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2020 Sovereign Award Winners

April 16, 2021

The Jockey Club of Canada hosted the 46th Annual Sovereign Awards ceremony through a virtual presentation on the evening of Thursday April 15, 2021.

The top three finalists in each category are determined by the online ballots of the Jockey Club of Canada’s knowledgeable voters.  The media category award finalists were determined by media professionals within the industry selected from across North America.

The Jockey Club of Canada is pleased to announce the 2020 Sovereign Award winners in the order in which they were presented.

Outstanding Photograph:


Published, September 27, 2020; Ontario Racing Website

Outstanding Writing:
The Pep-Talking Groom, Willy, and a Queen’s Plate CrownPublished, September 18, 2020; Ontario Racing website

Outstanding Digital Audio/Visual & Broadcast:

Dear Horse Racing
Aired, June 8th, 2020; Paulick Report website

Outstanding Groom Award: Michelle Gibson

Michelle learned everything she could about riding and horse care when she attended riding school in Caledon. She began to work with top circuit show jumpers and was soon travelling throughout the United States to major horse shows. When her son Devin was born in 2001, Michelle wanted to leave travelling behind and she checked in at Woodbine racetrack where she got her first job with Thoroughbreds.

Michelle has worked for Hall of Fame trainer Robert Tiller for almost 10 years and she is the groom of Pink Lloyd, the 2017 Horse of the Year, a six-time Sovereign Award winner. Michelle, who likes to have lots of time to get her horses ready and is at the barn at 3:30 a.m. each morning, believes her strengths as a groom come from her meticulous work habits and ability to multi-task. Humbled by receiving the Sovereign Award, Michelle is grateful that she gets to work at what she loves. “The horses are my therapy, they keep me sound and they keep me sane.”

Champion Older Main Track Male: SKYWIRE

Mark E. Casse
Owner: Gary Barber and Lucio Tucci
Breeder: William D. Graham
B. G. 5, by Afleet Alex – Meandering Stream (Gone West)
2020: 8 Starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds – $321,980
Winner: Autumn S. (G2), Eclipse S. (G2)

Skywire (116), Pink Lloyd (94), Mr. Ritz (24)

Champion Older Main Track Female: SOUPER ESCAPE

Trainer: Michael J. Trombetta
Owner: Live Oak PlantationBreeder: Live Oak Stud
Dk. b or b F. 4, by Medaglia d’Oro – Cry and Catch Me (Street Cry*Ire)
2020: 7 Starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third – $200,950
Winner: Seaway S. (G3), Trillium S. (G3)

Souper Escape (142), Painting (52), Summer Sunday (32)

Champion Three-Year-Old Male: MIGHTY HEART

Trainer: Josie Carroll
Owner: Lawrence Cordes
Breeder: Lawrence Cordes
B. C. 3, by Dramedy – Emma’s Bullseye (City Place)
2020: 8 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $922,870
Winner: Prince of Wales S., Queen’s Plate, MSW

Mighty Heart (149), Belichick (78), Shirl’s Speight (31)

Champion Three-Year-Old Female: CURLIN’S VOYAGE

Trainer: Josie Carroll

Owner: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. (J. G. Sikura) and Windsor Boys Racing

Breeder: Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc.

CH. F. 3, by Curlin – Atlantic Voyage (Stormy Atlantic)

6 Starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third – $447,000

Winner: Fury S., Woodbine Oaks

Curlin’s Voyage (83), Merveilleux (76), Artie’s Princess (72)

Outstanding Apprentice Jockey: MAURICIO MALVAEZ

Starts 191; Wins 16; Seconds 27; Thirds 16
Earnings $210,888; Stakes Wins 1

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Mauricio Malvaez grew up spending time working with racehorses. Mauricio began his career as a jockey in 2019 and completed his first full season as an apprentice in 2020 quickly making an impression. However, it was his superb front-running ride on Real Grace, trained by Shelley Brown, to win the Grade 3 Canadian Derby, for owners Shelley Brown, Jean McEwan, Bette Holtman and Bernell B. Rhone that put Mauricio’s name in the headlines. Mauricio’s 16 wins led all apprentice riders in Canada in 2020.

Mauricio Malvaez (154), Nikki Alderson (60), Edgar Zenteno (59) 

Outstanding Jockey: RAFAEL HERNANDEZ

Starts 637; Wins 129; Seconds 99; Thirds 77
Earnings $5,463,126; Stakes Wins 17

Born in Puerto Rico, Rafael won a meet-leading 17 stakes races among his 129 wins in Canada earning himself the riders title at Woodbine for 2020. He held a steady 20% win average throughout the meet. Rafael’s biggest win came in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes when he guided Etoile (Fr), trained by Chad Brown, to preserve victory in the $600,000 race winning by a neck. Rafael’s other achievements include three graded stakes wins aboard champion Pink Lloyd and Skywire, winner of the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes, Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes.

