The 49th SOVEREIGN AWARDS, presented by The Jockey Club of Canada, were held April 18 in Woodbridge, ON at the Universal Eventspace and it was a big night for owner GARY BARBER, trainer MARK CASSE, and a litany of Casse-trained horses.

The awards were honouring the 2023 champions and outstanding horsepeople plus racing media and each attendee received a copy of a preview booklet for the upcoming “50 of the Finest” celebrating 50 of the top Canadian-bred racehorses in the last 50 years.

Barber, who has been racing horses at Woodbine for almost 20 years, won his first-ever Outstanding Owner Sovereign Award Thursday night collecting 126 voting points. Barber’s Canadian totals saw him win 22 races and $1.8 million in purses and he had half a dozen horses owned solely or in partnership nominated for Sovereigns, all trained by Casse.

The South African collected the Champion 2-Year-Old Colt award for his CTHS auction purchase MY BOY PRINCE (Cairo Prince), the Sovereign for Champion 2-Year-Old Filly for WITWATERSRAND (Connect), PARAMOUNT PRINCE (Society’s Chairman), Champion 3-Year-Old Male, co-owned with Mike Langlois, ELYSIAN FIELD (Hard Spun), Champion 3-year-old filly co-owned with Team Valor, and Champion Male Turf Horse, LUCKY SCORE (Lookin at Lucky), co-owned by Eachtel and Pantofel Stable.

That was six Sovereign Award trophies for Barber and his horses.

Meanwhile, Casse had a big year with his Woodbine stable and he took home his 13th straight Outstanding Trainer award and 16th overall, a remarkable. In addition to the six previously mentioned champions, Casse also trained Tracy Farmer’s FEV ROVER (Ire), named HORSE OF THE YEAR and Champion Turf Female.

Casse was particularly pleased for Barber’s first Sovereign and assistant Kathryn Sullivan read a short speech from Casse for Barber:

“I will never forget my first phone call with Gary in 2011, little did I know how much better he would make my and my family’s lives. Yes we have been lucky enough to win a Preakness, Breeders’ Cups, Queen’s Plates and even a King’s Plate but nothing compares to his bond with me and my family. Gary, I cannot express how much this award brings joy to me for you. If there is a person in this universe that loves horse racing more than you, I don’t know them.”

Fev Rover (Ire) was a work in progress after Casse got the mare in the summer of 2022. Farmer doled out $971,704 for the daughter of the Dark Angel stallion Gutaifan (Ire) at the 2021 December Mares Sale at Tattersalls. Fev Rover was a two-time winner at the time of purchase.

“When Tracy was looking at buying her at the Tattersalls sale in Newmarket, he asked me, ‘how good could she be?'” said racing manager Lincoln Collins.  “I said ‘maybe she could win a Grade 1’ but I wouldn’t have,  in my wildest dreams, thought she would be a horse of the year.”

Collins continued, “She comes from a very tough, ordinary family. She’s named after a rugby league team in a small town in northern England. She’s a scrapper, she’s a fighter, she’s not easy to train. The Casse team has done a marvelous job with her. Under sedation, when she was turned out for the first time, she jumped a fence and tried to kill herself.”

Fev Rover won three of six races in 2023 including the E.P. Taylor Stakes (G1) and Beverly D. Stakes (G1). She was bred by Manister House Stud. The now six-year-old mare has earnings of over $1.2 million and she collected 90 voting points for Horse of the Year, edging out Paramount Prince, 44 and Elysian Field, 32.

This year’s Sovereign Awards featured big stables and small stables, in particular on the breeding end.

My Boy Prince and Paramount Prince were both foaled in Ontario with small scale breeders. Murray Smith bred My Boy Prince and Ericka Rusnak bred the King’s Plate winner.

David Anderson bred Woodbine Oaks winner and top three-year-old filly Elysian Field, a shining moment for Anderson who took over Anderson Farms from his late father just over a decade ago.

Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry were emotional when accepting the Sovereign Award for their late broodmare Mendocino Beano, voted the Outstanding Broodmare, a lifetime award. The Fitzhenrys do not have a farm but have raised numerous top racehorses with a small broodmare band.

James Everatt, Arika Everatt-Meeuse and the late Janeane Everatt bred Lucky Score, the Male Turf Champion and the Kentucky division of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms bred Champion Older Male, TYSON.

