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DOWN THE BACKSTRETCH: Sorrie, Barrieau in contention for O’Brien Awards

Austin Sorrie.
Austin Sorrie. - Jason Simmonds

The ballots are in circulation to voters for the 2019 O’Brien Awards and some Island flavour has made the short list for consideration in a pair of prestigious categories.
The awards, honouring the very best in Canadian harness racing, will be handed out Feb. 1 at the Hilton Mississauga Hotel in Ontario.
Montague native Austin Sorrie has made the final three for the future star award, which honours the top young talent in Canadian racing.
After a record-setting year on P.E.I. in his rookie season of 2018, where he won the most races ever in an inaugural season as a driver, Sorrie now competes in Ontario, primarily at Flamboro Downs, Western Fair Raceway and Grand River Raceway. A product of the P.E.I. Matinee Racing circuit, the 20-year-old has won 72 races and $366,000 in prize money from 578 starts in 2019.
Other finalists are Nova Scotia native David Kelly, who races in Alberta, and Ontario trainer Kyle Bossence.
The O’Brien Award for horsemanship has a name very familiar to Island race fans as Saint John, N.B., resident Gilles Barrieau has made the final three.
Nicknamed The Maritime Magic Man, Barrieau moves his stable to P.E.I. to compete during the racing season and currently sits second in the driving standings at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP) as well as third in the country for driving average, with a sparkling .404 UDRS. Barrieau has 149 wins in the race bike this season as well at $430,000 in earnings. His own stable saw the winner’s circle 40 times in 2019, good for $178,000 in prize money and a .575 average. His competitors are Mario Baillargeon, a Quebec native racing in Ontario, and Rod Hennessy of Alberta.
P.E.I. Scene
There will be a fresh face amongst the Island stallion ranks for the 2020 breeding season, but he is no stranger to the breeding shed.
Shanghai Phil has been acquired by Robin Burke of Brackley, who will stand the $636,000 winning son of Blissfull Hall. Shanghai Phil will be 18-years-old when he services mares for the 2020 season. He stood his first year in Quebec in 2006, then shifted to Ontario in 2009. His top performers include 1:48.4 winner Duc Dorleans ($708,944 earned) and former Woodbine preferred pacer Champagne Phil ($579,191 earned).
Live racing continues this weekend with a pair of programs after last weekend’s cancellations paved the way to add this Sunday to the schedule. The CDP will hold programs Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

Nick’s Picks
Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park:
Race 1 – Can Art
Race 2 – Whata Foolbelieves
Race 3 – Fern Hill Dynamic
Race 4 – Clare Hall Hanover
Race 5 – Charlottes Western
Race 6 – Always Reese
Race 7 – Freddie
Race 8 – The Time To Win
Race 9 – Bettim Jenny
Race 10 – IC True Grit
Race 11 – Sophist
Race 12 – Arc Light
Race 13 – Rockin Indy

Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at

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