Chris Husbands is no stranger to the Garrison or the Gold Cup for that matter. Born and raised in Barbados, the 30-year-old jock has ridden in five Gold Cup races over the last 14 years. His last mount was Derby Kitten in the 2016 edition of the race. On March 7, he will pilot Rising Star in hopes of claiming Gold Cup glory as well as securing the $60,000 US ($120,000 BDS) purse attached to the win.
A veteran horseman, Husbands started his career at the Garrison Savannah about 15 years ago. In 2006, at the tender age of 16, he captured the Trinidad Derby with Sara’s Music. A year later, Husbands moved his tack to Assiniboia Downs. He captured two riding titles out west before moving his tack in 2015 to Woodbine. Last year, he captured the Puss n Boots Cup Stakes with Reallylikethisone as well as the Andy Passero Memorial Cup stakes with Surfs Edge at Fort Erie.
Returning to Barbados to ride in his sixth Gold Cup, the jock remains pretty confident in his mount. Despite Rising Star’s troubled trip in the Coolmore, Husbands now has a proper feel for the horse.
“I love most that he can handle the turns. That was my biggest fear going into the Coolmore, but he had handled the track pretty good. You know, most horses that just ship in, they don’t really take the turns too well, they are so tight. But he handled the track moving pretty nice and it was good,” said Husbands.
Nestled in the heart of the south coast, The Garrison Savannah features some pretty tight and compact turns. The tight turns can be somewhat dauting for horses who’ve shipped from abroad and have also never run clockwise. Yet, with the Coolmore done and somewhat dusted, Husbands thinks the Canadian-bred colt will find his footing next time.
“Well, judging from the last race and from those other horses, I like that he can get the distance and I’ve just gotta keep him out of trouble,” said Husbands.
Interestingly, Husbands will face off against his brother and Champion Barbadian jockey Rasheed Hughes. Hughes has been working Rising Star in the morning while Husbands was riding at Tampa Bay. Hughes will be looking for back-to-back Gold Cup wins on Celestial Storm. The classy grey mare and daughter of Get Stormy is owned and trained by Roger Parravicino.
Although Rising Star doesn’t know it (or maybe he does), the colt will be carrying the hopes and fervent dreams of a first Gold Cup win for both trainer and jockey.
Husbands is quick to admit that winning the Cup would be a special moment in his riding career.
“It would be awesome – that’s the truth. I don’t think words can explain it, but it would be pretty good.”
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The youngest rider ever to win the prestigious Trinidad Derby at 16, Husbands learned to ride on a retired thoroughbred racehorse named Carrot Top while staying with his aunt and uncle, Wendine and Michael St. Hill. He then attended jockey school in Barbados, where the person in charge couldn’t remember his name. Instead, they nicknamed him “Chin”, a name that sticks today.
“Chin” won with the fourth mount of his career and went on to become the 2005 Champion Apprentice in Barbados. The next year he became the youngest jockey in history to win the prestigious Trinidad Derby. He also rode in jockey competitions which included star jockeys Patrick Husbands and Jono Jones, whom he credits with helping him learn the finer points of the riding game.
Husbands first ventured to Assiniboia Downs in 2007 and won 33 races. He then returned home to ride under contract in 2008 and 2009, but after a terrible spill on Boxing Day of 2009, his career was all but over.
“I don’t remember much about the spill,” said Husbands pointing to scars from the accident. “All I remember is that my horse fell. After that everything is a blank. I spent about two months in hospital. When I first started back it wasn’t going that well. My career was going in the wrong direction. I felt like no one believed in me anymore. I finished up well last year, but it was still tough to convince them I was back.”
In an effort to revive his career, Husbands decided to give Assiniboia Downs another shot this year. He worked hard in the mornings, getting on 15-20 horses a day, earned himself some live mounts, and won with them for name trainers including Blair Miller, Gary Danelson, Chad Torevell, Murray Duncan, and Tanya Lindsay.
Husbands wasn’t cocky after his six-win weekend, which is always a good sign. And the fact that he called the three most important women in his life on Mother’s Day: his mother Paula, his grandmother Roslyn, and his girlfriend Tiffany, with whom he has a 10-month-old Canadian daughter named Raelene; speaks well for his future success.
“My goal is to be leading rider,” said Husbands quietly. “I know it’s going to be tough, but I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to get there. If I don’t win it won’t be for lack of trying. I’m all in. I’m going for it.”
“And I’m just getting warmed up.”