Updated on 04/20/2013 11:28AM

Sovereign Awards: Uncaptured named Canada’s Horse of the Year

Michael Burns
Uncaptured wins Woodbine's Swynford Stakes as part of a 6-for-7 campaign in 2012 that netted him Canada's Horse of the Year honors.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Uncaptured, who was 6 for 7 last year including a pair of wins in graded stakes at Churchill Downs, is the first 2-year-old to be voted Canada’s Horse of the Year since the filly Ruling Angel in 1986.

Owned by John Oxley, trained by Mark Casse, and bred by Bill Graham – all of whom were Sovereign Award winners in their respective categories – Uncaptured also was the unanimous choice of 41 voters in the 2-year-old male division.

Three finalists in each of 16 divisions were announced by the Jockey Club of Canada in late January, based on the Jockey Club’s online ballot in which voters were asked to list their top three choices in each category with points assigned on a 4-2-1 basis.

The winners, plus the three finalists and winner of the Horse of the Year award, were announced Friday night at Woodbine during the 38th annual Sovereign Awards gala that honored the best in Canadian Thoroughbred racing for 2012.

Uncaptured, winner of Churchill’s Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and Grade 3 Iroquois, was an emphatic winner of the Horse of the Year award, with champion older male Hunters Bay and champion 3-year-old Strait of Dover the other finalists.

Casse, who recorded his fifth Sovereign Award after topping the Woodbine standings in races, earnings, and stakes races won, trained the winners of three other awards in 2-year-old filly Spring in the Air and older female and female sprinter Roxy Gap.

“To be able to have horses like these is quite special,” said Casse. “But, of course, I couldn’t do it without the owners and I wouldn’t be here without the tremendous staff we have.”

Oxley, who won his first award in the owner category, also campaigns Spring in the Air, while Eugene Melnyk is the owner and breeder of Roxy Gap.

Spring in the Air prevailed over stablemate Spring Venture.  Spring in the Air’s victory in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Alcibiades was her most important score.

“Every speech must have an opening line,” said Oxley, who won 10 stakes in Canada last year. “Mine is simply, I love Woodbine.”

The versatile Roxy Gap won graded sprint stakes on Polytrack and turf at Woodbine and finished second to the formidable Marketing Mix in the Grade 2 Nassau at one mile on the grass.

Roxy Gap also finished second in the voting for turf female, an award won by Irish Mission.

“When you have a champion like a Roxy Gap, it’s a very long journey,” said Melnyk. “You can have a thousand horses and have one like Roxy Gap.”

Bred by Sam-Son Farm and owned by Robert S. Evans, Irish Mission won the Woodbine Oaks and then competed against males in all three legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, finishing second in the Queen’s Plate and then winning the Breeders’ on the turf at Woodbine.

Irish Mission, trained by Mark Frostad, also was a rather dominant winner of the 3-year-old filly award, with the Casse-trained Dixie Strike second.

“I  want to thank her groom, Chico Mendoza,” said Frostad. “He spent a lot of time with her.

“And her jockey, Alex Solis, just fit her to a 'T.'”

Completing a hat trick of sorts was Irish Mission’s dam, Misty Mission, who won the outstanding broodmare award by a narrow margin over Uncaptured’s dam, Captivating.

Strait of Dover, perfect in three starts including the Queen’s Plate and Marine Stakes, outpointed the Casse-trained Delegation in a rather tight vote for the male 3-year-old award.

Owned by Wally and Connie Leong’s British Columbia-based Canyon Farm, Strait of Dover is trained by Danny Vella.

“He’s a homebred, and we’re very, very proud of him,” said Wally Leong.

Hunters Bay, on the other hand, was the second-most dominant winner behind Uncaptured as he took home the older male title on the strength of his back-to-back graded stakes wins at Woodbine.

A second-place finish in the Woodbine Mile behind subsequent North American Horse of the Year Wise Dan also earned Hunters Bay third place in the older turf male category.

Hunters Bay’s trainer, Reade Baker, finished second in his category, and breeder Adena Springs was third in the voting.

The male turf category was hotly contested, with Riding the River emerging a narrow winner over Forte dei Marmi.

Owned by his trainer, Dave Cotey, in partnership with Hugh Galbraith and Jim McNair, Riding the River put together a Grade 2 stakes double on the turf here last summer and concluded his campaign with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

Cotey lauded the efforts of Riding the River’s groom, Paul Bhupaul.

“He does a tremendous job with the horse,” said Cotey. “He works hard. He’s a great fellow to have on your side.”

Essence Hit Man repeated as champion male sprinter after winning three stakes here. Audre Cappuccitti, his trainer, co-owner, and co-breeder, died last fall.

Luis Contreras, leading rider at Woodbine last year in both races and money won, earned his second straight Sovereign Award in the closest vote of the evening, 109-108. Patrick Husbands, second in the standings in both categories at Woodbine but the leader in stakes wins, was the runner-up.

