Barbadian jockey Christopher Husbands wants to set the record straight, back home in the Caribbean and right here at Assiniboia Downs. His message is simple: He can still ride, and he wants the leading jockey trophy; if not this year, as soon as possible.
Husbands, also known as Chin, a nickname hung on him years ago because of his large mandible, says he kind of likes the moniker. "I think it's good. In fact I even use it myself sometimes."
Husbands is off to his best start ever. Heading into tonight's card, he has 12 wins, and is sitting one win back of leading rider, last year's top jockey, Paul Nolan. He is tied with Jennifer Reid, who was last year's runnerup. A little over a week ago, he led by two wins, but the drop hasn't got him worried.
"My agent Shane Ball always tells me not to panic, so I am not panicking yet. But I want to be leading rider. If I don't get it done this year, I have more years, but I want it this year, and I'll do what I have to do to get it done. I think there are a few things I can still improve on. I just have to work on them, and get them right. I just want to win that trophy, that's all."
After his first season here in 2007 (fifth with 33 wins), Husbands went back home and raced there for a year. Then in 2009 he was put into a coma for a couple of months following spill on Boxing Day in Barbados. He says he's been struggling to win back the respect of the racing community ever since.
"Honestly, I don't remember nothing," he said." I don't even remember riding that day. What I know, is what people told me. They said I and the horse fell in the race, but I don't know. If the horse fell, I would have jumped off. Maybe it happened too fast, but I was in a coma for a few months, and I just don't remember anything about it."
If Husbands is superstitious, which he doesn't exactly rule out, his record this far could be considered a good omen, especially if one considers the idea that all good things come in threes.
On three occasions this month, Chin has scored hat tricks. On May 11 he won aboard Justcallmetater, Stormin Arvin and Blind Magic. On May 12 he was on the backs of Artic Fire, Grace O'Malley and Magical Powder. Then on May 18 he rode Lil Missknowitall, Lime Dancer and Juan Might into the winners' circle.
"Sometimes I believe in good luck charms," mused Husbands." In terms of the three hat tricks, I never really looked at it that way, but maybe."
Regardless, he has a good feeling heading into June. "I'm getting a chance to prove myself," he said. "Racing back home is okay, but I get really frustrated sometimes. After the fall, even though I was still winning races, no one anywhere thought that I really could do it (any more). I don't know for sure if it was because of the accident, but it all started after that."
Ball has confidence in his rider, as do many of the trainers who have entrusted their horses to his skills. "He's riding well, he shows up and he's one of the hardest-working riders out there every day. He's getting some good horses to ride, and there are a quite a bit of trainers who use him and they have a lot of faith in him."
For example, with the stakes season just around the corner, Jim Maynard, a top trainer out of Edmonton's Northlands Park, and Carl Anderson, have already put their faith in him. In the $30,000 Golden Boy for three-year-olds on June 5 he'll be aboard Anderson's Jon Q. For the $30,000 La Verendrye on June 8, he'll be on Lil Missknowital, who is trained by Maynard.
Post time for tonight's races is 7:30 p.m.