Rafael Hernandez (145), Justin Stein (82), Patrick Husbands (13)

Outstanding Trainer: MARK CASSE

Starts 482; Wins 93; Seconds 86; Thirds: 51

Earnings $5,385,935; Stakes Wins 17

In 2020, Mark’s trainees won 93 races from 482 starts, 17 of which were stakes races. His starters earned over $5.3 million in purses. Those numbers all exceeded his 2019 totals despite a shortened 2020 season at Woodbine. Leading the charge of stakes winners in Canada for Mark was Grade 1 Summer Stakes winner Gretzky the Great, two-time graded stakes winner Skywire, and Not So Quiet, a two-time stakes winner. Mark had several other juvenile stakes winners on his roster in 2020 including Cup & Saucer Stakes winner Master Spy and Grade 3 Display Stakes winner Helium.

Mark Casse (120), Josie Carroll (100), Kevin Attard (50)

Champion Male Sprinter: PINK LLOYD

Trainer: Robert P. Tiller
Owner: Entourage Stable
Breeder: John Carey
Ch. G. 8, by Old Forester – Gladiator Queen (Great Gladiator) 
2020: 5 Starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $357,600
Winner: Vigil S. (G3), Bold Venture S. (G3), Shepperton S., Jacques Cartier S. (G3)

Pink Lloyd (142), Silent Poet (95), Not So Quiet (35)

Champion Female Sprinter: ARTIE’S PRINCESS

Trainer: Wesley Ward
Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey
Breeder: Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey
B. F. 3, by We Miss Artie – Stormkeeper (Stormy Atlantic)
2020: 4 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds – $260,220
Winner: Bessarabian S. (G2), Ruling Angel S., ALW

Artie’s Princess (133), Lady Grace (45), Boardroom (38)

Special Sovereign Award: SAM-SON FARM

Sam-Son Farm, a Canadian thoroughbred breeding and racing operation, was founded in 1972 by Ernie and Liza Samuel. The red and gold colours of Sam-Son Farm enjoyed their first of five Queen’s Plate victories in 1988 with Regal Intention. 

Sam-Son also bred and raced nine Woodbine Oaks heroines starting with Classy ‘n’ Smart in 1984. The brilliant Dance Smartly, a daughter of Classy ‘n’ Smart, became the 1991 Canadian triple crown winner. Following this incredible feat, Dance Smartly went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs becoming the first Canadian-bred to win a Breeders Cup race.  Sam-Son’s beloved Dance Smartly continued her legacy in the breeding shed producing Queen’s Plate winners Dancethruthedawn and Scatter the Gold

In 1991 after which Sam-Son’s horses established a world record earning more than $6.8 million in purses, Ernie was presented the Man of the Year award by The Jockey Club of Canada. This honour affirmed Ernie’s greatest joy and that of his family, their cherished broodmares and their breeding program.

After Ernie passed away in 2000 Sam-Son was managed by his daughter Tammy Samuel-Balaz until her own passing in 2008. Today the farm’s breeding and racing operation is overseen by farm manager David Whitford and racing manager Tom Zwiesler under the leadership of Mark Samuel (CEO), Kim Samuel and Rick Balaz (President).

Celebrating almost 50 years in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business, Sam-Son has been the recipient of an impressive four Eclipse awards, 13 Hall of Fame Awards and 84 Sovereign Awards. Since its inception Sam-Son has bred and raced 44 Graded Stakes winners including 37 Classic winners and 14 Grade 1 winners. 

Outstanding Breeder: TALL OAKS FARM

Starters 44; Winners 19

Earnings $2,231,813

Starts 206; Wins 28; Seconds 26; Thirds 25

Ivan Dalos and his Tall Oaks Farm was once again prominent on the leading breeders list in Canada and the United States. Channel Maker, a son of English Channel out of Ivan’s 2018 Outstanding Broodmare In Return, had another stellar racing campaign in 2020. Winning the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes, the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes and finishing third in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland earning the gelding the 2020 Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Male. Dalos bred and raced stakes winner Court Return, winner of the Eternal Search Stakes, second in the Grade 1 E. P. Taylor Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes as well as, graded stakes placed Avie’s Samurai and Avie’s Flatter. Tall Oaks led Canadian breeders in earnings with over $2.2 million in purses.

