FULL STORY: Hoping to ride it out
WITH?tears in his eyes, Barbados’ leading jockey, Patrick Husbands, said he would retire if doctors recommended more surgery for a right leg injury he sustained last year.
That means racing fans may see him on his last ride at the Garrison Savannah at next week’s Sandy Lane Gold Cup Day.
Speaking to the WEEKEND NATION at his Platinum Heights, Christ Church home where he has been recuperating, Husbands became emotional as he explained that he would likely know at the end of next month whether he would ever ride again.
“I?leave Barbados two weeks from now and I will go riding in Miami and then go off to Kentucky for two weeks before the Woodbine race starts back,” he said. “When I go back to Kentucky and I see the weather I will be able to tell from there if I have to go back to surgery. If I have to go back surgery I will be done.
“As the Lord above knows, I hope that I won’t have to go back to surgery. I am not limping right now and I am not in pain anymore but if I have to go to surgery that will be the end of my career,” said the Canadian-based jockey as he buried his face in his hands, wiping away tears.
Husbands was injured last May when he was thrown off a horse while riding at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.
He recalled that it was his birthday and he had planned to ride three horses before heading home to a big birthday bash with his friends, many of who had flown to Canada to celebrate the occasion.
“I told my agent I only wanted to ride three horses. I rode my first race and won; the second race the horse fell down right by the wire – he had a heatstroke because it was very humid in Canada. When I looked my leg was broken clean off. I told everyone still keep the party going, not to visit me at the hospital.”
While he was given six months to recover, Husbands said he healed quickly, or so he thought, and in three months he was back riding horses.
??Pain came back
??“I dominated the last three-and-a-half months of horse racing in Canada. I was good and then the pain came back with an aggressiveness, so I had to quit riding.
“I told my boss that I was done for the rest of the year but he told me not to quit, just stay home in the morning and ride in the afternoon. I went back and see my doctor and he told me that he had done about thirty-something surgeries and I was the only one who returned.
He told me I had an option, either give yourself the rest of the winter off or you can come back to surgery; so I told him I am going to beautiful Barbados.”
While here he has been undergoing physical therapy and taking a lot of sea baths and, apart from hurting his foot again last week during an incident at home, Husbands said he was trying to be optimistic about his career.
“Everything is still on pause right now in terms of when I head back to Miami. In other words it can be the end of my career or it could be surgery.”
But for the time being, the successful jockey, who also lives in Canada, has put his fears on the back-burner as he prepares for next week’s feature race – the Sandy Lane Gold Cup.
Husbands said he was contacted only a week ago by American racing tycoon Kenneth Ramsay to ride his eight-year-old Major Marvel, which has won 22 of 53 career starts and did extremely well last year, winning most of his races.
“I don’t know too much about him (though) I understand I ride him about six years ago,” the jockey said. “I get a little word that I won with him once. I went on the computer and see that he won his last race in December and I just watch the race,” said an upbeat Husbands, who added that horse racing in Barbados was “just break out the gates and try to win”, unlike Canada and the United States where a lot more analysis went into the races.
“In Canada we have a big galloping track. You have to read the racing form; read up on the horses, what time the gates fly. You have to analyse the race; four furlongs out is where a race really takes off. When these horses start to stop in the last quarter mile you have to make sure you ain’t behind that guy, so it’s not as easy as everybody thinks it is. At the end of the day you still have to win to make you a champion and when you are a champion everybody wants you, so you always have to pick your spots and pick your time,” said the seven-time Sovereign Award winner for top jockey.
Asked where he saw the future of horse racing in Barbados, Husbands said it was going nowhere fast.
??Worst race track
?“We have the worst race track in the Caribbean,” was his unapologetic assessment of the Garrison Savannah.
“I was saying for the last 12 years it cannot get any better. I wanted to speak to people here in Barbados because people from Canada would like to come to Barbados. Everywhere I turn in Toronto people always say to me: ‘Why don’t they build a race track in Barbados’?”
As far as he is concerned horse racing in Barbados will never improve if it continues to be managed by who he calls “the old folks”.
“ . . . We have the worst race track in the Caribbean and we have the biggest purses. The Trinidadians don’t want to come here. The Jamaicans don’t want to come here, nobody wants to come here to run their horses at the Garrison race track.
“I speak my mind. When it comes to speaking to the directors of the Barbados Turf Club; that is their club. The only way the track will move from there is when those people die out for the younger generation to move the race track. My suggestion to the Barbadian Government in terms of bringing people to invest in Barbados, is to leave the Garrison, get a temporary race track and just run the horses on the temporary race track and let Barbadians see what it will do for Barbados.
Husbands predicted that a new track would spark the interest of the younger generation and also lead to major investments in Barbados from racehorse owners all over the world.
“People want to hear the best horse from England is coming or the best horse from the United States is coming and the best jockey is coming. That is why the Gold Cup is so exciting because you always have a horse coming in for it. Even if there is one horse coming in you still have a big crowd but after the Gold Cup not a boy at the Garrison.”
Yet, Husbands who has won three Gold Cup races and is still the only jockey apprentice to win the prestigious race at 16 years old in 1990, said riding in Barbados was still very dear to his heart.
“Barbados Gold Cup to me is like a Grammy Award. I have won big races all over the world where I can’t wait to get my cheque but when I win the Gold Cup it is not about the money, it is about being at home.”