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Standardbred Canada announced the winners of the 2023 O’Brien Awards, honouring Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season, at the Black Tie Gala in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. 

The event marked the 35th edition of the O’Brien Awards, named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman from P.E.I. and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Sylvia Hanover was the evening’s headliner, as she was crowned the Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year and was the winner of the Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly category. With the awards gala held in P.E.I., the Maritimes were well represented on stage all evening, highlighted by reinsman James MacDonald, who took home his third consecutive Keith Waples Driver of the Year award, and Dr. Ian Moore, who was recognized with his first Trainer of the Year title. Moore conditioned two 2023 O’Brien Award winners: Tattoo Artist, a former sophomore divisional winner who was named Older Pacing Horse of the Year, and Stockade Seelster, who won his second consecutive O’Brien Award, this time in the Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt category. The Maritime representation didn’t end there, as 'Canada’s Pacing Queen,' So Much More, bred in P.E.I., repeated as the Older Pacing Mare of the Year, marking her third win in this category.

Following a dominant freshman campaign, Sylvia Hanover returned just as strong, and perhaps even better, as a sophomore. The daughter of Always B Miki-Shyaway notched 10 wins in 13 starts at three, totalling $839,375 in earnings, and taking a record of 1:48.1 at The Red Mile for trainers Shawn and Mark Steacy. Her victories included wins in the Fan Hanover, Mistletoe Shalee and Glen Garnsey, prior to capping it all off with a score in the $600,000 Breeders Crown. Her outstanding sophomore campaign not only earned her Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly honours, she also took home the Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year title as well. 

Tara Hills Stud Farm Ltd., owned by David Heffering, was recognized for the first time with the Armstrong Breeder of the Year award. Horses bred by the Port Perry, Ont.-based farm found the winner’s circle 169 times in 2023 while bankrolling more than $3.4 million. The 2023 O’Brien Award winner, Tattoo Artist, was the farm’s lone $1 million earner this past season, thanks in part to wins in the Canadian Pacing Derby, the Jim Ewart Memorial and the Dayton Pacing Derby. In addition to the son of Hes Watching, Storm Shadow was another one of the breeding farm’s standouts, earning more than $375,000 in his freshman campaign, which was headlined with a win in the Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) Super Final. 

After an exceptional season, Dr. Ian Moore was awarded Trainer of the Year honours for the first time in his career. A two-time recipient of the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship over the past decade, the P.E.I. native achieved a career milestone by surpassing $3 million in seasonal purse earnings for the first time. In 2023, Moore captured the Canadian Pacing Derby, courtesy of O’Brien Award winner Tattoo Artist, who finished with more than $1 million in seasonal purse earnings. His other O’Brien Award winner, Stockade Seelster, enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign, being one of the standouts in the Ontario Sires Stakes program, as well as putting forth strong runner-up finishes in some marquee stakes events in the U.S. Moore also captured the OSS Super Final for two-year-old pacing colts, courtesy of Storm Shadow. Moore’s 51 victories in 2023 represent the second-highest seasonal performance of his career.

James MacDonald was honoured as the Keith Waples Driver of the Year for the third year in a row, becoming the first driver to win the award for three consecutive years since Doug Brown achieved the feat twice (1989-1991, 1993-1996). MacDonald reached the 400-win mark for the second year in a row and exceeded $10 million in seasonal purse earnings, which was the first time he’s done that in his career, and the first time a Canadian-based driver has reached the plateau in more than a decade. The native of P.E.I. drove several of the O’Brien Award winners, including So Much More, Legendary Hanover, Willys Home Run, Righteous Resolve and Adare Castle. MacDonald also received a third consecutive Lampman Cup title, awarded to the leading driver in the Ontario Sires Stakes program. Some of his seasonal accomplishments were winning the Shes A Great Lady, Forest City Pace and multiple OSS Gold divisions plus a Super Final.

Mark Etsell followed up his first million-dollar season in 2022 with yet another seven-figure season in 2023 and was named the winner of the 2023 O'Brien Award of Horsemanship. The talented horseman has been in the spotlight over the last couple of seasons primarily due to his star mare, now two-time O'Brien Award winner Adare Castle, who captured O’Brien Award honours as a sophomore in 2022 and as older mare in 2023. Etsell trained a second O’Brien finalist in rookie trotter Willowtime. Etsell’s ability to develop young, bargain-priced trotters has been a focal point of his career, and has especially been a strong accent of his over the last couple of years. To go along with his second straight million-dollar campaign, Etsell set a career high in wins (32) and sported a sterling UTRS of 0.321.

