Last fall during a Woodbine TV interview, Patrick Husbands hinted at the ‘R’ word without actually saying it.
After over two decades as a gold-standard jockey at Woodbine, who would blame him if he decided to spend more time in the warmth of his native Barbados. But when Saturday rolled around, there he was, on a cold, windy day at Woodbine, winning two races, including yet another stake.
Retirement can wait. Husbands has more races to win.
“Woodbine is my home,” Husbands said. “I love the people here. I love to ride here.”
“Three weeks ago, I said I was coming back and giving it one more shot. I respected what Mark (Casse) said, that I can’t just walk out.”
Woodbine’s thoroughbred season opened with an eight-race card and while the weather wasn’t great, the sight of live racing attracted a good crowd, including many families. It was the first time in three years that fans could enjoy the races without worrying about crowd restrictions or vaccine mandates.
Casse may have convinced Husbands to continue riding at Woodbine but may have regretted it just a bit when Husbands rode Dreaming of Drew to win the $100,000 Long Branch Stakes, beating two of Casse’s runners. Husbands controlled the 5½-furlong race early with the Barb Minshall-trained four-year-old filly. In the stretch, one of Casse’s runners, Jeanie B took the lead briefly. But Dreaming of Drew dug in and re-took the lead just before the wire. Casse’s more-fancied runner, 3-5 favourite Our Secret Agent, was never a factor in third.
It was the third win in six starts for Dreaming of Drew, who was one of the better two-year-old fillies at Woodbine in 2020 but had to miss the entire 2021 campaign with injury.
“It was tight, but she was so game,” Minshall said. “I knew she was going to run right to the finish line. I knew she was good enough.”
Husbands did give Casse his first win of the meet a race earlier, winning the sixth race aboard Beautiful Empire. That race was marred by a spill midway through the stretch in which Forest Drift stumbled after clipping heels with Sterling Speed. Forest Drift got up immediately and was o.k. Jockey Daisuke Fukumoto was shaken up but was able to walk to the track ambulance under his own power.
EARLY UPSET: Betting favorites had a rough time on Saturday including in the meet’s opening race, where a 1-9 favorite went down to defeat.
Trainer Wesley Ward sent Lime north and put defending Woodbine champion Kazushi Kimura aboard. However, they were unable to hold off Emma-Jayne Wilson and 9-2 second-choice My Final Trick, who sailed by in mid-stretch.
My Final Trick had won only twice in 19 previous starts. But Wilson had plenty of belief in the hard-trying Daryl Hasmatali-trained mare.
“This filly that I was on, she sits off the pace and makes a solid run every time,” Wilson said. “I knew the advantage they would have on me, but it worked out well with position and I thought they might not be able to hold me off.”
Kimura, who won his first Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding jockey on Thursday night, won the day’s final race with Jokers Run for trainer Mike DePaulo.
Other riders to get off the mark on Saturday were Rafael Hernandez, David Moran, Juan Crawford, and Steve Jadoo.
50 TO WHAT?: Setting a morning line is an inexact science but when Woodbine-based runner Shirl’s Speight won the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland on Friday, the Lexington track’s oddsmaker has a lot of explaining to do.
The Roger Attfield-trained runner made a late charge to win the Grade 1 race at odds of 9-1 with Luis Saez aboard. Good on horseplayers to realize that ridiculous 50-1 starting odds was nowhere close to realistic.
2021 HONOR ROLL
Sovereign Award Winners announced Thursday
Horse of the Year: Mighty Heart
Two-year-old male: God of Love
Two-year-old female: Mrs. Barbara
Three-year-old male: Frosted Over
Three-year-old female: Munnyfor Ro
Older main track male: Mighty Heart
Older main track female: Skygaze
Turf male: Town Cruise
Turf female: Jolie Olimpica
Male Sprinter: Pink Lloyd
Female Sprinter: Amalfi Coast
Top Jockey: Kazushi Kimura
Top Apprentice Jockey: Mauricio Malvaez
Top Trainer: Mark Casse
Top Owner: Live Oak Plantation
Top Breeder: Sam Son Farms
Top Broodmare: Avie’s Empire
Groom: Denzil Fonseca
E.P. Taylor Award of Merit: Ivan Dalos
Media Awards: Will Wong, Hayley Morrison, Woodbine Entertainment broadcast dept.