And Frank Stronach was in attendance Thursday night, just about two weeks following the passing of his wife Frieda. Stronach accepted the Outstanding Breeder Award for his Adena Springs.

“My wife Frieda would have enjoyed being here today but I know she is watching this from heaven. It is great to see so many people together who love horses.”

JAIME ROTH accepted the Sovereign Award for LOYALTY, the Champion Female Sprinter who is now retired. Roth owns and operates LNJ Foxwoods with her parents and they co-own Loyalty with Gainesway Farm. Josie Carroll trained Loyalty for her championship season.

CATHERINE DAY PHILLIPS is the trainer of the year’s Champion Older Mare Main Track, MILLIE GIRL, owned by Braconcrest, Kingfield and Apricot Valley Farms. The late-developing filly by Hard Spun from Mendocino Beano was bred by the Fitzhenrys.

And while Frank DiGiulio and trainer Bob Tiller won five Male Sprinter Sovereign Awards with the mighty Pink Lloyd, they were back again for a new champion in their barn, PATCHES O’HOULIHAN (Reload), the 2023 Champion Male Sprinter.

Early awards

Special Sovereign Award: ROBERT “RED” MCKENZIE
After more than 80 years working in horse racing in Alberta, you might think that Robert ‘Red’ McKenzie has done it all. A former jockey, and then successful trainer, who has won some 1,600 races, Robert landed in the record books on the evening of June 23, 2023 when his mare Entitled Star won a claiming race at Century Mile. At the age of 96, he became the oldest trainer to saddle a winner in Canadian racing history when his mare circled the field as the longest shot on the board at 25-1.

Considering thoroughbred racing statistics are hard to come by before 1976, the official number of winners for Robert as a jockey, trainer, and owner, could be much higher than 1,600. But what is known is that the Alberta resident, who was born on January 1, 1927, was still bringing horses over to race in 2023. Robert loved horses and started riding at the age of 10 at a riding academy in Edmonton. He accompanied his father and sister to the racetrack and started riding races at bush tracks such as Ponoka, Rimbey, and Red Deer. When he turned 16 and was old enough to ride the ‘A’ tracks, he would travel throughout the Western Canada Association which included tracks in Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Saskatoon.

Outstanding Writing: JENNIFER MORRISON
Cat’s Long Way Home
Published December 31, 2023 on Canadian

Outstanding Photograph: JASON HALSTEAD
A Kiss for Commando
Published: September 22, 2023 in The Inside Track Issue #98 and Canadian Thoroughbred

Outstanding Audio Visual/Digital Broadcast: WOODBINE ENTERTAINMENT
Secretariat: The Last Race
Aired on TSN on October 8, 2023

Outstanding Groom: MICHELLE ARMATA
Being from one of the most successful racing families in Canada, horse racing is an integral part of Michelle Armata. Her father, Joe, was a trainer at Woodbine and Michelle would often visit the stable, despite being a bit scared of horses when she was

Michelle studied Early Childhood Education in the latter part of her school years, working hours towards her diploma, until one day she decided her life was with horses. There was a litany of family members at Woodbine by then, including her brother Steve
and sister Josie. She was in her 20s when she started working there, first for Joe, and then for Steve. “My brother and his wife Sharon taught me a lot about grooming horses,” said Michelle. “I was taught horsemanship the old school way.”

After leaving the track to start a family – she has two children with her husband, trainer Ross Armata, Jr., – Michelle returned to work for her brother-in-law, Mike De Paulo and his wife and assistant, Josie, Michelle’s sister.

Outstanding Off-track Worker: JENNIFER BUCK
The inaugural Outstanding Off-track Worker Award will be presented this evening to Jennifer Buck, who has been with Adrian Munro’s Highfield Stock Farm in Okotoks, Alberta since 2013. The Jockey Club of Canada introduced the Outstanding Off-track
Worker Award as a way to honour the unsung heroes who make thoroughbred racing in Canada possible through their hard work and dedication at off-track thoroughbred racing, training, boarding, breeding, sales, and aftercare farms and facilities.

Jennifer, who was born in Ontario, learned to ride horses at a young age when living in Connecticut. Once settled in Alberta as a teenager, she worked for Glenview Stables and manager Brian Ferguson, a Windfields Farm alumni, learning the intricacies of farm management, from painting fences to barn care. She pursued performing arts in school at Mount Royal and worked as a fly-fishing guide on the famous Bow River, which she still does today. But the lure of horses was too strong. While raising her son Hunter, Jennifer went to work at the famed Bar None Ranches for Mike Vanin. She also had a love for working with polo horses and she played at the Calgary Polo Club before moving over to Highfield.