After a runner-up finish in the Future Star category a year ago, Cassidy Schneider took the 2023 title. Following in her father’s footsteps, Schneider had a successful training season in 2023 building on her achievements in 2022. In 611 seasonal starts, the young trainer accumulated 83 wins, with earnings of $521,886. Doing most of her racing across Ontario’s B tracks, Schneider topped the 2023 trainer standings at Hanover Raceway and The Raceway at the Western Fair District.

Pass Line won the O’Brien as the country’s top Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly. During a freshman season in which she reached the winner’s circle 10 times in 13 starts, Pass Line was nothing short of spectacular. Trained by Dave Menary on Canadian soil, the homebred daughter of All Bets Off-Breakheart Pass was a standout in the OSS program, winning four of her five Gold events, and capping it off with a convincing Super Final triumph. In addition, she put forth very respectable runner-up finishes in both the Battle Of The Belles and the $700,000 Breeders Crown, earning $682,152 along the way while taking a mark of 1:49.3 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. 

In the Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt category, Legendary Hanover was awarded the 2023 O’Brien Award. The son of Huntsville-Lillian Hanover found the winner’s circle six times in nine starts, while taking a speed badge of 1:50 at Mohawk. Included in those victories, the talented freshman captured Nassagaweya and Champlain stakes divisions, as well as the Dream Maker Series final. The richest payday for the colt, trained on Canadian soil by Anthony Beaton, came courtesy of his second-place effort in the $970,000 Metro Pace, helping lift his seasonal earnings to $405,100. 

Stockade Seelster took home his second consecutive O'Brien Award, this year in the Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt category. In a strong sophomore campaign, the son of State Treasurer-Soiree Seelster notched seven victories in 19 starts, while bankrolling $677,688. Three of those victories came in OSS Gold legs, where he lowered his lifetime mark to 1:48.4. In addition, the Dr. Ian Moore trainee had wins in the Somebeachsomewhere Stakes and North America Cup Consolation. He was a runner-up in both the Max Hempt Memorial and the $600,000 Breeders Crown.

In the Older Pacing Mare category, So Much More scored her third O'Brien trophy for her connections. The daughter of Big Jim-Ladysai had 13 wins in 33 outings during her seven-year-old campaign, marking her fifth consecutive season with double digit victories. ‘Canada’s Pacing Queen’ competed against both the boys and girls again this past year and was able to conquer the boys on multiple occasions. Other notable achievements for So Much More consisted of a win in the Forest City Pace at Western Fair, as well as eight Fillies & Mares Preferreds at Mohawk. The Don Beatson trainee earned $357,992 in 2023, while taking a new lifetime mark of 1:49.1.

A finalist for the Older Pacing Horse Award one year ago, Tattoo Artist capped his career with an O'Brien Award in this category — his second O'Brien after winning as a three-year-old in 2020. After finding the winner’s circle nine times this season, the six-year-old reached the $1 million mark in earnings for the second year in a row. Of those nine wins, four of them were recorded on Canadian soil, where he was trained by Dr. Ian Moore. His biggest triumph came at Mohawk, where he captured the Canadian Pacing Derby. He was retired at the conclusion of his 2023 season for stallion duty in 2024.

Willys Home Run won the Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly honours. With a perfect record in the OSS program, the rookie trotting filly had an outstanding freshman campaign. In 10 starts, she found the winner’s circle six times, earning $523,935 under the guidance of trainer Kyle Fellows. The homebred daughter of Archangel-Rite Outa The Park swept all five OSS Gold legs, and including her win in the $300,000 Super Final, her smallest margin of victory in the provincial program was 2-1/4 lengths. Willys Home Run never missed the board in her debut season, finished second in the $425,000 Peaceful Way Stakes and took a mark of 1:55.1 at Mohawk.

For the Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt division, T C I won the 2023 O’Brien Award. The freshman trotter enjoyed an exceptional debut season, earning more money on Canadian soil than any other Standardbred in the sport. With 10 victories and two runner-up finishes in 12 starts, the son of Cantab Hall-Nicoles Promise amassed a total of $1,453,370 in North American earnings for U.S. Hall of Fame trainer Ron Burke, while taking his mark of 1:51.4 at The Red Mile. He went three-for-three in Canada, including wins at Mohawk in the $620,000 William Wellwood Memorial and the $1 million Mohawk Million, where he made a break leaving the gate before circling the field to win going away in an impressive comeback.

