“I will be riding in the Sandy Lane Gold Cup.”
That’s the word from champion Jockey and the internationally acclaimed Patrick Husbands BSS.
Barbados TODAY recently caught up with him at the Garrison Savannah, and he gave a wide-ranging interview spanning from his challenges on leaving Barbados for Woodbine in Canada, to his meteoric rise to fame.
The relaxed and fit-looking Husbands made it clear that the journey had not been easy.
“Some people only see me as Patrick the champion jockey, but many don’t know of the sacrifices and challenges I have encountered,” he said.
Husbands reminisced on 1994 when he first left Barbados as a champion Jockey. His reception at Woodbine, he said, “was everything but inviting”. Indeed it was “a new and unfamiliar experience” and immediately he had thoughts of returning to his homeland.
He spoke of his dismay when he said, “Good Morning, Sir, or Ma’am” and was, “not even looked at, far less getting a response”. After a while he got to tolerate, and although not appreciate, allowed it to pass “as a culture thing”.
Further was to come. Patrick, who was born May 22, 1973, said it took him six weeks after leaving Barbados as a champion jockey to even get an exercise ride.
But that was not all. He was confronted with racism. It was outright and unmasked. Often he was told to his face that “no black man can make it here”.
This more than anything else angered Husbands, and further made him resigned “to return to beautiful Barbados”.
At this point of the interview Patrick paused, and looked somewhat reflective. Then with a nod of the head and a deep breath he declared: “Things have changed there significantly.”
Back then, however, those unprovoked comments impacted on his psyche and he contemplated returning home. However, his brother Anthony who lives in Canada and who is now a trainer there had other plans. He knew and believed in the talent and potential of Patrick and was convinced that he could be a success there on the big stage. He urged him to “stick it a little longer” and Patrick yielded after much persuasion.
Disenchanted with Woodbine, he decided to try his fortune at another race track. So it was off to Forte Erie. The reception there although not encouraging, was a little better than Woodbine. But Husbands revealed that he still had to literally “beg for a ride”.
Luckily, fate was on his side. The talent was already there. When he got that first ride, he won. He remained there for three months and during that time won thirteen races.
But deep in his mind was Woodbine and the unsavoury remarks made to him. Patrick determined that he would find a way to “beat the system and give lie to those comments made to me”.
His plan was to return to Woodbine, gain experience, perfect his riding skills to the highest standard and be a champion jockey.
A tougher, focused Husbands was soon back at Woodbine. With the resumé of thirteen wins acquired at Forte Erie, he was no longer “a new kid on the block”.
Again fate was on his side. His first ride at Woodbine was the beginning of a dream come true as he also won that race. The rest is now history.
Among several successful mounts, Husbands has won six championships in Canada, two Triple Crowns, the Atto Mile, the celebrated Cup and Saucer race, Sovereign Award, Million Dollar and Breeders races and has also ridden in the Kentucky Derby.
Although these accomplishments are supreme and not in the reach of many, the winning of the Gold Cup in Barbados still has a sacred place in Husband’s heart.
“To compete in the view of local fans gives me immense pleasure, and the Gold Cup . . . . it is the bomb,” he enthusiastically remarked.
He told Barbados TODAY he lamented that sometimes he encountered some strange comments from the Barbadian public. He found it amusing that when he rides in Barbados some often said: “I taking food from the Jockeys.” Then, if he didn’t ride at home, some of the same people said: “I forget where I come from.”
Husbands, however, stressed that regardless of the comments he dearly loved Barbados and its citizens and enjoyed competing in the island.
He noted proudly that whenever the season closes in Canada, he packs his bags and his vacation is only spent “in beautiful Barbados”.
He also indicated that he always promoted the island. He regularly speaks to North American-based jockeys, such as good friends Frankie Dettori and Jamie Spencer, with a view of them coming here to showcase their talent.
As to his formula for success, he remarked that from early in his career “I respected the elders and learned to listen and learn. Today I ride smart because from the time the gates open, I analyse how every horse is going and adapt or adjust strategy to suit.”
He also indicated that prior to a race he researched as much information as he could on the opponents.
“Those who know me in Canada know I don’t sleep. I do a lot of reading.”
Husbands also indicated that he sets high standards and certain goals for himself – one being to win no fewer than seven races in a week.
Quizzed as to his most memorable ride on local soil, Husbands said it was difficult to separate between the Gold Cup win on Sterwins and that on Vardar.
He explained that Sterwins’ triumph was great as he knew the horse and knew the track and the excitement he gave to local fans would never be forgotten.
“However, the win on Vardar was special, since I was a young sixteen-year-old, completely oblivious to what was happening around me.”
He reminisced that he had not ridden a horse since then which “came down that homestretch at such speed”.
Unfortunately, the numerous successes of Husbands have been interspersed with injuries, an unavoidable reality for all jockeys. He has had his fair share. Over the years he has had a broken collar, broken jaw, broken left hand, broken right hand, fractured ribs, punctured kidney, shattered left knee and was once in a coma for four weeks with a concussion to the brain.
He paused at that point to express sincere thanks and appreciation to the Reverend Wes Hall who he recalled prayed for him everyday of those four weeks.
But the injuries have never, nor will ever, deter him from being in the saddle.
“Racing is my life, I would have to die on a horse.”