Champion Two-year Old Female: WITWATERSRAND
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Gary Barber
Breeder: G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

B. F. 2, by Connect – Carta de Oro (Medaglia d’Oro)
2023: 3 Starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $107,031
Winner: Mazarine S. (G3), MSW
Stakes Placings: 3 rd Glorious Song S.
Witwatersrand (132), Tripolina (41), Living Magic (32)

Champion Two-year Old Male: MY BOY PRINCE
Trainer: Mark Casse
Owner: Gary Barber
Breeder: Murray Graham Smith

GR./RO. C. 2, by Cairo Prince – Hopping Not Hoping (Silent Name *Jpn)

2023: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third – $429,638
Winner: Cup and Saucer S., Simcoe S., MSW
Stakes Placings: 2 nd bet365 Summer S. (G1), 3 rd Prevagen Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Turf (G1)
My Boy Prince (156), Babbo (59), Two Ghosts (39)

Champion Three-year Old Female: ELYSIAN FIELD
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Team Valor International and Barber, Gary
Breeder: Anderson Farms Ont. Inc.

CH. F. 3, by Hard Spun – Elysian (Smart Strike)
2023: 7 Starts – 2 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds – $492,029
Winner: Woodbine Oaks Presented by Budweiser, MSW
Stakes Placings: 2 nd Breeders’ S., 2 nd Fury S. Presented by Stella Artois, 2 nd King’s
Plate S.
Elysian Field (149), Solo Album (60), Fashionably Fab (45)

Champion Three-year Old Male: PARAMOUNT PRINCE
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Langlois, Michael J. and Barber, Gary
Breeder: Ericka Nadine Rusnak

CH. G. 3, by Society’s Chairman – Platinum Steel (Eddington)

2023: 6 Starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third – $566,568
Winner: King’s Plate S., Plate Trial S.
Stakes Placings:  2nd Queenston S., 3 rd Prince of Wales S.

Paramount Prince (144), Patches O’Houlihan (70), Touch’n Ride (47)

Outstanding Broodmare: MENDOCINO BEANO
Dark bay/brown mare, 2008
Smart Strike – Trishyde Slew, by Seattle Slew
5 starters, 5 Winners, 1 Graded Blacktype Winner, 2 Blacktype Winners, 1 Blacktype
Progeny earnings $1,253,560
Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry bred and raced Mendocino Beano, who provided them with a maiden special weight victory and a third in the Grade 3 Ontario Colleen Stakes. But, it has been in the breeding shed where the Ontario-bred has really left her mark. From five foals, each of which have run and won, her progeny earnings stand at just over$1.2 million. Mendocino Beano’s highest earner is Tone Broke, who captured two-thirds of the 2019 Canadian Triple Crown and finished third in that year’s Queen’s Plate on his way to amassing over $500,000 in earnings. She also produced overnight stakes winner Stallion Heiress and the stakes-placed winner Conquest Fleetfeet.

Mendocino Beano (74), Sunday Affair (54), Game (FR) (31)

Outstanding Breeder: ADENA SPRINGS
In Canada:
Starters 42; Winners 19
Earnings $1,934,913
Starts 221; Wins 27; 2nd 33; 3rd 28
Frank and Frieda Stronach’s legendary Adena Springs North, in Aurora, Ontario, was voted Outstanding Breeder for the 13th time in 2022, more than any other Canadian breeder in the history of the Sovereign Awards. The Adena Springs-bred star of 2023
was once again Moira, the 2022 Horse of the Year who came back at four and won the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes at Woodbine. Campaigned by Madaket Stables LLC, SF Racing LLC and X-Men Racing, Moira placed in four graded stakes at Woodbine before ending her season with an impressive third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita. Moira, by Adena’s star stallion Ghostzapper, is a finalist for Champion Female Turf Horse this evening.

