Down The Backstretch: O'Brien Awards gala was a big hit

Nicholas Oakes
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By all accounts, the 25th edition of the O’Brien Awards gala was a hit Saturday night at the Delta Prince Edward and P.E.I. Convention Centre.

A crowd of 475 was on hand to see Bee A Magician crowned Canadian horse of the year after going a perfect 17-for-17. Lee Drake, manager of marketing and sales with Red Shores, co-hosted the event with Woodbine Entertainment Group announcer Ken Middleton.

Leading up to the O’Briens was a race card Friday night at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park, followed by the sold-out Island Kitchen Party. Saturday morning featured a fan forum with some of the top participants in Canadian racing.

“I was very pleased with how the whole weekend went,” Drake said. “The evening was flawless. Kudos to Standardbred Canada and everyone who made it happen.”

Many award finalists voiced how impressed they were with the facility at Red Shores Charlottetown and the warm welcomes they received during their time here.  

“It’s our Island brand,” Drake said. “Our hospitality. The people who I talked to after were very pleased and excited to come back. Whenever you get that kind of feedback it speaks to how well everything went.”

The meal provided at the awards received rave reviews with an Island feast of steak and lobster served in between an appetizer and dessert.

“It was the end to a very successful weekend,” said Drake, who co-hosted the awards in Toronto in 2004. “Whether it was 2004 or 2014 the thrill was still the same to be a part of it and see all the award winners walk on to the stage.”

Standardbred Canada released the voting results from the awards. A total of 42 members of the media and racetrack officials cast ballots with two points awarded to a finalist for every first place vote and one vote awarded for every second place vote. In the Future Star category, Travis Cullen (58 points) beat Stratford native Patrick Shepherd (24). The Horsemanship award was tighter as Alberta’s Kelly Hoerdt (51) defeated Charlottetown native Paul MacKenzie (38). Arthur Blue Chip (45) claimed his two-year-old pacing colt award tightly over Luck Be Withyou (36), while the Breeder of the year award had Bill Andrew’s Meridian Farms not making the final two with 31 points compared to winner Seelster Farms (51) and Robert MacIntosh Stables (42).

Winter Speed Sale

The Winter Speed Sale was held in Delaware, Ohio, Tuesday with a number of horses now having P.E.I. addresses.

Former top Atlantic stakes performer Astronomical Union was purchased for $2,000 by Jack and Lance Matheson of Charlottetown. Jack was one of the breeders of the five-year-old son of Astronomical-Signature Seelster. Reg MacPherson of Stratford raced the horse on the Island with trainers Kevin MacLean and Albert Davies, while the pacer earned over $45,000. He was sold to U.S. connections last fall with tough racing luck in the state of Delaware before being entered in this sale.

Elizabeth Lane was purchased by Jay Noye of Hunter River for $1,600. The daughter of SJS Caviar earned $88,994 in her career in Pennsylvania before retiring in 2009. She has since had a Muscle Massive colt who is now a two-year-old.

Malibu Magic was bought by Charles MacDonald of Kensington for $1,500. The 10-year-old daughter of Malabar Man never raced but has had three foals, with the first two taking marks of 1:58 or better and the other now a two-year-old.

Island native Bill Andrew of Calgary, owner of Meridian Farms in Milton, purchased a trio of mares at the sale. Three-year-old Muscles Yankee filly Caboose was bought for $4,000 and did not race yet in her young career.

Nine-year-old Allies Western mare Warden Woodie was purchased for $2,200. The pacer has earned $201,001 in her career while winning 36 races and taking a mark of 1:54.4 at Saratoga (N.Y.) Raceway. She last raced Feb. 7 at Freehold (N.J.) Raceway, finishing third in 2:00.4 in a conditioned class with Eric Abbatiello in the bike.

Andrew also signed for Scootin McArdle for $1,600. The five-year-old daughter of McArdle has won five races and earned $50,035 in her career while taking a mark of 1:54.4 at Dover Downs in Delaware. The pacers last start was a fifth place finish timed in 2:00.2 at Northfield Park in Ohio.

Island-bred Abovethenorm also passed through the sales ring being purchased by Gregory Brown of Texas for $1,700. The daughter of Articulator-Norma raced a handful of starts as a two-year-old in the Maritimes for trainer Jim Whelan.


P.E.I. scene

The winter meet came to close Friday in Charlottetown with a close battle for top driver at the capital oval. Marc Campbell and Jason Hughes are both tied with 11 victories each in 2014, followed by Corey MacPherson (nine wins), Kenny Arsenault (six) and Walter Cheverie (five).

The trainer’s standings have Darren Trainor leading the way with seven wins over Hughes (six), Jonah Moase (six), Arsenault (four), Duane MacEachern (four) and Ron Gass (four).


Who’s hot

Island-bred Libertys Best Star has been climbing the class ladder for his new owners.

Jonah Moase claimed the six-year-old son of Cammibest for $5,000 at Flamboro Downs in Ontario on Jan. 26, before putting him in the care of trainer Tom Riley. The horse then won a $6,500 claimer at Flamboro in 1:58.3 before winning a $8,000 claimer at Woodbine Raceway in 1:54.2, both times with Jonathan Drury in the bike.

He is entered in a $8,000 claimer tonight at Woodbine in Race 8. Expect to see the pacer in the Mitch Tierney stable this summer.

Nicholas Oakes’ column appears in

The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at

Organizations: Delta Prince Edward and P.E.I. Convention Centre.A, Woodbine Entertainment Group, Island Kitchen Party Meridian Farms Astronomical Union

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Charlottetown Driving Park, Stratford Toronto Alberta Delaware, Ohio U.S. Hunter River Pennsylvania Kensington Calgary Milton Saratoga (N.Y.) Freehold (N.J.) Northfield Park Ohio.Island Texas Ontario

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