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Back in the saddle

Husbands returns to riding ahead of schedule; makes first stop the winner's circle

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Jockey Christopher Husbands was racing again last week, less than a month after breaking his shoulder in a track mishap.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jockey Christopher Husbands was racing again last week, less than a month after breaking his shoulder in a track mishap. Photo Store

According to his doctor, there is no way Christopher Husbands should be riding this weekend at Assiniboia Downs.

Perhaps the doctor didn't know the 24-year-old Barbadian jockey as well as he thought he did. If he did, he would have known Husbands is the embodiment of positive thinking, as well as a firm believer that when you fall off your horse, the best thing to do is to get right back into the saddle.

That lesson is one he learned back in 2009 in Barbados when his horse went down in company, and to this day he doesn't recall what happened.

"All I know is what people told me," he said. "I was in a coma for a few months."

'I felt great. I have full use of my shoulder back. When I won, I was mostly happy because I showed them (trainers and owners) that I could still do it. For me, I always knew I could'

-- Christopher Husbands on return to the irons

As soon as he could, Husbands began his comeback, which brought him to this year and his most successful season ever. He was even cocky enough back in May to announce he was making a run for the jockey title.

Then, in the first race on July 27, d©j vu struck. His horse (Malibu Bullet) clipped heals with El Cadet early into the final turn and went down, slamming Husbands head first into the turf.

"I broke my right shoulder and they thought my jaw was broken," he said. We got a better X-ray the next day, and it is just infected (his lower teeth had ripped into the back of his lower lip). My doctor told me I would be out for the rest of the season."

The accident cost him a shot at the Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Aug. 5, when trainer Jim Meyaard had to replace him on Derby favourite It's All Here. In addition, he was also scheduled to ride three other stakes races that day.

"This kid has worked so hard to be here," said Meyaard. "The cards are dealt out in life and Chris was dealt a couple of tough ones, but it could have been worse. He could be in a wheelchair now."

Husbands, however, wasn't having any of what the doctor was telling him and vowed to be back long before the season wound up on Sept. 22. "I'm a young guy, so I think I can heal faster than that," he said at the time.

True to his word, on Aug. 21, the man who his peers along shed row affectionately refer to as Chin, stepped back into the irons and in his first race since the accident, rode Maddie's Gold to victory in the $30,000 Osiris Stakes for two-year-olds.

"I wasn't worried," he said this week. "I felt great. I have full use of my shoulder back. When I won, I was mostly happy because I showed them (trainers and owners) that I could still do it. For me, I always knew I could."

One thing he said has helped him to keep a positive attitude through it all was the faith Meyaard has in him. Meyaard is one of his staunchest supporters and their union has been successful. Husbands has come up aces three times on Meyaard's horses, with three of his stakes wins coming on Lil Missknowitall and It's All Here.

On Labour Day, Meyaard will have him in the saddle of either Lil Missknowitall or Rubyintheruff for the $50,000, mile and an eighth Matron Stakes for fillies and mares.

"I've entered both horses," said the Alberta trainer, "and Chris will have his choice of which one he wants to ride."

"That's a tough decision," mused Husbands, adding he has never ridden Rubyintheruff. "Lil Missknowitall hasn't run for three or four weeks, but Rubyintheruff just ran on Aug. 16 at Northlands Park in Edmonton and won, so she is pretty fit. Maybe I'll just let my agent Shane Ball decide for me."

With only 12 race dates left, Husbands knows the jockey title is now all but out of reach. Still, sitting in fourth place with 36 wins, 23 behind the leader Paul Nolan, he isn't throwing in the towel.

"I really wanted it, but it just didn't happen that way for me, and that bothered me a bit," he maintained, "but I still want it, and I'll still go for it. I still have the drive inside of me."

petto@shaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 30, 2013 C5

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