The debut victory by their homebred filly Shamans Girl in the $150,000 Shady Well Stakes was a highlight. A daughter of Adena stallion Shaman Ghost, by Ghostzapper, Shamans Girl is out of the Stronachs’ Woodbine Oaks-winning mare, Ginger Brew. Adena Springs also saw Malibu Mambo finish third in the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International.
Adena Springs (85), Anderson Farms Ont. Inc. (68), Chiefswood Stables Limited (32),
Sean Fitzhenry (32), Sam-Son Farm (32)

Champion Female Sprinter: LOYALTY
Trainer: Josie Carroll
Owner: Gainesway Stable (Antony Beck) and LNJ Foxwoods
Breeder: Best A Luck Farm LLC & Godolphin LLC

DK. B./BR. F. 4, by Hard Spun – Slew’s Quality (Elusive Quality)

2023: 5 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $205,599
Winner: Bessarabian S. (G2), Hendrie S. (G3), AOC
Stakes Placings: 3 rd Ontario Fashion S. Presented by Tanqueray (G3)
Loyalty (160), Our Flash Drive (61), Fashionably Fab (39)

Champion Male Sprinter: PATCHES O’HOULIHAN
Trainer: Robert P. Tiller
Owner: Frank D. Di Giulio, Jr.
Breeder: Frank Di Giulio Jr.

B. G. 3, by Reload – Maythefourthbwithu (Silent Name *Jpn)
2023: 7 Starts – 6 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds – $301,882
Winner: Bold Venture S. (G3), Vigil S. (G3), Lake Huron S., Lake Superior S., OC,
Patches O’Houlihan (137), Lucky Score (61), Dream Shake (31)

Outstanding Apprentice Jockey: SOFIA VIVES
In Canada:
Starts 600; Wins 100; 2nd 82; 3rd 74
Earnings $2,956,521
In her first full season riding races, Sofia Vives pulled away from the pack with the most wins of any apprentice in 2023, winning 100 races between Woodbine and Fort Erie. Her impressive win total at Woodbine, 88, put her fourth in the rider standings behind reigning champion Kazushi Kimura, Sahin Civaci, and Rafael Hernandez, and ahead of champions Emma-Jayne Wilson and Patrick Husbands. Sofia also rode at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Born in Walterboro, South Carolina, and raised in horse country in Ocala, Florida, Sofia followed her father, former jockey Lazaro Vives, to the barns of dual Hall of Famer Mark Casse, who gave Sofia a leg up to start her riding career. The young rider galloped as many horses as she could each day and rode in her first race late in 2022 at Woodbine. She had just over a dozen mounts that year, winning four of them, and then embarked on a busy first year as a rookie rider.
Sofia Vives (162), Fraser Aebly (83), Amanda Vandermeersch (35)

Kazushi Kimura with the Sovereign trphy.

Kazushi Kimura, three-time Sovereign Award winner. (Michael Burns photo)


Outstanding Jockey: KAZUSHI KIMURA
In Canada:
Starts 816; Wins 161; 2nd 158; 3rd 113
Earnings $7,177,876 Stakes wins 15
Canada’s riding sensation, Kazushi Kimura, won his third consecutive Sovereign Award for Outstanding Jockey only six years into his riding career. The Japanese-born jockey burst onto the scene in 2018 with 104 victories, won the Sovereign Award as Outstanding Apprentice that year and repeated in 2019. He was also the Eclipse Award Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in 2019. It has been a smooth transition for Kazushi as a journeyman and in 2023, he won more races at Woodbine than he ever has and set a personal best for purse money. He won 15 stakes races including the third jewel of Canada’s Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes, aboard Chiefswood Stables Limited’s Touch’n Ride. Kazushi won graded stakes races aboard Loyalty, a contender for Champion Female Sprinter for 2023, and Wolfie’s Dynaghost and Treason, both finalists for Champion Older Main Track Male.
Kazushi Kimura (162), Sahin Civaci (75), Rafael Manuel Hernandez (28)

Champion Female Turf Horse: FEV ROVER (IRE)
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Tracy Farmer
Breeder: Manister House Stud

B. M. 5, by Gutaifan *Ire – Laurelita *Ire (High Chaparral *Ire)

2023: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $787,320
Winner: Beverly D. S. (G1), E. P. Taylor S. (G1), Nassau S. (G2)
Stakes Placings: 3 rd Diana S. (G1)
Fev Rover (IRE) (148), Moira (95), Our Flash Drive (17)

Champion Male Turf Horse: LUCKY SCORE
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Pantofel Stables, LLC, Wachtel Stable, and Barber, Gary
Breeder: James Everatt, Janeane Everatt & Arika Everatt-Meeuse

