Fans of horse racing in the United States are familiar with the Eclipse Awards. These yearly awards honor the best horses, trainers, and jockeys in racing. Canadian horse racing has something similar to this called the Sovereign Awards. Given out in April of each year, the Sovereign Awards for Canada horse racing are among the most prestigious awards in all of horse racing.
The History of the Sovereign Awards
The Jockey Club of Canada established the Sovereign Awards in 1975. The awards were created to recognize the contributions to thoroughbred racing made by jockeys, horses, and trainers. They are similar to the Eclipse Awards in the US and the Cartier Racing Awards in Europe.
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Canadian horse racing has a very colorful history. It has produced champions such as Northern Dancer and famous jockeys such as Emma Jayne Wilson. It was only natural that the Jockey Club in Canada would want to recognize its own.
The Sovereign Awards are devoted to Canadian horse racing. This means that the awards are given to horses, jockeys, and trainers that compete at Canadian horse racing tracks. There may be occasions when these equine athletes and individuals also compete in the US, but they are based in Canada.
How the Sovereign Awards are Chosen
The awards are given under the strict oversight of the Jockey Club of Canada. This organization is responsible for setting the parameters of the awards as well as establishing the structure for voting.
Members in good standing in the Jockey Club are allowed to cast votes in each Sovereign Award category. Each member is given one vote. The votes are cast according to Jockey Club standards and then tallied by members of the organization.
The results of the Sovereign Award voting are kept secret until the awards ceremony. There will an announcement of the nominees for each award before the award itself is presented.
Sovereign Award Categories
There are currently 22 different categories for the Sovereign Awards. Here is a list of the categories:
- Canadian Horse of the Year.
- Canadian Champion Two-Year-Old Filly
- Canadian Champion Two-Year-Old Colt
- Canadian Champion Three-Year-Old Filly
- Canadian Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse
- Canadian Champion Older Male Horse
- Canadian Champion Older Female Horse
- Canadian Champion Male Turf Horse
- Canadian Champion Female Turf Horse
- Canadian Champion Sprint Horse (1980-2008)
- Canadian Champion Male Sprint Horse (2009-present)
- Canadian Champion Female Sprint Horse (2009-present)
- Sovereign Award for Outstanding Breeder
- Sovereign Award for Outstanding Broodmare
- Outstanding Jockey
- Outstanding Apprentice Jockey
- Outstanding Owner
- Outstanding Trainer
- Outstanding Newspaper Article
- Outstanding Feature Article
- Outstanding Photograph
- Outstanding Film/Video/Broadcast
While the tradition has been to focus on the horses and jockeys that compete in Canada, there are also categories for trainers and owners. In addition, the Sovereign Award have started to recognize excellence in media coverage of professional horse racing.
Famous Winners of the Sovereign Awards
Some of the most talented horses in the history of horse racing have been chosen to receive a Sovereign Award. These horses include Deputy Minister, Afleet, and Northern Dancer. Many of these horses also competed on the US horse racing circuit and went on to become successful studs and broodmares.
Frank Stronach has been honored as the Owner of the Year on multiple occasions, and he has also claimed the award for outstanding breeder. Mark Casse has won the award for top trainer for each year from 2011-2018, making him perhaps the most successful horse racing trainer to ever compete in Canada.
Patrick Husbands has many Sovereign Award to his credit, and the list of winners also includes the legendary Sandy Hawley. Chantal Sutherland won the Sovereign Award for best apprentice jockey in 2001 and 2002.
What it Takes to Win a Sovereign Award in Canadian Horse Racing
In Canada the standards are very high for those who hope to rise to the level of a Sovereign Award. It is more than just wins which factor into the winning of an award. There is also consideration given to how individuals conduct themselves as sportsmen in the game of horse racing.
In many cases, the award is also a validation of the contributions that an individual has made to the sport overall. In the case of Frank Stronach, for example, his influence has been felt in many areas of horse racing. His contributions have gone beyond being a good breeder and a good racehorse owner. He is also recognized as being a good operator of race tracks in both Canada and the United States.
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