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'Sterling' Named NS Horse Of The Year

Published: April 30, 2013 11:46 am ET

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Sterling Seelster, a five-year-old Camluck gelding owned and trained by Heather Hawkins, was named Horse of the Year at the 2012 Cape Breton Island Horse Owner’s Association Banquet held this past Saturday night in Sydney.

Sterling Seelster recorded five wins from 20 starts, including pacing to a new mark of 1:56 and capturing the J.A. Ferguson Memorial Invitational Pace in September with driver Joe Campbell. Hawkins also won a trainer award and an award for the top $2,000 to $3,000 claiming horse with her pacer Electric Prince

A sold-out crowd of 250 attended the banquet, including New Brunswick’s Howie Trainor, who was guest speaker for the event. He recounted highlights of his 50 years of involvement in the racing industry, including recognizing the many accomplishments of Cape Breton horses and horsepeople both past and present.

Trainor spoke of some of his favourite race calls, including Waveore’s thrilling win in the Monctonian, and how he got started in the announcing game thanks to the late-great Ingraham Palmer.

Euphoria Seelster was named top mare at the track in for owner Dan Lewis. She established a new track record for aged mares when she won in 1:57. Iron Pacer of the Year award was captured by Wayne Hardy and Randy Getto’s Surrealist, who as a newcomer to the Downs in 2012 recorded six victories, including a win in 1:56.3.

Campbell Top Driver

Ryan Campbell continued his recent dominance over the driving ranks, picking up the Wilson Collins Driving Award as the top driver, with a .356 UDR, and was recognized as the top dash-winning driver from last season, with 47 trips to the winner's circle. Warren MacKinnon, Shawn Lynk, Gerry Snow, Gerard Kennedy, Fraser Turnbull, and Barry Bates also picked up driving awards in their respective divisions.

Hall of Fame Inductees

Six horsemen and women were inducted into the hall of fame: Harold Delaney, John Gibbons, Harry Jerrett, Benny MacKinnon, Virginia 'Ginny' Merner and the late Colleen Campbell Kelly.

Delaney started his career in 1965 with Russell MacKinnon and a horse by the name of Head Chief. He owned, trained and drove many horses over the years, with BM Boy, Mountain Invader, and Brock Broudair among his favourites. John Gibbons, or 'Gibby' as he’s known by most, continues to be an owner in a family affair of racing that now also includes the involvement of his grandchildren. He has been involved in harness racing for 45 years, and recently acquired a pacer Great Luck, from Western Fair, that he hopes will make an impact on the racing scene at Northside in 2013.

Jerrett and his business partner, Buddy Clifford, purchased their first horse, Carol Ann Mac, in 1975. One of the best horses he owned was Speedy Trial, who raced in the top class at Tartan Downs. With 'Speedy' he won the very first Frank MacInnis Memorial at Inverness Raceway in 1980. Speedy also won the Canada Action Week Pace in the same year. In the early 1980s he and John Ratchford shared ownership in Sheet Rock, who was named Horse of the Year in 1983. Currently, he owns the tough pacer Buckshot Cheney, one of the top money winners at the Downs in 2012.

MacKinnon, involved in harness racing for over 50 years, was a long time USTA member, an official starter, and patrol judge. He is well known for his pacing mare Not So Bad, who he drove to two track records for aged mares at both Tartan Downs and Inverness Raceway. He joins his brother, the late Mickey MacKinnon, who was inducted into the Hall in the 1990s.

The Honorary Ladies Hall of Fame inducted the late Colleen Campbell Kelly, who passed away last year. Colleen was around the track at a very early age with her father Hartigan Campbell and carried on her love of harness racing through-out her whole life. She could be found at the races each week with her husband, Dave, and their two children, Colin and David. She loved nothing more than to watch Colin and David share her passion. Her involvement touched every aspect of harness racing from helping out with fundraisers, banquets and special races.

Merner shared titles as an owner, trainer, and a driver, sending many horses to the gate over the years. She was involved in winning some of the major Maritime Invitational races. Ginny’s involvement with top class horses was substantial in her earlier years of racing. She co-owned horses with her father -- a memory she will always hold dear to her heart -- because she and her Dad’s great mare Glengyle Ibis did not go unnoticed in the Maritime circuit. Merner also is known for campaigning Rosinas Road, who dominated the top class at Sydney and raced on the invitational circuit for part of his illustrious career.

Individual Horse Awards

Carol Alice was recognized as the two-year-old filly winner, along with receiving awards for victories in the Atlantic Sires Stakes and the Breeders Crown at Charlottetown. The Brandons Cowboy filly is owned and trained by Sonny Rankin.

Other winners in their respective categories included Elm Grove Harley, (two-year-old colt), Lis Passage, (three-year-old filly), Junebugs Baby, (three-year-old colt), Anna Tu and Gottobeareason, (claiming mares), and Giselles Big B and Western Cooking in the claiming horse category. Western Cooking also was recognized as the top dash winning horse at the Downs in 2012, picking up 11 wins for owners Gerry, Larry, and Brian Snow with Gerry doing the driving.

Opening day for the 2013 season at Northside Downs is set for Saturday May 11.

(Northside Downs)

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