B. G. 5, by Lookin at Lucky – Miss Matzo (Royal Academy)
2023: 8 Starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 3 thirds – $318,220
Winner: Highlander S. (G2)
Stakes Placings: 2 nd Nearctic S. (G2), 3 rd Ricoh Woodbine Mile S. (G1), 3 rd Connaught
Cup S. Presented by Bulleit Bourbon (G2), 3 rd King Edward S. (G2)
Lucky Score (96), My Boy Prince (88), Palazzi (30)

Outstanding Trainer: MARK E. CASSE
In Canada:
Starts 556; Wins 113; 2nd 105; 3rd 81
Earnings $7,821,080 Stakes wins 24
A member of both the Canadian and U. S. Horse Racing Halls of Fame, Mark Casse has been atop the Outstanding Trainer category for more than a decade, having won twelve consecutive times. Incredibly, his stable set a new record in 2023 for purse earnings at Woodbine and its starters collected over $7.8 million in Canada. Mark trained the winners of 113 races and 24 stakes races in Canada. His 24 stakes wins in Canada, ten of them graded, were by 21 different horses, of which 12 are Sovereign Awards finalists this evening. Among the stars for the Mark Casse team in 2023 was Fev Rover (IRE) who provided Mark with his first victory in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes. Already a Grade 1 winner on turf in the U. S. during the year, Fev Rover also won the Grade 2 Nassau Stakes at Woodbine.
Mark E. Casse (160), Kevin Attard (80), Martin Drexler (21)

Champion Older Main Track Female: MILLIE GIRL
Trainer: Catherine Day Phillips
Owner: Kingfield Racing Stable, Ltd., Braconcrest Inc. and Apricot Valley
Breeder: Sean Fitzhenry

B. M. 5, by Hard Spun – Mendocino Beano (Smart Strike)
2023: 7 Starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds – $257,344
Winner: Maple Leaf S. (G3), Ontario Matron S. (G3), AOC
Stakes Placings: 2 nd Seaway S. (G3), 3 rd Nassau S. (G2), 3 rd Royal North S. (G2)
Millie Girl (152), Infinite Patience (60), Il Malocchio (39)

Champion Older Main Track Male: TYSON
Trainer: Josie Carroll
Owner: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. (J. G. Sikura) and Stetch Run Ventures,

Breeder: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc and Stetch Run Ventures, LLC

GR/RO. C. 4, by Tapit – Honouring (Smart Strike)
2023: 7 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds – $319,967
Winner: Seagram Cup S. (G2), Dominion Day S. (G3), AOC
Stakes Placings: 3 rd Jockey Club Gold Cup S. (G1), 3 rd Eclipse S. Presented by Don
Julio (G2)
Tyson (113), Wolfie’s Dynaghost (100), Treason (29)

Outstanding Owner: GARY BARBER
In Canada:
Starts 96; Wins 22; 2nd 19; 3rd 15
Earnings: $1,873,307 Stakes wins 6
Gary Barber has been one of Ontario horse racing’s most successful owners in the last decade and this evening he seeks his first Sovereign Award as Outstanding Owner. A film producer in Hollywood, Gary is a staunch supporter of racing in Ontario and led all owners by earnings at Woodbine in 2020 and 2021. Gary’s statistics as a sole owner in 2023 were impressive once again as he won 22 races, six of them stakes, and his horses collected over $1.8 million. Among those winners were My Boy Prince, a CTHS
Ontario Yearling Sale purchase who won the Cup and Saucer Stakes and Simcoe Stakes before finishing a gallant third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. The colt also placed in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and is a finalist for Champion Two-year Old Male this evening. Gary also won graded stakes races with Conglomerate, Palazzi, and Witwatersrand.

Gary Barber (126), Bruno Schickedanz (71), Chiefswood Stables Limited (27)

Horse of the Year: FEV ROVER (IRE)
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Tracy Farmer
Breeder: Manister House Stud

B. M. 5, by Gutaifan *Ire – Laurelita *Ire (High Chaparral *Ire)

2023: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $787,320
Winner: Beverly D. S. (G1), E. P. Taylor S. (G1), Nassau S. (G2)
Stakes Placings: 3 rd Diana S. (G1)
Fev Rover (IRE) (90), Paramount Prince (44), Elysian Field (32)