"It feels tremendous to know that you can race a horse all year and have a great year like we had and be measured against all other horses in the same category and come out on top. It's just phenomenal."
Wakizashi Hanover's stellar 2015 season that included a victory in Canada’s richest harness race, the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup, wrapped up with an O'Brien Award last weekend as he was voted Canada's Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year for Bruce Kennedy and his partners in the Truro, Nova Scotia-based Tri County Stable -- Percy Bonnell, Scott Bowen, David Bigden, Wayne Burley and David Chabassol.
Shannon Doyle, the voice of racing for The Raceway at Western Fair District presents the O’Brien to the connections of Wakizashi Hanover. Left to right: Percy Bonnell, Diane Bonnell, Sheila Kennedy, Bruce Kennedy, Shannon Doyle, JoAnn Looney-King, Jim King, Wyatt Beaver.
Kennedy attributes Wakizashi Hanover's success to the gelding's natural talent and supporting team.
"The horse is such a great individual," Kennedy told Trot Insider. "He has a good temperament, good disposition, he has a nice easy gait, he's got a lot of heart and desire, he loves to compete. I think all those were the ingredients he was born with.
"I think the fact that we had a trainer like we did. We came out of the breaking program and early training and went on to a trainer who was very patient and very humble. He's a horse lover as well as a trainer so he cares about the horse. He put him number one. Jim [King] and his wife JoAnn [Looney-King] did us a big justice by the type of operation they run. To acquire a guy like Tim Tetrick to steer him for most of his lifetime drives is just over the top."
A winner of 11 races in 20 sophomore starts and over $1.2 million in purses, the son of Dragon Again provided plenty of thrills for his ownership group that included three newcomers to the sport.
"They're so excited, they've learned a little bit," said Kennedy of the new owners in the Tri County Stable. "To be a brand new owner and not know anything about a horse other than to see one, they couldn't be more pleased. They're new owners and they're staying involved. They've repurchased again this year with us and they're hooked I think. I think we got them."
Creating buzz and bringing new owners to the sport is perhaps one of the greatest contributions to Canadian harness racing that a horse can achieve. In fact, the Truro connections bought two yearlings at the Lexington Selected Sale and are excited to have Wakizashi Hanover returning to the races to compete in the Open pacing division this year.
"Wakizashi is in the Gordon Corey Stable in Pinehurst, North Carolina. That's where he started his life to career train," said Kennedy. "His first event is going to be The Graduate at The Meadowlands for four-year-olds and we have 17 or 18 events that we paid into for him this year."