O'Brien Awards

The O'Brien Awards celebrate the absolute best in harness racing over a given year. They are the highest honor the sport bestows upon its heroes in this country. The following explains exactly how the voters arrive at the nominees and eventual winners of the coveted O'Brien trophy.

Established in 1989 to honour the absolute best in Canadian harness racing over a given year. These are the highest honour the sport bestows upon its stars. The O'Briens are hosted by Standardbred Canada.

Number of Awards
Seventeen O'Brien Awards will be given out for the 2011 racing season. Thirteen of these honour the premier horses over the past racing season including the most coveted trophy, Canada's Horse of the Year. The horse awards are divided by age, sex and gait.

In addition there are four awards for people, one each for Driver of the Year, Trainer of the Year, Armstrong Bros. Farm Breeder of the Year and the O'Brien Award of Horsemanship.

The O'Brien Award of Horsemanship
recognizes the Standardbred participant who best exemplifies the standard of horsemanship demonstrated by Joe O'Brien. Nominees are persons involved in more than one aspect of the industry and can be trainers, drivers, owners or breeders.

Standardbred Canada has established a committee of eight that determines the candidates for potential nominees for both the O'Brien Award of Horsemanship and the Armstrong Bros. Farm Breeder of the Year.

The remaining two O'Briens are for Trainer of the Year and Driver of the Year.

Who votes for the O'Brien Awards? Every media person across Canada who covers harness racing on a regular basis receives a ballot, this includes writers for the various trade publications as well as those in print, radio and television. All Canadian race secretaries and track publicists also participate in the voting.

The voters' list is vigorously scrutinized each year with names added and deleted when necessary.

A comprehensive and detailed ballot package is assembled for each voter and mailed to them with sufficient time for the voter to return their completed ballot to the SC offices by fax, e-mail, or by mail. If the fax machine is used, it is a secure one, meaning that only the official scrutineers who actually count the ballots, and therefore know the ultimate outcome, have access to this machine. This also ensures that none go astray.

The ballot package is subdivided by category. We provide listings of the top 20 Canadian registered horses (and add some that aren't Canadian registered but still merit the voters' consideration) in each of the 12 horse categories. We then provide racelines for the voting year for the top six horses (and sometimes more if warranted) in each division.

Standardbred Canada announced a significant change to the O'Brien criteria, which began with the 1999 awards.

For horses to be eligible for consideration for an O'Brien Award, it must have made a minimum of three (3) starts in Canada between January 1st and November 30th. The type of race (stakes, overnight) is irrelevant and schooling and qualifying races do not represent a start.

In the trainer category, we provide statistics on the top 50 Canadian trainers by money and wins.

In the driver of the year category, we provide listings of the top Canadian and North American drivers both by money and wins.

Each voter is strongly advised that the information provided to them is to be used as a reference guide only. The voters' mandate is to vote for the horse or person in each division they felt made the greatest contribution to Canadian harness racing over the past season. It's important to keep in mind that when all is said and done, it is still a subjective process, as each voter makes his or her selections based on their individual opinion.

Once the votes have been tabulated, the names of the nominees are released and the winners are announced at the annual O'Brien awards. Prior to the night of the awards, the winners' identity are kept in strictest confidence.

Content courtesy of Standardbred Canada.  Visit http://standardbredcanada.ca for complete details.