TORONTO, November 27, 2020 – The jockeys’ race for the 2020 meet title at Woodbine Racetrack went right down to the wire, with Rafael Hernandez edging out Justin Stein in what’s been a heated battle for top honours all season long. With more than double the wins of his closest competition, trainer Mark Casse ran away with his 12th Woodbine training title.
The abbreviated 2020 Woodbine meet, which was scheduled to run through December 13, concluded on Sunday, Nov. 22 after the Government of Ontario issued a minimum 28-day lockdown order for the region of Toronto to begin on Monday, Nov. 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season began on June 6 after its April 18 start date was delayed due to the initial spring COVID-19 lockdowns. The shortened season included 96 race days.
Hernandez and Casse were the hottest combination of the season and teamed up for one final victory before the meet concluded prematurely on Sunday, as two-year-old filly Road to Romance broke her maiden in the third race. They combined to win a total of 37 races, including six stakes, from 117 starts.
Hernandez earned his first Woodbine jockey title with a total of 129 wins at the meet, besting Stein for the honours by just three wins, while his mounts earned in excess of $7.18 million. The 36-year-old reinsman, who moved to Woodbine fulltime during the summer of the 2016 season, finished top three with 154 wins in 2017 and second in the standings behind the now-retired Eurico Rosa Da Silva over the next two years. He accumulated 168 wins at Woodbine in 2018 behind Da Silva’s record-breaking 237 victories, and followed up with a 164-win campaign in 2019.
Among his meet-leading 17 stakes wins this year, Hernandez earned his first Grade 1 victory in the E.P. Taylor Stakes with the Chad Brown-trained filly Etoile and teamed up with Canadian star Pink Lloyd, who won four stakes for trainer Robert Tiller and Entourage Stable.
Stein’s highlights included winning the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile with the Kevin Attard-trained Starship Jubilee and partnering with multiple graded stakes winner Silent Poet, conditioned by Nicholas Gonzalez. His mounts earned in excess of $7.19 million. Kazushi Kimura, who won a pair of graded stakes on Saturday and wrapped up the meet by winning three of the final six races on Sunday, finished third in the jockey standings with 83 wins, ahead of Emma-Jayne Wilson (79) and Luis Contreras (76).
Casse topped the trainer leaderboard with 93 wins during the 2020 season and more than $7.13 million in purse earnings. Norm McKnight, who led all trainers for wins over the past three years, picked up a victory on closing day to own the second spot in the standings with 44 wins while Tiller finished third with 43. Kevin Attard, whose stable amassed $3.51 million in purse earnings, edged out Martin Drexler in fourth with 37 wins. Josie Carroll, who trained winners of 29 races, finished third in the money category with $3.49 million in earnings thanks in part to OLG Canadian Triple Crown stars Mighty Heart and Belichick.
Casse’s Saturday score with Grade 2 Kennedy Road champion Ride a Comet, ridden by Patrick Husbands, marked his 17th stakes triumph of the Woodbine season. Another local highlight for the 59-year-old horseman included winning the Grade 1 Summer Stakes with Gretzky the Great, ridden by Kimura, for owners Gary Barber and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners.
Barber was the leading money-winning owner of the meet with more than $1.56 million in purses followed by Stronach Stables ($1.24 million) and Live Oak Plantation ($1.14 million). Meanwhile, Bruno Schickedanz topped the win column with 35 successful starters, followed by Barber’s 17 victories.
For more information and the latest updates on the 2021 Woodbine meet, visit Woodbine.com.
Photo Credit: Michael Burns