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day, December 17, Standardbred Canada announced the finalists for the 2012 O’Brien Awards, which honour Canada’s best in harness racing over the past season.

The winners will be announced at the annual O’Brien Awards Black Tie Gala on Saturday, January 26, 2013.

The awards are named in honour of the late Joe O’Brien, an outstanding horseman and a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Sylvain Filion, 43, a native of Saint-Andre-D'Argenteuil, Quebec, who now resides in Milton, Ontario, has won 413 races this year while banking more than $8.39 million in purses. He currently ranks among Canada's top five drivers in wins and purse earnings and was the leading driver in the Ontario Sires Stakes this year. Hailing from one of the most accomplished harness racing families, some of Filion's 2012 accomplishments include victories in the Breeders Crown with the undefeated juvenile trotting colt Wheeling N Dealin, the Golden Girls with Rebeka Bayama, the Masters Stakes with Sparky Mark, and numerous Ontario Sires Stakes events with Prestidigitator.

This marks the third time that Scott Zeron, 23, of Oakville, Ontario is a finalist for the Driver of the Year title. He became the youngest driver to win the coveted Little Brown Jug when he guided Michaels Power to the two heat victory. This year Zeron has 343 wins and more than $8.5 million in purse earnings. In addition to his Jug win, he scored victories in the Upper Canada Cup, the Confederation Cup, Battle of Waterloo, many Ontario Sires Stakes events including a Super Final, the Canadian Breeders Championship, a division of the Champlain, Forest City, Eternal Camnation and Somebeachsomewhere Stakes.

A number of O’Brien winners from 2011 are back to either defend divisional titles or take another trophy in their new division. These past winners include: American Jewel, Anndrovette, Check Me Out, Daylon Magician, Foiled Again, Frenchfrysnvinegar, Warrawee Farm and Jeff Gillis.

The Trainer of the Year category has shaped up as a three-way battle between the defending champion, Jeff Gillis, four-time winner Casie Coleman and first-time nominee, Richard Moreau.

2012 was another stellar year for Casie Coleman, 32, of Cambridge, Ontario. Her two stable stars, Betterthancheddar and Michaels Power have both earned O’Brien nominations in their divisions and were major contributors to Coleman’s impressive statistics, which include 219 winners and more than $6.7 million in purse money.

Jeff Gillis, 35, of Hillsburgh, Ontario, has enjoyed another productive season, conditioning 111 winners and training horses to more than $3.9 million in purse money -- a personal best. His stable was led by the standout older trotter, Mister Herbie, a finalist in the Older Trotting Horse category, and trotting mare Frenchfrysnvinegar, who is back to defend her title as Canada’s Older Trotting Mare.

Richard Moreau, 48, of Puslinch, Ontario, is en route to a career season for wins and earnings. Currently leading all Canadian trainers with 320 wins, he’s also trained horses to $3.4 million in purse money. He conditions a 60-horse stable made up primarily of claiming and condition horses.

Trainer-drivers Marc Campbell and Kelly Hoerdt are the finalists for the O’Brien Award of Horsemanship.

A finalist in this category last year, Marc Campbell, 28, of Winsloe, Prince Edward Island, has proven himself to be one of the top horsemen in the Canadian Maritimes. Campbell is closing in on a career best year this season and just broke his single-season record of most wins at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park (122 set in 2011). This year he has a total of 179 driving wins, 48 training wins, $462,183 in driving earnings and $218,950 in training earnings. Campbell won the annual E.F. Acorn Memorial Driver’s Championship held at Red Shores Charlottetown and is the trainer-driver for Malabrigo, a finalist in the Three-Year-Old Filly Pacer category.

A familiar face on the Alberta racing scene, Kelly Hoerdt, 46, of Beaumont, Alberta, is annually near the top of the training and driving charts in Alberta. To date this year, Hoerdt has 87 driving wins, 73 training wins, $566,684 in driving earnings and $520,088 in training earnings. Some of Hoerdt’s top performers include multiple stakes winner Cowboy Caper, with earnings in excess of $93,000 in purse money, and two-year-old pacing colt Premium Attaction, a $1,700 yearling purchase that has earned more than $80,000 this season. Hoerdt topped the training and driving charts at Alberta Downs this y