TORONTO, Canada – Barbadian Patrick Husbands has been hailed as an “artist” after producing a remarkable ride to win the Grade 3 CAN$130 000 Maple Leaf Stakes with favourite Lift Off at Woodbine on Saturday.
Trailing the field by three lengths down the backstretch and still last approaching the final turn, the 46-year-old Husbands put all his decades of dexterity on display, expertly threading the five-year-old bay mare through the crowded stretch to snatch a dramatic victory by 1-¼ lengths.
Six-to-one choice She’s the Berries was second while Lift Off’s stablemate, Theodora B, finished a close third.
All told, Lift Off completed the trip over a mile and a fourth in a time of two minutes, 04.23 seconds for her eighth career win, giving Husbands his 19th stakes success of the season.
“Patrick rode Theodora last time (in the HBPA Stakes Presque Isle Downs last month),” said trainer Michael Dickinson.
“I gave him the choice and I said, ‘in the mornings at home, Theodora is way better than Lift Up. Way better.’ So, I said, ‘do you want to ride Theodora?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘Lift Up, Lift Up and Lift Up.’
“I said, ‘well, you’re making a big mistake, you know, because Theodora is the best.’ But he rode her beautifully, didn’t he? He’s an artist.”
Husbands broke 9-5 chance Lift Off slowly from post number two and lagged behind the nine-horse field as Theodora B produced the early splits of 24.83 seconds and 50.20, with Miss Mo Mentum chasing wide and Lunar Garden in third along the rails.
Inside the five-eighths pole, Theodora B still led but just narrowly ahead of Miss Mo Mentum, with the field beginning to take closer order for the final drive.
With the final turn looming, Husbands ranged Lift Off up along the rails but found himself boxed in at the top of the stretch as the race turned for home.
However, with a furlong to run, Husband hustled Lift Off between the narrowest of seams, splitting Miss Mo Mentum and She’s the Berries and then collaring the leader Theodora B, to storm to the wire first.
“Just looking in the racing form, there was enough speed in there and she’s the type of filly that you’ve got to get shut off at the start,” Husbands said afterwards.
“She shut off and I was just watching those guys the whole way. And when you’re coming, you’ve got to come. You’ve got to try to get through the crowd, you don’t want to go around.
“So I saved all the ground and kept my eyes on the horses who were stopping in front and I just found my way through.”
The victory was one of two on the day’s 11-race card for Husbands who also paired with favourite Painting in race 10 to beat the three-year-old and upward fillies and mares by half-length over 6-½ furlongs.