When the 2012 O'Brien Awards take place this Saturday at the Delta Meadowvale Hotel in Mississauga, there will be plenty of drama, including the battle for Canada's Driver of the Year honors. Both nominees, Scott Zeron and Sylvain Filion, regular fixtures on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit, celebrated career years in earnings.
Zeron, who recorded $8,756,946 in purse earnings, captured the Little Brown Jug, Upper Canada Cup, Confederation Cup and OSS Super Final with the Casie Coleman-trained Michael's Power and the Battle of Waterloo with Tarpon Hanover for conditioner David Menary.
"The Little Brown Jug will always come to mind," said Zeron, who calls Oakville home."Even when I'm older, I'll never forget it. Michael's Power is a horse I'll never forget. Obviously, Casie Coleman was a huge contributor to the year I had. Also, Dave Menary and I had success winning the Battle of Waterloo. There are so many people that helped make this past year very successful.”
Filion and trainer Dustin Jones combined to form a dynamic duo. Wheeling N Dealin went undefeated in 2012 from nine starts with $683,544 in earnings. His major victories included the Breeders Crown, William Wellwood Memorial Trot, Champlain Stakes and the Bridger Trotting Series final. Jones' other pupil, Prestidigitator, banked $549,481 last season, with multiple OSS Gold final victories along with a Super Final score.
Rebeka Bayama was also a major contributor to Filion's impressive year, as she earned $398,469 for Filion's father, Yves, who owns and bred the pacing mare. Her biggest victory came in the Golden Girls final at the Meadowlands.
"It was just an amazing year," offered Filion, who banked $8,659,975 in purse earnings in 2012. "I was able to drive some really good horses in major stakes races. It's every driver's dream to win major races and I did that with horses like Rebeka Bayama, Wheeling N Dealin and Prestidigitator, just to name a few.
"For the first time ever, I was the favorite in the Breeders Crown, which we won with Wheeling N Dealin and that's always a great feeling.”
At the age of 23, Zeron knows the importance of self-improvement.
"Every single year when I look back, I say, ‘Wow, what a great year I had and I did my best.' Then the next year, I top what I did the year before, so I think I've progressed nicely and that's what every competitor strives for, improving year after year.”
"Any athlete or competitor knows the importanceof improving,” said the 43-year-old Milton resident. "Whether you're a hockey player or a driver, you always want to improve and get better.”
This Saturday will mark the first time that Filion will be in his tuxedo as a finalist for an O'Brien Award.
"To me, just being nominated, it's a really big deal to me and win or lose on Saturday, I feel like a winner. It's a winning ticket to be recognized on such a high scale.”
Zeron, on the other hand, has been in this position in the past.
"I've been runner-up the past two years in a row and it's been an honor just to be nominated. Growing up, it's always something every driver dreams of and for me to be nominated again is just an honor. Coming into this year, it was a goal of mine. After I won the Upper Canada Cup with Michael's Power, I thought it was a good start, and then after we won the Confederation Cup, I thought I had a great shot. Both Sylvain and I had a terrific year in 2012 and we're both looking forward to Saturday.” (WEG)