Had To Be Ivory claims second Horse of the Year title at Quarter Horse Owners’ gala in Ajax

Published February 21, 2023 at 10:48 am

Ontario Quarter Horse of the Year Had to Be Ivory Photo Clive Cohen

Carol and Jaime Robertson’s Ontario homebred Had to Be Ivory was named the 2022 Quarter Horse of the Year at the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario and Ajax Downs awards banquet at the Ajax Convention Centre on February 18. This was the first in-person awards ceremony for the Quarter Horse community since 2019.

A moment of silence was observed before the event in honour of Norman Picov who died at the age of 86 earlier in the day. Picov was responsible for the building of Ajax Downs and furthering the growth of the Ontario Quarter Horse industry, following in the steps of his father Alex who founded Picov Downs in 1969.

Had to Be Ivory, a son of Ivory James, earned his second Horse of the Year title, winning the honours at the last live event in 2019.

The Ontario-bred 7-year-old owned and bred by Carol and Jaime Robertson of Hillsburgh, ON, went six-for-six in 2022, including the Alex Picov Memorial Championship, the Picov Maturity and the Ontario Bred Maturity.

Trained by Bryn Robertson, the big bay gelding also won the Distance Series which included a track-record setting score at 440-yards of 21.41, earning him a whopping 112 speed index.

The Robertson family dedicated Had to Be Ivory’s Horse of the Year title to his dam Had to Be Fandango, who died the day before the awards. Had to Be Ivory is expected to race again in 2023.

Divisional awards were also presented to horses and horse people that accrued the most QROOI Awards Program points based on top four placings in various levels of races throughout the racing season.

For the fourth consecutive year, Jason Pascoe of Pontypool was the High Point Trainer of the Year with an impressive 528 points. Pascoe led all trainers with 44 wins and purse earnings of more than $697,000. Pascoe’s main client, Milena Kwiecien of Burlington, was the High Point Owner with 288 points, and led all owners with 17 victories. Kwiecien raced the top 3-year-old filly, Eye Live for Candy, co-champion 2-year-old filly Valiant Chick Insnow, and Sprint Series winner Carneros.

Tony ‘TP’ Phillips won a tight race for leading jockey with 262 points (25 wins), edging Ramiro Camiro Castillo and Brian Bell, who tied for runner-up with 247 points. It was Phillips’ second jockey title.

Christine Tavares won her sixth High Point Breeder award in the last nine years with 10 winners and 152 points.

John Wilson and Scott Reid’s Night Leader was the year’s top 3-year-old male as the Ontario bred gelding had 35 points from four wins in six races including the Ontario Sired Derby.

Had to Be Ivory’s team includes Bryn and Carol Robertson (far right) and Zac Kennedy and Paul Sauve. Presenting is QROOI president Bob Broadstock. Photo by Clive Cohen

The full list:


  • Horse of the Year – Had to Be Ivory
  • 2-year-old filly – First Prize Charlotte/Valliant Chick Insnow (tie)
  • 2-year-old colt or gelding – Shades of Cold
  • 3-year-old colt or gelding – Night Leader
  • 3-year-old filly – Eye Live for Candy
  • Aged Male – Had to Be Ivory
  • Aged Mare – Fly Belle Cartel
  • Distance series Champion – Had to Be Ivory
  • Sprint series Champion – Carneros
  • High Point Jockey – Tony Phillips
  • High Point Trainer- Jason Pascoe
  • High Point Owner -Milena Kwiecien
  • High Point Owner/Trainer – Bryn Roberston
  • High Point Breeder – Christine Tavares

The 2023 Quarter Horse season at Ajax Downs is scheduled to begin on Wednesday May 10. Visit www.ajaxdowns.com for the complete schedule and all news. You can also follow Ajax Downs on social media @AjaxDowns on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

With files from Jennifer Morrison


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