Righteous Resolve captured her second O’Brien Award, winning the 2023 Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly category. As a sophomore, the daughter of Resolve-Motown Muscle was ultra-consistent, hitting the board 10 times in 11 starts, while taking a mark of 1:52 at Mohawk. Trained by Matt Bax, Righteous Resolve earned $397,514 at age three, with two OSS Gold wins and runner-up finishes in both the $381,000 Elegantimage and $157,200 Simcoe Stakes. Arguably, her most impressive performance of the year was in the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks at The Meadowlands, where she finished a lapped-on third and trotted her mile in 1:50.4.

Ghostly Casper took home the O’Brien Award in the Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt division. Despite earning more than $200,000 as a freshman, Ghostly Casper went winless in 12 starts at age two, but had no such trouble finding the winner’s circle in his sophomore season, getting his picture taken four times for trainer and co-owner Ben Baillargeon. Three of those victories were achieved in the OSS program, where he captured two Gold events as well as the $300,000 Super Final, by 5-1/4 lengths in a lifetime best of 1:53. The son of Resolve-Cool Creek Breeze earned $404,385 in 2023, and did Canada proud by qualifying for the final of the $1 million Hambletonian at The Meadowlands after finishing a lapped-on fourth in his elimination.

Adare Castle was crowned champion in the Older Trotting Mare category, winning an O’Brien Award for the second time in her career. The daughter of Muscle Mass-Pacific Edge won six times at age four, earning $201,300 and lowering her lifetime mark to 1:52 for trainer/co-owner Mark Etsell. All six of her victories were at Mohawk, where she swept the three legs and final of the Ontario Graduate Series, took a leg of the Miss Versatility Series and had a Preferred Trot triumph against the boys. She also travelled to Ohio in September and had a runner-up finish in the Miss Versatility final.

In the Older Trotting Horse category, Logan Park won an O’Brien Award for the first time in his career after a previous nomination as a sophomore. With a dozen trips to the winner’s circle during his five-year-old campaign in 2023, the trotter shattered his previous high of five seasonal wins, which he accomplished in both 2021 and 2022. The son of Archangel-Rite Outa The Park — a full sibling to O'Brien Award winner Willys Home Run — was a force to be reckoned with all year in the Free For All ranks at Mohawk, winning at that level 10 times. The Kyle Fellows trainee also won his Breeders Crown elimination at Hoosier Park and finished fourth in the $600,000 final, resulting in his richest payday of the season. He bankrolled $348,970 on the year and set a new track and Canadian record of 1:50.3 at Mohawk in a career-best performance on July 4. 

The Media Excellence Awards and Outstanding Groom Award were also presented during the O’Brien Awards Gala.

Chris Lomon won his first Media Excellence Award in the Outstanding Written Work category for his feature, “Felix Marion, Farrier to the Stars.” The story, which was published in the January 2023 edition of TROT Magazine, highlights the passion, meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to the craft of Felix Marion as a farrier.  

Woodbine Entertainment Group won its 11th Media Excellence Award in the Outstanding Video, Film or Broadcast category for the production of the "Pepsi North America Cup" on TSN on June 17, 2023. This one-hour, special broadcast of the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup aired in high definition and featured live race coverage of the marquee event. Commentary was provided by hosts Laura Diakun, Greg Blanchard and Mark McKelvie of Woodbine Entertainment, with the race call provided by Woodbine Mohawk Park’s own track announcer, Ken Middleton.

Defending champion in the Outstanding Photography category, Clive Cohen captured his eighth Media Excellence Award for his photograph, “The Rainbow.” The photo, which captures two horses and their trainers jogging on the racetrack, is highlighted with a gorgeous rainbow in the backdrop. The photo was taken at Mohawk on July 20, 2023 and was published on the track’s social media feeds.

Andrew Ward of Saint John, N.B. was recognized with the Outstanding Groom Award. The man fondly known as "Drew," has been involved in the world of horse racing since his childhood days. Ward started caring for horses at five years old with his dad, James. He then went on to work with Winston (Soupy) Campbell, Jody Hennessey, Ross MacDonald, Hughie Baird and Gilles Barriault before moving to P.E.I. in the summer of 2015 to work with Earl Watts. Over the past six years, Ward has continued to grow his passion as a caretaker, now dedicating himself to the Tom Weatherbie Stable, where he plays a pivotal role in ensuring the well-being of the horses both on and off the track. Among the horses he’s cared for in 2023 are Island Beach Boy, Fern Hill General, Redlandbethanyjean, Woodmere Heather M, Downtown Tonight, Century Keyanna and Fern Hill Indigo. 