Tall Oaks Farm (103), Sam-Son Farm (93), Anderson Farms Ont. Inc. (48)

Outstanding Broodmare: DANCEFORTHECAUSE

B. M. 2011 by Giant’s Causeway – Dancethruthestorm (Thunder Gulch)

3 Foals, 2 Starters, 2 Winners, 2 Graded Black-Type Winners

Progeny Earnings $760,518

A granddaughter of the great Dance Smartly, Danceforthecause bred by Sam-Son Farm never made it to the races but she is off to a spectacular start in her broodmare career. The daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch has had two starters and both are graded stakes winners. Rideforthecause winner of the Grade 2 Canadian Stakes and Say the Word who won the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine and finished third in the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar and the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes. The mare is now owned by Gainesway Farm. She was purchased by Gainesway at the 2021 Keeneland January sale. Danceforthecause has 2019 foal by Distorted Humor and a 2020 foal by Street Sense.

Danceforthecause (75), Include Katherine (62), Count to Three (59)

Champion Two-Year-Old Male: GRETZKY THE GREAT  

Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber
Breeder: Anderson Farms Ont. Inc.
B. C. 2, by Nyquist – Pearl Turn (Bernardini)
2020: 5 Starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds – $354,400
Winner: Summer S. (G1), Soaring Free S., MSW

Gretzky the Great (152), Ready to Repeat (46), Stephen (27), Master Spy (27)

Champion Two-Year-Old Female: LADY SPEIGHTSPEARE

Trainer: Roger L. Attfield
Owner: Charles E. Fipke
Breeder: Charles E. Fipke  
Ch. F. 2, by Speightstown – Lady Shakespeare (Theatrical*Ire)
2020: 2 Starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds – $146,394
Winner: Natalma S. (G1), MSW

Lady Speightspeare (148), Dreaming of Drew (54), Alda (39)

Champion Male Turf Horse: SAY THE WORD  

Trainer: D’Amato PhilipOwner: Agave Racing Stable and Sam-Son FarmBreeder: Sam-Son Farm
Dk. b. or b. G. 5, by More Than Ready – Danceforthecause (Giant’s Causeway)
2020: 7 Starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds – $298,490
Winner: Northern Dancer S. (G1), ALW/OC

Say the Word (111), Silent Poet (79), Count Again (74)

Champion Female Turf Horse: THEODORA B.

Trainer: Michael W. Dickinson
Owner: Augustin Stable
Breeder: Augustin Stables
Dk. b. or b. M. 5, by Ghostzapper – Dyna Waltz*GB (Dynaformer)
2020: 6 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds – $455,940
Winner: TVG S., Dance Smartly S. (G2), ALW/OC

Theodora B. (90), Rideforthecause (88), Elizabeth Way (47)

Outstanding Owner: LIVE OAK PLANTATION

Starts 47; Wins 14; Seconds 9; Thirds 4

Earnings $1,146,408; Stakes Wins 5

Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation and Stud, in Florida, has produced and raced top racehorses since the early 1990s. Charlotte’s horses, trained by Mark Casse and Michael Trombetta, closed the season with purse earnings of over $1.1 million placing her third on the leading owners list. The Live Oak stars of 2020 include Souper Escape, a multiple graded stakes winner with victories in the Grade 3 Seaway Stakes and Grade 3 Trillium Stakes. The farm also campaigned the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes winner March to the Arch, the Grade 3 Durham Cup Stakes winner Salute With Honor and 2-year-old filly Souper Sensational, who won the Glorious Song Stakes.

Live Oak Plantation (124), Sam-Son Farm (51), Gary Barber (35)

Horse of The Year: MIGHTY HEART

Trainer: Josie Carroll
Owner: Lawrence Cordes
Breeder: Lawrence Cordes
B. C. 3, by Dramedy – Emma’s Bullseye (City Place)
2020: 8 Starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third – $922,870
Winner: Prince of Wales S., Queen’s Plate, MSW

Mighty Heart (95), Pink Lloyd (78), Silent Poet (30)

The Jockey Club of Canada was founded in 1973 by E.P. Taylor to serve as the international representative of the Canadian Thoroughbred industry. The mission of The Jockey Club of Canada is to promote and maintain a high standard for Thoroughbred racing and breeding in Canada at a level which is recognized internationally for the benefit of all those interested in the sport including the general public by operations and services such as, but not limited to: evaluating all Graded, Listed and Black-type races in Canada annually; conducting the annual Sovereign Awards for outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing and breeding in Canada; maintaining a field office in Canada for the Jockey Club of the United States and the Jockey Club Registry Service; and by representing Canada as a Member of the IFHA.


For more information on The Jockey Club of Canada’s 46th Annual Sovereign Awards Ceremony contact Candice Dixon at 416-675-7756 or [email protected].