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Our talent pool is deep

The View

When people talk about Canadian hockey’s all-time greats they instantly mention names like Gretzky, Orr, Howe and Lemieux. I could easily fill this page with names like this - Yzerman, Crosby, Messier, Bourque… it goes on and on. How about Dave Andreychuk? His name probably didn’t exactly pop into your head did it? If you’re 25 or younger, you probably just said something like, “Who is Dave Andreychuk?” but you’ve probably heard of the others. Many of you would probably be surprised to hear that Dave sits 15th on the all-time list of goals scored in NHL history, with 640 - more than guys like Joe Sakic and Bobby Hull.

The thing is that Canadians are world leaders in hockey - if Dave Andreychuk was from almost any other country in the world he’d be a national hero, but here he’s just another, “Oh, I remember him… I think.”

We’re amongst the very best when it comes to harness racing too, so when the list of O’Brien nominees comes out every year (see this year’s on pg 37) it’s not surprising to see a number of very deserving names left off of it. With a talent pool as deep as ours it’s just inevitable.

There’s a baseball writer who publishes his Hall of Fame ballot every year, for all to see. I considered doing that with my O’Brien ballot, but there’s not enough room here to explain the reasoning for all of my selections, so I’ve just decided to give an honourable mention to some individuals that I did vote for, who did not get nominated. I won’t say whether I voted for them as my top pick or my second choice, but just that I did indeed vote for them, and why.

One thing I want to make clear though, is that I am NOT saying that anyone who did get nominated isn’t well deserving. The O’Brien vote is a democratic process that’s fair-and-square. The nominees are all deserving in my mind and I take nothing away from any of them - I’m just showing a little love for a few that I voted for who fell just short.

Warrawee Vital: Canadian bred, owned, trained and driven colt that won the Simcoe and SBSW Stakes at home, before taking the Bluegrass in Lexington in 1:47.1 - the co-second fastest mile of the year by a 3YO pacing colt. Only three horses defeated Tall Dark Stranger all year, and although Vital wasn’t one of them he did push him to the limit twice with runner-up finishes in the Tattersalls and their Breeders Crown elimination.

Profound Paragon: This 3YO trotting filly only won 12 of 16 starts, including going 6 for 7 in the OSS program with wins in her Grassroots semi-final and final. She finished her year winning 10 of her last 11 starts - only tasting defeat when she went off-stride one night - and earned just shy of $135,000. I’m pretty sure there’s no rule that says an Ontario-sired horse has to race in the Gold series to deserve an O’Brien nomination.

Woodmere Stealdeal: The freshman superstar from Atlantic Canada only went 13-for-13 this year and set track records on pretty much every oval east of Quebec. The nominees in this category are both very well deserving, as are all of the 2020 nominees, but this guy missing out hurts a little.

Woodmere Skyroller: Admittedly a longshot to grab a nom here, this girl still got one of my two votes in this wide open category. In 21 starts in Atlantic Canada, this 3YO daughter of Rollwithitharry never missed the board once (21 - 12 - 7 - 2) and earned more than $87,000 while never racing for a purse of more than $23,000. She won 4 of 6 ATSS ‘A’ events, two Lady Slipper ‘Golds’, the Atlantic Breeders Crown, and recently knocked off a field of aged mares in Charlottetown’s Mare’s Open. I had no problem at all voting for her.

Dr. Ian Moore: What does a guy have to do to get a nomination for Trainer of the Year? Although the Doc isn’t afraid to shell out decent money for yearlings every year, he doesn’t exactly spend millions of dollars on them either. A modest-sized stable that averaged about 20 horses in size most of the summer, Doc Moore produced THREE O’Brien nominees in Century Farroh (Breeders Crown winner), Tattoo Artist (N.A. Cup runner-up) and Lawless Shadow (multiple stakes winner and 3rd in the Metro). His ‘lesser’ performers included sires stakes winners Andra Day, Alumni Seelster, and Lady Arthur, and from just 218 starts the stable earned over $2.3 million.

There are many more deserving horses and people that I could mention here, but it’s all really just a feather in the cap of Canadian harness racing that we have so many worthy candidates. Not surprising from a country that boasts names like John Campbell, Somebeachsomewhere and the recently deceased William Robinson as some of its all-time greats.

So “Congratulations” to all of this year’s nominees, you should be proud of your accomplishments. And if you or your horse didn’t get nominated, don’t feel too bad - Dave Andreychuk scored more goals than Mike Bossy and Guy Lafleur, and he never even played for Team Canada in a Canada Cup or an Olympic Games.

Dan Fisher
[email protected]


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