Jalon Samuel getting ready for his Woodbine debut. (Picture by Hayley Morrison.)
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Barbadian jockey Jalon Samuel will be making his Woodbine debut in the Plate Trial stakes this coming Saturday.
Samuel, who moved his tack from Barbados to Canada earlier this year will be aboard Boyhood Dream, a three-year-old colt owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Michael Maker.
The 24-year-old jockey is no stranger to the limelight or the international stage, having secured three consecutive Gold Cups at the Garrison, while also riding at several racetracks across the U.S. and Canada between 2012 to 2016.
Despite the continued to success at home, Samuel feels hopeful about moving his tack abroad once again and starting a new chapter of his riding career in Toronto.
“It’s a lot more comfortable this time. There’s a lot more Barbadians here. It’s a bit more open to travel from the Ramsey barn, Mike Maker and Nolan (Ramsey). It was a great choice and combination of work,” he said.
After riding Ramsey’s Sir Dudley Digges to victory in this year’s Gold Cup, the jock has continued to work with the owner and trainer at Maker’s newly minted outfit at Woodbine this spring.
Until Samuel secures his Canadian visa, which may roughly take another three months he will only be able to ride foreign owned horses. The transition from working in Barbados to Toronto has been an adjustment for Samuel, not only with integrating into a new jockey colony, but also riding left-handed on a different surface. Yet, the young jock is taking everything in stride.
“So far it’s been a good experience, just a couple of things I have to get into. But as the time goes by it’s coming along. It’s been a nice environment since I’ve been here.”
Not surprisingly there’s some anticipation building towards his first race, The $125,000 Plate Trial stakes which is one of the final prep races for the $1 million Queen’s Plate on June 30. The Trial features three-year-old Canadian-breds running a mile and one eighth (9 furlongs) over Woodbine’s tapeta course.
Ramsey’s track record with regards to horses running in the Trial hasn’t been too shabby to date. In 2014 he won the race with We Miss Artie, who went onto run fourth in the Queen’s Plate. Two years later, pairing up with Mike Maker they sent out Sir Dudley Digges who placed third in the Trial before going onto secure the 2016 edition of the Plate several weeks later. Ken Ramsey’s grandson, Nolan Ramsey is currently running the string of Maker’s horses at Woodbine and feels confident in placing Samuel aboard Boyhood Dream for this race.
“I think Jalon fits the horse well for two big reasons. He is a big horse with a big stride and he can become deceiving as far as judging your pace. So I think it takes an intelligent rider to be able to interpret that and respond accordingly. The second reason is that because he is such a big horse he tends be a ‘one gear’ horse who needs a fit rider who can finish strongly.”
This year’s Plate Trial stakes will feature a formidable field of seven horses including Queen’s Plate winterbook favourite Telekinesis. Trained by Mark Casse the three-year-old son of Ghostzapper was most recently a runner-up in the Gr. 3. Stonestreet Lexington Stakes in April at Keeneland.
Veteran Bajan jockey Patrick Husbands has secured the mount on Telekinesis for this race. Husbands is also set to ride the heavily favoured filly Wonder Gadot in the CAN$500,000 Woodbine Oaks later on in the day.
The rest of the Trial field includes Queenston Stakes winner Silent Sting, Coronation Futurity winner Aheadbyacentury as well as Scrapper, Rose’s Vision and Absolution.
While the competition may be stacked against Boyhood Dream, Ramsey knows what his rider needs to do to get the job done.
“Jalon is a smart rider who I trust to play the race by ear, but he just can’t let the horse get too far back, or else he will find himself with too much to do when he asks the horse for his run. He needs to be put into race a little bit, other than that just hope for a clean trip.”
Like Samuel, his four-legged counterpart, Boyhood Dream is also a newcomer to Woodbine. Breaking his maiden at Keeneland earlier this year, the Dialed In colt made his first start at Woodbine in May going a mile and one sixteenth. Ridden that day by Rafael Hernandez, he finished second to Absolution, another Plate Trial hopeful.
Breezing the colt in the morning, Samuel has been able to get a feel for the horse heading into the big race.
“I like that he’s a big horse, he has a lot of energy and I think the further they go the better for him.”
Carrying his confidence from the island to the big city, Samuel is more than ready to spring forth from the gates on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a good feeling especially to start in a (stakes) race which has high percentage jockeys. I think I will do good in it also.”
Post time for the Plate Trial Stakes will be at 5:32 p.m., while the Woodbine Oaks is set to run at 6:37 p.m.