Champion jockey Patrick Husbands sees Barbados as the Las Vegas of horseracing in the Caribbean but says that until a race track is built the sport locally will remain behind.
The 47-year-old Husbands who is contemplating retirement at the end of this year said Barbados has the worst race track in the world and yet has the biggest purse in the Caribbean.
“I was saying so for the last decade. Anytime they build a race track here, the whole of England and Canada will move here. Horseracing in the Caribbean is here. Barbados is the Las Vegas of the Caribbean in everything. We just need a race track.
“Barbados is the only race track open to the public. So, that is why the Barbados race track is the only race track closed down in the world all last year because it is open to the public. So, they can’t run races.
“If Barbados’ race track was enclosed, I guarantee that the prime minister would let races run. But you see Trinidad, Jamaica and the whole world are still running races during the pandemic,” he said.
An avid road tennis player, Husbands spent the last couple of weeks keeping fit by playing several matches in his Hart’s Gap community located near the Garrison Savannah.
This is in preparation for the 2021 thoroughbred season scheduled to commence April 17 at the Woodbine race track in Canada where he has made his name.
During an interview with Barbados TODAY, Husbands, one of the greatest ever Barbadian jockeys, said that when it came to talent in the sport Barbados was blessed. From Sir Michael Stoute in England to Saffie Joseph Jr in Canada (both trainers), Husbands noted there were a number of gifted individuals at several levels in horseracing.
“When you say football you would say Argentina, when you say hockey you say Canada, when you say basketball you say the United States of America. When you say horseracing you have to point your fingers at Barbados in all circles – jockeys, grooms, trainers,” Husbands said.
He added: “In the outside world it takes them two years to learn to ride. Here in Barbados, in six weeks a gardener, anybody can learn to ride here in Barbados because we are natural.
These guys here, look how tight this track (Garrison) is and they give ten of these guys licence one time. So, if you don’t know how to ride, you would get hurt here. But these guys are just natural. Barbados is blessed when it comes to horse racing.”
Husbands, with a stellar career of 137 stakes in North America, 29 of which are graded, stressed however that Barbados needed to get updated if it wanted to capitalise on the talent that exists.
“To me as a professional rider, horseracing in Barbados has left the Garrison about 30 years ago. We need to get updated. We have good riders all over right now. Everybody wants to come back home and ride.
“We have the Irish, the English want to come to Barbados and ride for the winter. We have Canadian jockeys who want to come here. The owners want to come here but there is no race track here,” Husbands stressed.
Despite the need for Barbados to get with the times when it comes to horseracing, Husbands however mentioned that he was thrilled to see night racing staged for the first time last year at the Garrison Savannah. It was the first time in horseracing history that night racing took place anywhere in the Caribbean.
Husbands became the youngest rider to win the Cockspur Gold Cup at age 16. For the first time since its inception in 1981, the prestigious Gold Cup sponsored by Sandy Lane did not take place this year. Noting it was unfortunate that the race had not come off, Husbands nevertheless said he does not watch local horse racing because of the treatment meted out to him.
“The Gold Cup has been around since 1981, it is the most prestigious race in the Caribbean. I win races all over. From California, back from the south to the north, all over, and to me the stand out is winning the Gold Cup,” Husbands said.
He added: “You go down to the gates and the guys wish that you break your neck. They curse you. And when you are outside of Barbados everybody says you are a champion. Trinidad loves me, Jamaica loves me. Every track I race at everybody just freaking out just to meet me and stuff.
“I’m right here in Barbados and all they want me to do is break my neck, this and that. It is a big turn off. I am being honest, I haven’t watched Barbados horseracing for many years because I can’t stand watching Barbados horseracing. But in Trinidad, Martinique, and all over, the people love me like cook food.”
Based in Canada where he has lived for the past 26 years, Husbands has won numerous championships and awards including the National Sports Council’s Sports Personality of the Year.
Husbands said he is looking forward to a good year in 2021 even though his career has been reduced to three races a day since his life-threatening injury back in 2013.
As to what his future holds in horseracing Husbands said: “I would decide if this is my last year. But I am looking to come back home. That is my thought right now.”