by Frank Carulli
February 13, 2018
Harness owner Brad Grant lost several horses in a barn fire at Classy Lane Training Centre in 2016. But Grant persevered after the tragedy and rebuilt his stable into a headline-making success story.
He now has three O'Brien Award trophies -- the highest honor in Canada -- to prove it. He was called to the stage at the black tie gala in Ontario recently when Stay Hungry (2yo Pacing Colts), Bettors Up (3yo Pacing Fillies) and Sandbetweenurtoes (Older Pacing Mares) were named division champions. Stay Hungry was a Breeders Crown champion, Bettors Up won the Fan Hanover Stakes in 1:49.4 and Sandbetweenurtoes finished in the money in 24 of 30 starts.
But Grant wasn't the only one honored at the 29th annual O'Biren Awards ceremony.
Doug McNair, the regular driver for all three of Grant's champions, was named Driver of the Year for the first time. McNair topped all drivers in Canada with nearly $6 million in earnings while piloting 325 winners.
Brett MacDonald, 21, was named the Future Star after he drove 114 winners to more than $616,000 in purse money, competing mainly at Rideau Carleton Raceway.
Richard Moreau was named Trainer of the Year for the fifth consecutive time, adding 277 wins and $3.7 million in purse earnings to his gaudy resume.
Even less of a surprise was Hannelore Hanover receiving the inaugural Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year award, named in honor of the two-time Canadian Horse of the Year and multiple world record-setter who was humanely euthanized recently after a short battle with cancer. Hannelore Hanover won the Maple Leaf Trot and defeated the boys in the Breeders Crown Open Trot en route to a 10-for-17 record and $1.1 season.
Breeders of the Year Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz campaigned 3yo Trotting Fillies champion Ariana G., a repeat O'Brien Award winner and a $1 million earner in 2017.
Dr Ian Moore co-owns two O'Brien winners -- Ontario Sire Stakes Super Final winner Percy Bluechip (2yo Filly Pacers) and Classic Pro (3yo Pacing Colts).
The list of division champions included: Canadian Pacing Derby winner Sintra (Older Pacing Horses); Kadabra Queen (2yo Trotting Fillies), who won five Ontario Stakes races including the Super Final; once-beaten Alarm Detector (2yo Trotting Colts), winner of the Define The World Stakes; International Moni (3yo Trotting Colts), who went 9-for-15 with a $620,000 bankroll; and Odds On Amethyst (Older Trotting Horses), an 11-race winner primarily in the preferred and free-for-all ranks.