It was quite a thrill to be rubbing shoulders with some of the most prestigious Horsemen in Canada
Maybe I should back this story up to Friday morning of the Sovereign Awards — when Omar Moreno contacted us to come down to the Woodbine racetrack to watch horses trained in the morning. Omar is a Horse Racing Alberta and Olds College exercise rider jockey graduate from 2007 who is a double Sovereign Award winner — as well as an Eclipse Winner for apprentice jockey and has been a good friend since we met.
Omar took us for short tour around the backstretch and then up to the main track to watch the horses work. There saw many friends from the past from Alberta — and many previous graduates of the Olds program. It is very rewarding to keep up with the students after a few years and see how well they're doing in a trade program that we started for them. No matter what race track you go to, much of the backstretch looks the same; people working hard every day to care for and look after these incredible equine athletes that we all love so much.
Back to the awards
After some good conversation with new friends, we were witness to the ceremony of bringing in the "horse" which we discovered is a very large bronze of the Thoroughbred that is led in by a band of people playing bagpipes; it made you feel like you were in for something special.
After a gourmet meal at beautifully decorated dining tables, the ceremony began. The master of ceremonies, Jason Portuondo, started the night with flair and fun as he announced the start of the awards. Very quickly it was HRA's nomination of Outstanding Digital A/V and broadcast. Sure enough, we won! It was a proud moment to see clips from our Canadian Derby show on the large screens. On shaky knees I went up to excitedly represent HRA. Being centre stage at such a large event was a first for me.
Soon it was time for the award we had all been waiting for, Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, that two of our 2012 graduates — Jennifer Reid and Scott Williams — had been nominated for. It Is quite amazing to watch these graduates blossom from nervous students to accomplished riders. Hall of fame jockey Sandy Hawley was up to hand the award to the winner which was a thrill in itself. And this year's winner for outstanding apprentice jockey was Scott Williams!
Scott proudly walked up to receive his award and thanked the Rycroft family for their support. He also thanked his family for putting up with him during his education and training — and he thanked his instructors who were proudly there to watch him receive that award. He also thanked Olds College and Horse Racing Alberta for helping him with the start to his career. As Scott came back to his table, Jennifer Reid was very gracious in hugging and congratulating Scott on his win. What an exciting night for all of us!
The theme for the night from all the winners and guest speakers was that as racing participants, we need to gather together and pool our resources to help create a strong, independent industry. There is a wonderful feeling of camaraderie to know that no matter what area of Canada that we are visiting, we are all in this together to build a strong and viable industry. I go home today with renewed strength of working together to build a strong racing industry — not only in and for Alberta, but across Canada.