Patrick Husbands, who guided Canadian Hall of Famer Wando to a memorable Triple Crown score in 2003, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award.
With more than 2,700 wins to his name and a staggering seven Sovereign Awards as Canada's outstanding rider, Husbands has been a fixture at the top of the Woodbine jockey standings for two decades.
"I've heard all the stories about Gomez. He was a top class rider and no one ever has a bad word to say about him," said Husbands. "When I came to Canada, I always hoped that it would turn out good, but I never dreamed that one day I would be at a stage to receive this award named for one of the greatest jockeys ever to ride at Woodbine. It's an absolute honor."
The coveted Gomez Award is given to the person, Canadian-born, Canadian-raised, or a regular rider in the country for more than five years, who has made significant contributions to the sport.
The memory of his Triple Crown run with Wando, particularly in light of the historic quest by California Chrome this Saturday at Belmont, remains in the forefront for Husbands, 41, originally from Bridgetown, Barbados and now a Brampton, Ontario resident. In August, Wando will be inducted into Canada's Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
"There were so many butterflies. I hadn't won a Queen's Plate yet and when it happened with Wando it was unbelievable," recalled Husbands. "And to win a Triple Crown, that took many months to sink in. Wando was a true champion."
Presented annually on Woodbine Oaks day at Woodbine, the honor is named in memory of one of the sport's most heralded and loved performers. The Cuban-born Gomez died of complications after a three-horse accident in the 1980 Canadian Oaks.