The 2023 Cam Fella Award was presented to the Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island. Raised in P.E.I., King developed a profound passion for harness racing at an early age. Beyond personal interest, King became a fervent advocate for harness racing, leading to a notable increase in participation, improved infrastructure and heightened community engagement in the sport under his visionary leadership. His unwavering commitment to promoting the values, traditions and potential of harness racing significantly contributed to its growing popularity within the province. King prioritized initiatives to support local breeders, trainers, drivers and enthusiasts, fostering a thriving ecosystem that nurtures talent and ensures the sport's sustainability for future generations in P.E.I.
Established in 1989, the O’Brien Awards honour the people and horses that made the greatest contribution to Canadian harness racing over the past season. 

A full list of the 35th O’Brien Award winners and connections follows:


Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly

Owners: Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown, PA
Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA
Frank Baldachino, Harvey Cedars, NJ
Breeders: Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown, PA
Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA

Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt

Owners: Eric Good, Davidsonville, MD
West Wins Stable, Wellington, FL
 Mark Dumain, Pine Bush, NY
Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms Inc., Hanover, PA

Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly

Owner: Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc., Hudson, QC
Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms Inc., Hanover, PA

Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt

Owners: Sally MacDonald, Souris, PE
Paul MacDonald, Toronto, ON
Breeder: Seelster Farms Inc., Lucan, ON

Older Pacing Mare

Owners: Don Beatson, Granton, ON
Kenn Beatson, Palgrave, ON
Cole England, Exeter, ON
Breeder: Doug MacPhee, New Haven, PE

Older Pacing Horse

Owners: Let It Ride Stables Inc., Boca Raton, FL
Bottom Line Racing LLC, Boca Raton, FL
Frank Cannon, Sanford, FL
Breeder: Tara Hills Stud Ltd., Port Perry, ON


Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt

Owners: Burke Racing Stable LLC, Fredericktown, PA
Hatfield Stables, Columbus, OH
Knox Services Inc., Mt Vernon, OH
Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Canonsburg, PA
Breeder: Concord Stud Farm LLC, Cream Ridge, NJ

Two-Year-Old Trotting Filly

Owners: Dr. Sara Gatchell, Strathroy, ON
Jake Higgs, Strathroy, ON
Reg Higgs, Strathroy, ON
Yolanda Fellows, Rockwood, ON
Breeder: Reg Higgs, Strathroy, ON

Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt

Owners: Ben Baillargeon, Guelph, ON
Teresa Davidson, Milton, ON
Nunzio Vena, Bolton, ON
Santo Vena, Cedar Valley, ON
Breeders: Diane Ingham & Harry Rutherford, Mount Pleasant, ON

Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly

Owners: Bet Max Stables Inc., Casco, MI
Benenati Inc., Clinton Twp, MI
Breeders: Bet Max Stables Inc., Casco, MI
Benenati Inc., Clinton Twp, MI

Older Trotting Mare

Owners: Mark Etsell, Rockwood, ON
Robert Newton, Walkerton, ON
Graham Hopkins, Chesley, ON
Peter Porter, Port Dover, ON
Breeder: Ed Lohmeyer, Cream Ridge, NJ

Older Trotting Horse

Owners: Outofthepark Stable, Rockwood, ON
Reg Higgs, Strathroy, ON
Arpad Szabo, Bradford, ON
Breeders: Reg Higgs, Denfield, ON
Donna Higgs, Denfield, ON

Somebeachsomewhere Horse of the Year

Owner: Hudson Standardbred Stable Inc., Hudson, QC
Breeder: Hanover Shoe Farms Inc., Hanover, PA


O’Brien Award of Horsemanship

Rockwood, ON

Armstrong Breeder of the Year

Port Perry, ON

Keith Waples Driver of the Year

Guelph, ON

Trainer of the Year

Cambridge, ON

Future Star Award

Arthur, ON


Charlottetown, P.E.I.


Saint John, N.B.


Outstanding Written Work

"Felix Marion, Farrier to the Stars."

Outstanding Film, Video, Broadcast

“Pepsi North America Cup”

Outstanding Photography

“The Rainbow”