Awards Without Controversy...?

Published: February 9, 2020 09:33 am EST

The 2019 O’Brien Awards are in the books! Congratulations to all of the finalists for giving us so many great reasons and racing memories to celebrate Canadian harness racing.

Awards are not without controversy and the O’Brien Awards are not immune to this.

Following last year’s Oscars, there was a lot of chatter on Social Media about “I can’t believe Green Book won for Best Picture!” If you watched the awards ceremony on TV, that win landed like a dead weight on Oscar night, and the disappointment was evident in the lack of spirited acknowledgement by the 80% of the silent majority who were not in agreement.

Best Male Actor – more controversy. How could Bohemian Rhapsody male lead Rami Malek possibly have won over Christian Bale for his role in Vice or Bradley Cooper for his role in A Star Is Born?

And why did All My Children’s lead actress Susan Lucci have to wait until her 19th nomination before she took home the hardware for her first Emmy Award?

The how is easy – whenever people are asked to vote on something, subjectivity comes into play. Every one of us has our own tastes, opinions and perspectives and the O’Brien Awards are no different.

I can’t recall a year at the O’Brien’s where everyone was satisfied with the outcome in every category.

Even in Louis-Philippe Roy's acceptance interview he stated that the Driver of the Year Award this year could have easily gone to Bob McClure or Sylvain Filion, and he wouldn't have been surprised and couldn't have argued the choice if it had.

The mandate of the O’Brien voters is to vote for the person or horse they feel “made the greatest contribution to Canadian harness racing.”

The interpretation of that will differ from voter to voter. Some may say that a Canadian bred horse who wins a major race in the U.S. brings a tremendous amount of recognition to Canadian harness racing, and that is an outstanding contribution to Canadian harness racing. Others will decide that they only look at the races on Canadian soil when voting, or Canadian content such as Canadian-bred, foaled and owned.

In 2005, The Grey Gladiator, Admirals Express, was voted Canada’s Horse of the Year, and that was not without controversy. There were many other high quality horses such as Peaceful Way and Rocknroll Hanover that were absolute standouts that year. But it was the Grey Gladiator’s magnetism and the sheer toughness he raced with that probably garnered him the popular vote, plus the unprecedented amount of publicity he generated for the industry. The aura that surrounded this horse transcended anything he ever did on the racetrack.

Every year SC reviews the voting process, the voters, etc. Over the years, eligibility policies have been introduced to maintain the integrity of the awards, new awards have been introduced, more information has been made available to voters where Canadian content is highlighted. This past year the Board decided that the three start requirement (in Canada) would be in addition to Breeders Crown races when hosted in Canada.

The review process is annual and it should be. The industry changes and the awards should reflect that too.

If you are a Standardbred Canada member and have any feedback on or suggestions to improve the voting process, other awards to consider, etc. we welcome the feedback. This is your association and anything that is put in writing in an email or letter format will be reviewed.

Again, congratulations to all of the O’Brien Award winners and finalists for making Canadian harness racing great in 2019!

Kathy Wade Vlaar

The views presented in Trot Blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Standardbred Canada.