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Patrick Husbands ready to ride

April 13th, 2022

Prestigious Woodbine will open its gates in April for the first time in three years when the new campaign at the southern Ontario venue gets underway in Canada on Saturday.

Known for its April start and December wrap, the Woodbine season was forced to begin in June for the last two years due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns of provinces and virtually all recreational activity.

Several Caribbean riders, headlined by legendary Barbadian Patrick Husbands, will be part of the colony for the April 16 to December 11 campaign.

“The familiar sounds of the thoroughbreds storming around the Toronto oval has been absent over the past two springs due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing the operation of live racing in Ontario,” a statement from organisers said.

“Both the 2020 and 2021 seasons did not begin until June, nearly two months later than originally planned.”

The 2022 season will see 133 race dates, with more than CAN$16.9 million set to be dished out in stakes races, 37 of which will be graded stakes.

As usual, the season will be highlighted by the 163rd running of the Queen’s Plate, which is the first leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, which includes the Prince of Wales Stakes at nearby Fort Erie and the Breeders’ Stakes back at Woodbine.

The famed Woodbine Oaks – the first leg of the Triple Tiara – is also on the schedule for this season along with the Woodbine Mile.

“To have opening day back in its usual position on the calendar is very important to not only our operations at Woodbine, but also the livelihoods of our racing participants,” said Woodbine CEO,  Jim Lawson.

“Having had so much uncertainty throughout our last two seasons it provides great relief to start our season in mid-April and look ahead at a full racing calendar.”

The 48-year-old Husbands will return for yet another season after indicating last December that the 2021 campaign may have been his last.

A seven-time Sovereign Award winner for Canada’s top jockey and the last rider to ever win the Triple Crown with the peerless Wando 19 years ago, Husbands spent the winter months in Barbados recuperating and his agent Leroy Trotman said he would be ready for opening day.

“He was just a little tired and frustrated at the end [of last season],” Trotman was quoted as saying.

“One of the things with Patrick, you’re going from riding six to seven horses a day to sometimes riding none or riding one or two, so there was a little bit of frustration. 

“And he’s not a young pup anymore, and he was getting tired and the pain from all the injuries he’s had. But after you go home and relax a little bit [you feel better].”

Husbands finished fourth last season with 67 wins and earnings of $3.7 million.

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