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State Treasurer shown winning in 2013 at Mohawk Raceway in Ontario. The Island owned and trained pacer defended his Molson Pace title Friday night at Western Fair Raceway in London, Ont.
The 2015 O’Brien Award nominees were released this week and a pair of Islanders made the short list for the prestigious Canadian harness racing awards.
Summerside native Dr. Ian Moore is a finalist for the horsemanship award and his trainee, State Treasurer, is up for the older pacing horse.
State Treasurer, owned by Sally MacDonald of Souris and Paul MacDonald of Toronto, is nominated against Prix D’Ete and Confederation Cup winner All Bets Off.
Travis Cullen is Moore’s competition for the horsemanship award in a battle of veteran versus rookie. Cullen, 23, had a phenomenal season racing in Western Canada with 248 driving wins and $1.2 million in earnings, along with 228 training wins and $1.1 million as a conditioner. The 61-year-old Moore sent 62 horses to the winner’s circle in 2015 and earned $2.1 million as a trainer.
State Treasurer was recently awarded the Dan Patch award as top aged pacing horse in the United States.
Speaking from his winter base in Florida, the nomination is an honour for Moore, just not his biggest one.
“I’m more pleased that State Treasurer gets a little recognition after everything he’s done the past few years,” Moore said. “He’s already won the Dan Patch award so he should win the O’Brien, I hope. That would mean more for me.”
With just shy of $1 million in seasonal earnings, State Treasurer is likely in the conversation for horse of the year in Canada.
“He should be,” Moore said. “At least I hope so.”
Moore was often mentioned in racing circles as a possible nominee for trainer of the year but this year’s list included Woodbine Entertainment Group-leading trainer Richard Moreau and New Jersey trainer Jimmy Takter, who leads Canada in earnings but only competed in stakes events.
Moore disputed he deserved the nomination, but believes the awards criteria needs to change.
“I love Jimmy Takter,” Moore said of the Swedish-born trainer. “He’s a great guy and had a great year but doesn’t have a horse stabled in Canada. If you’re nominated for an O’Brien award you should have a connection to Canada.”
Moore currently has 16 horses in training in Florida, the largest number he has taken south of the border. Eight of those are yearlings, including one for top harness racing owner Jeffrey Snyder. Moore hopes this group will work out like 2015, where every horse but one made the races. His 2015 lineup included $367,339 winner Rockin In Heaven, Physicallyinclined ($222,750), Goodwill Hanover ($163,595), Arthur Blue Chip ($106,264), Brookdale Shadow ($90,408), and Shoe Shine ($58,403).
His stable star, State Treasurer, had an exceptional season with $978,000 made and wins in the $100,000 Mohawk Gold Cup, the $150,000 Molson Pace Final, the $215,400 US Pacing Championship, the $138,500 Dayton Derby, the $685,000 Canadian Pacing Derby final and the $150,000 Roll With Joe final.
All Bets Off had three wins, all in Canada, from 20 North American starts in 2015 along with $539,911 in earnings and a 1:50.3 track record at Hippodrome Trois Rivieres in Quebec, that also served as a Canadian record-tying performance for an aged stallion on a half-mile track.
Moore said when he heads back to Ontario in the spring he should have 20 horses or more in his stable.
In the Armstrong breeder of the year category, Island native William Andrew and his Meridian Farms is nominated against Marvin Katz and Al Libfeld of Ontario. Meridian Farms is operated by William Andrew of Calgary and brother Brian Andrew of Milton, with the farm running operations in High River, Alta., and Milton. They bred the winners of $1.3 million in 2015, including Maritime champions Dixieland Band, Dustylane Msvickie, JK Blaze, Suicide Shift and Tyne Valley.
The winners will be announced at the annual O’Brien Awards Gala on Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale hotel in Mississauga, Ont.
Live racing continues Boxing Day at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park with 15 dashes on tap. Jason Hughes leads the driving standings with 109 wins in 2015 compared to 108 victories by Marc Campbell. The final card on the calendar year is Thursday, Dec. 31, while the 2016 season gets underway on Sunday, Jan. 3 at 12:30 p.m.
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.