Baillargeon, Guelph, ON



Dave Kelly, Rocky View County, AB

Austin Sorrie, Guelph, ON


Mario Baillargeon, Acton, ON

Gilles Barrieau, Saint John, NB


Al Libfeld / Marvin Katz, Pickering, ON / Toronto, ON

Robert McIntosh Stables Inc., Windsor, ON


Bob McClure, Rockwood, ON

Louis-Philippe Roy, Guelph, ON


Luc Blais, Campbellville, ON

Richard Moreau, Puslinch, ON



From this note on Eligibility:

O'Brien Award Eligibility Criteria – Horses

For horses to be eligible for consideration for an O'Brien Award, the horse must have had a minimum of three (3) starts in Canada between January 1st and November 30th, in addition to any Breeders Crown starts, when the Breeders Crown is hosted in Canada. The type of race (stakes, overnight) is irrelevant and schooling and qualifying races do not represent a start.

(the change is that Breeders Crown starts, when the Breeders Crown is hosted in Canada, are now not included in the three-start minimum requirement)

Why isn't Shartin a finalist for Older Pacing Mare? She's a shoo-in for USTA HOTY, and she never even broke a sweat when she won the Roses Are Red final on North American Cup night. Double A Mint finished 11th in that race and 6th in The Milton, the only 2 stakes races in which she was entered all year.

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