“I’m very proud to win this award for the second year in a row,” said Contreras, who was accompanied by family members including his father, Oscar, who had flown in from Mexico and was visiting Canada for the first time.

Scott Williams, who began his campaign at Woodbine last year but then moved his tack back to Northlands Park where he ended as the second-leading rider, was a handy winner of the outstanding apprentice award. Williams is currently competing at Hastings.

Graham, winning his first outstanding breeder award, had 20 wins and six stakes winners from just 32 starters in 2012.

“It’s important to have good help in this business,” said Graham, with tips of the hat to his Ontario farm manager Bob Hancock and his Kentucky farm manager Kim Beeston.

Awards also were presented in three media categories.

Woodbine photographer Michael Burns won his ninth Sovereign Award for outstanding photograph.

The newspaper article and feature story awards were merged this year, and Denise Ryan won the writing award for a piece that appeared in the Vancouver Sun.

HorseRacing Alberta and Whiteiron Productions won their fifth Sovereign Award for coverage of the Canadian Derby.

Sovereign point totals
Horse of the Year: Uncaptured, 91; Hunters Bay, 38; Strait of Dover, 31
2-year-old filly: Spring in the Air, 124; Spring Venture, 93; Nipissing, 38
2-year-old male: Uncaptured, 164; Dynamic Sky, 37; River Seven, 33
3-year-old filly: Irish Mission, 138; Dixie Strike, 86; Evelyn’s Dancer, 42
3-year-old male: Strait of Dover, 123; Delegation, 107; Toccetive, 16
Older female: Roxy Gap, 111; Magic Broomstick, 103; Stars to Shine, 18
Older male: Hunters Bay, 138; Taylor Said, 60; Pender Harbour, 42
Turf female: Irish Mission, 95; Roxy Gap, 56; All Star Heart, 49
Turf male: Riding the River, 100; Forte dei Marmi, 97; Hunters Bay, 40
Female sprinter: Roxy Gap, 124; Magic Broomstick, 88; Atlantic Hurricane, 35
Male sprinter: Essence Hit Man, 121; Bear Tough Tiger, 47; Taylor Said, 43
Trainer: Mark Casse, 151; Reade Baker, 56; Troy Taylor, 32
Jockey: Luis Contreras, 109; Patrick Husbands, 108; Eurico Rosa da Silva, 47
Apprentice jockey: Scott Williams, 156; Jennifer Reid, 68; Skye Chernetz, 33
Owner: John Oxley, 133; North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, 65; Melnyk Racing Stable, 32
Breeder: Bill Graham, 107; Sam-Son Farm, 63; Adena Springs, 54
Broodmare: Misty Mission, 72; Captivating, 70; Uproar, 29

Billy Spathanas 18 days ago
If in 2012, Canada and N.America combinded all 2yo"s , Then UNCAPTURED would have been voted Champion 2yo over S. BOBBY no doubt. Best 2yo last year hopefully starts in the Derby. I am hopeing CASSE decides to bring him to Kentucky and give him a shot. Even though he is Proven on both surfaces POLY and DIRT. IMO , his breeding is at best on Dirt. UNCAPTURED , if DERBY bound if 1 horse people will forget about and not use on top. Being out of an ARCH mare is all you have to see.. I will predict if in the Derby, this horse will be a forgotten 20/1 and will bounce back to his true form....
Allan Gauthier 18 days ago
Who?? Mark?
chairmanwong0 18 days ago
Just bet casse and contreas. Cant lose.
Mark Scheider 18 days ago
Thats not hard to do. Nothing comes out of Canada.
Jack 18 days ago
Northern Dancer. Changed the entire game.
Claudette Passero 18 days ago
Mark Scheider 18 days ago
Thats what you think sweetheart.
Allan Gauthier 18 days ago
Very immature comment. Obviously lacking class.
Mark Scheider 18 days ago
Plenty of class here. Must be a bleeding heart liberal.
Pamela Barnard 18 days ago
Wow, you have no idea. Northern Dancer, Nijinsky, Sonny's Halo. I could go on and on.
Mark Scheider 18 days ago
Thanks for the history lesson but you just did what most do and had to resort to a relatively distant past to make a point. Please find me a horse outside of the 80's now.
Pamela Barnard 18 days ago
Do you want to go by decades or what? What an obnoxious person. Awesome Again, Smart Strike, Touch Gold, Victory Gallop which are fantastic horses. This year how about Joyful Victory. I am glad all Americans are not like you and do appreciate that good horses come from all over the world. Did Uncaptured not outrun your horses as a 2 year old in Kentucky last year? He just did not grow into as good a 3 year old. Maybe he will do better at shorter distances. Let's just enjoy the horses wherever they come from. I don't judge the country they come from.