"The Horse of the Year is big because it's what he did on the track...The Cam Fella [Award] is important because it shows what effect a good horse can have on people, on the fans. And that's the most important thing in the business: the horse."
Bulldog Hanover stole the show at the 2022 O'Brien Awards on Saturday (Feb. 4), winning the Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year title, taking the Older Pacing Horse division, and he was also honoured as the 2022 recipient of the prestigious Cam Fella Award.
It was a memorable season for Bulldog Hanover, who captivated the hearts of harness racing fans across North America. The Jack Darling-trained son of Shadow Play - BJs Squall became the fastest Standardbred the sport has ever seen when he stopped the clock in 1:45.4 in the William R. Haughton Memorial at The Meadowlands.
Over a season that saw him win 14 races in 16 starts for $1,858,210 in earnings, some of Bulldog Hanover’s other notable victories came in the Dan Patch Stakes and the Hoosier Pacing Derby at Hoosier Park, the Dayton Pacing Derby, the Canadian Pacing Derby, the Breeders Crown and the TVG Open. Bulldog Hanover was recognized for his exploits on the racetrack as well as his ability to be an outstanding ambassador for harness racing with the Cam Fella Award.
After the O'Brien Awards Black Tie Gala, Darling offered his thoughts on the momentous season that brought him to this historic evening, and he also shared a special story that illustrated how a special equine athlete can mean the world to people in need of a star, or an embodiment of something pure and good.
Darling's interview with Standardbred Canada's Jeff Porchak and Brittney Mayotte appears below.
Sincere heartfelt thanks to the connections of Bulldog Hanover
In the past 11 years I've had an extreme roller-coaster ride of emotions with the love of racing. It took a horse like Bulldog Hanover to reach the love I've never felt for the sport. A trip to Lexington to the Red Mile with a heavy heart for two great gentlemen turned out to be an amazing day. As I was standing trackside, to the right halfway from the finish line to the first turn, I was talking to a gentleman from Ontario about racing. When another Ontario person said here comes Jack and Bulldog Hanover. They both started clapping and cheering for Bulldog, as he passed us in his jog cart towards the grandstand. The cheers kept getting louder and louder. I had a numb feeling like I couldn't speak, part of me wanted to take off running towards the grandstand, but I felt like I couldn't move. This was truly something beyond words to comprehend, I felt very proud and didn't understand how Bulldog Hanover was gaining that much excitement around him. As the cheering slowed down, I turned to the fella I was speaking to, and I said "Wow, what a crowd reaction.". That's when he said to me, "Welcome to the Red Mile. They're all horse people here. They all share the same passion and love for racing as yourself.". I'll never forget this day, it was the greatest day of racing I've ever experienced.