Photo Courtesy WEG/michael burns photography © 2012
2012 Recipient: Steven Bahen
Steven Bahen, who partnered T J’s Lucky Moon to an improbable Queen’s Plate victory in 2002, was honoured with the 2012 Avelino Gomez Memorial Award on Woodbine Oaks day.
Born June 29, 1966, Bahen notched his first win just after his 20th birthday, partnering Micheline to victory on July 7, 1986, at Woodbine. He was thrust into the spotlight in 1995, piloting eventual 1996 Horse of the Year, Mt. Sassafras, to a third in both the Queen’s Plate and Grade 1 Molson Million and a head-bob loss in the Breeders’ Stakes.
Regarded as one of the most hard-working riders in the sport, Bahen’s biggest career highlight came in Canada’s most famous horse race, when he teamed with Gino Molinaro’s T J’s Lucky Moon to take the Queen’s Plate at odds of 82-1.
It's a win he still covets.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” said Bahen, in reference to one of the biggest upsets in Plate history. “It’s hard to believe that it’s been (this long since). Time flies, but I’m happy with how things have gone. I’ve persevered. I’ve lasted.”
The coveted Gomez Award is given to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised or regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
Presented annually on Woodbine Oaks day at Woodbine, the honour is in memory of one of the sport's most heralded and revered performers. The Cuban-born Gomez died of complications after a three-horse accident in the 1980 Canadian Oaks.
As a lasting reminder of his contributions, a life-size statue of Gomez, who called Toronto home and raised a family there, proudly overlooks Woodbine's pristine walking ring. A replica is presented to each year's honouree.
Bahen, who has won two other Canadian classics, the 1996 Woodbine Oaks with Silent Fleet, and the 1997 Breeders’ Stakes with John the Magician, was grateful of the recognition.
“To see all the riders who have won his in the past really makes this special,” said Bahen, who was flanked by family members, as well as relatives of Gomez, on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course for the presentation. “I am honoured to receive this great award.”
Bahen, who won his 1,000th career race in 2005 with Dave the Knave, began the 2012 Woodbine campaign on a winning note, taking the first race of the season aboard Absoulute Heaven.
Bahen joins Ron Turcotte, Johnny Longden, Sandy Hawley, Don MacBeth, Chris Rogers, Jeff Fell, Lloyd Duffy, Hugo Dittfach, Robin Platts, Larry Attard, Don Seymour, David Gall, Richard Grubb, Irwin Driedger, David Clark, Jim McKnight, Chris Loseth, Richard Dos Ramos, Robert Landry, Francine Villeneuve, Sam Krasner, John LeBlanc Sr., George Ho Sang, Jack Lauzon, Robert King Jr., Stewart Elliott and last year's recipient, Emile Ramsammy, as Gomez honourees.