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Southland, winner of six races and $35,082 at the Fort Erie Race Track during 1997, ran off with Horse of the Year honors Monday at the thoroughbred facility's annual awards banquet.

The 5-year-old chestnut gelding, who was claimed for $5,000 in mid-June by owner-trainer Chris W. Voyce, also was named champion male turf runner in fan balloting conducted by the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

The Kentucky-bred son of Dixieland Brass posted a 6-2-0 record from 11 Fort starts. All his wins were over the turf course at 7 furlongs.

Southland's last four victories came under jockey Pierre Mailhot. Francine Villeneuve and Daniel David rode the other wins.

Seven other horses and five humans were honored at the HPBA's dinner at Leisureplex.

Award-winning male horses were trainer Dave Schmidt's Berry Moonolow (sprinter), Catherine Day's Scott R. (distance) and Carlton Johnston's Gallapiat Prince (claimer).

Top fillies included Connie Kendall's Caribbean Missile (sprinter), John Kennedy's Classy n' Sassy (distance), Michael W. Wright's Effective Gal (turf) and Lisa Aitchison's Run A Ruckus (claimer).

Statistical leaders Johnston, Doug Gibbons and Bruno Schickedanz were honored as leading trainer, jockey and owner, respectively.

Jockey Eddie Robinson and trainer Dan Poliziani also were recognized for outstanding seasons.

Fort Erie's live-racing season concludes with programs at 1:10 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The track is expected to reopen next May, although exact dates have not yet been negotiated between the HPBA, track management and the Ontario Racing Commission.

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