TORONTO, Canada – Seven-time champion Patrick Husbands has been paired with one of the favourites, Feeling Funny, for the most expensive race on Saturday’s 11-race card which will mark the return of racing to storied Woodbine racetrack following a delayed start to the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 season was due to get underway in April but was postponed after a government-enforced lockdown due to the outbreak of the pandemic.
While horse racing has been allowed to go ahead following an easing of measures by the Ontario government, no spectators will be allowed and strict physical distancing and sanitisation measures will be enforced.
“I’ve sent a 35-page manual to the Minister of Sport and various levels of government, including the Premier, and we did that, in part, to show how seriously we’ve taken this [re-opening],” said Woodbine chief executive, Jim Lawson.
“We’ve worked so hard to develop this and make our case that we deserve to be in the re-opening of the province, we deserve to have a chance. Now we need to perform.”
Barbadian Husbands, who celebrated his 47th birthday two weeks ago, reunites with champion trainer Mark Casse for the CAN$123 000 maiden special weight event in race four where the three-year-old filly Feeling Funny has attracted early odds of 3-1, going six furlongs against the three-year-old and upward maiden fillies and mares.
Her previous three starts have all come at Gulfstream, including a last-place finish in her last outing in April.
The race is one of four on the day’s card for Husbands who will also suit up in race six over five furlongs with six-year-old gelding Circle of Friends, in another five-furlong sprint in race eight with three-year-old filly Sea Lily and in race nine over 7-½ furlongs with four-year-old filly Oceans of Love.
Husbands is one of several Caribbean riders who are expected to feature in the jockey colony this season, with the likes of fellow Barbadians Juan Crawford, Jason Hoyte and Keveh Nicholls, along with Guyana’s Sunny Singh, Trinidad and Tobago veteran Emile Ramsammy and Jamaican Kirk Johnson all having rides on Saturday’s opening day.
The highlight of the season will be the 161st running of the prestigious million-dollar Queen’s Plate on September 12, which is the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown that includes the $500 000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie two weeks later and the $400 000 Breeders’ Stakes on October 24 back at Woodbine.
Husbands was the last jockey to win the Triple Crown back in 2003 with the legend Wando.