Patrick Husbands, who guided Hall of Fame hero Wando to a memorable Triple Crown score in 2003, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award.
With more than 2700 wins to his name and a staggering seven Sovereign Awards as the nation's outstanding rider, Husbands has been a fixture at the top of the Woodbine jockey standings for two decades.
“I've heard all the stories about Gomez. He was a top class rider and no one ever has a bad word to say about him,” said Husbands. “When I came to Canada, I always hoped that it would turn out good, but I never dreamed that one day I would be at a stage to receive this award named for one of the greatest jockeys ever to ride at Woodbine. It's an absolute honour.”
The coveted Gomez Award is given to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised or regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
A 41-year-old native of Bridgetown, Barbados, now residing in Brampton, Ontario, Husbands became the youngest rider ever to win the prestigious Cockspur Cup in his hometown of Barbados at the age of 16. He would go on to win the 1993 Barbados riding title at Garrison Savannah before moving his tack to Woodbine for the 1994 meet.
He captured his first Sovereign Award in 1999, a year in which he led the Woodbine colony in virtually every category, winning 177 races from 998 starts and purse earnings of $5,496,941.
His notable wins include a stunning score in the 2001 edition of the Grade 1, $1-million Woodbine Mile with Numerous Times, and a prosperous trip to Belmont Park where he guided Exciting Story to a famous 56-1 victory in the same year's $750,000 Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.
In addition to riding Wando through an historic Triple Crown run, Husbands was also the regular pilot of 2007 Horse of the Year, Sealy Hill, and made his Kentucky Derby debut in 2006 riding Seaside Retreat for trainer Mark Casse.
The memory of his Triple Crown run with Wando, particularly in light of California Chrome's historic run this Saturday at Belmont, remains in the forefront for Husbands.
“There were so many butterflies. I hadn't won a Queen's Plate yet and when it happened with Wando it was unbelievable,” recalled Husbands. “And to win a Triple Crown, that took many months to sink in. Wando was a true champion.”
Known as a strong, durable rider with impeccable finishing ability, Husbands has compiled an impressive 235 stakes wins, of which 55 are graded efforts, and he continues to compete at the highest level having already captured three stakes wins this campaign.
Presented annually on Woodbine Oaks day at Woodbine, the honour is named in memory of one of the sport's most heralded and loved performers. The Cuban-born Gomez died of complications after a three-horse accident in the 1980 Canadian Oaks.
To commemorate his contributions to the sport, a life-size statue of Gomez, who called Toronto home and raised a family there, keeps watch over Woodbine's willow-laden walking ring. A replica is presented to each year's honouree.
Husbands joins Ron Turcotte, Johnny Longden, Sandy Hawley, Don MacBeth, Chris Rogers, Jeff Fell, Lloyd Duffy, Hugo Dittfach, Robin Platts, Larry Attard, Don Seymour, David Gall, Richard Grubb, Irwin Driedger, David Clark, Jim McKnight, Chris Loseth, Richard Dos Ramos, Robert Landry, Francine Villeneuve, Sam Krasner, John LeBlanc Sr., George Ho Sang, Jack Lauzon, Robert King Jr., Stewart Elliott, Emile Ramsammy, Steve Bahen and Mickey Walls as Gomez honourees.
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