12/01/2009 1:00AM

Da Silva puts together career year

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Michael Burns
Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva is wrapping up the best season of his six-year career at Woodbine, which includes winning the Queen's Plate aboard Eye of the Leopard (left).

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva already had galloped and worked several horses here at Woodbine the other morning and now was on his way to tae kwon do class.

"It's helped me, mentally and physically," said da Silva, of the Korean martial arts discipline which he has been studying for 4 1/2 years. "It's always challenging; there's always something to work on."

Da Silva has held his first-degree black belt in tae kwon do for the past 2 1/2 years.

Of course, Da Silva devotes the majority of his energy to the racetrack and his hard work and talent have enabled him to produce the best numbers of his North American career in his sixth season at Woodbine.

After sitting out the previous three racing days with a suspension, Da Silva heads into Thursday's card with 119 winners, another 185 second- or third-place finishes, and earnings of $7,007,762 from 675 mounts at the Woodbine meeting.

His success comes following his breakthrough year here in 2008 when he upped his races won total by more than 20 to 105, his winning stakes total from six to 13, his purses earned by more than $2.2 million to $5.9 million, and was a Sovereign Award finalist for the first time.

"It's been my best year, by far," said Da Silva, 34, who had ridden in his native Brazil and in Macao before relocating here along with his wife, Claudia, in 2004. "I rode some great horses this year. It's been beautiful, winning the Queen's Plate, going to Keeneland to win with Fatal Bullet, having a chance to ride in the Breeders' Cup again. I've been very blessed."

Da Silva has won 15 stakes at the meeting, second only to the 20 recorded by Patrick Husbands heading into Wednesday's program. His successes have included the Queen's Plate and Plate Trial with Eye of the Leopard, the Bold Venture and Keeneland's Grade 3 Phoenix with Fatal Bullet, the Grade 3 Grey with Bear Tough Guy, and the Grade 3 Mazarine with Biofuel.

Fatal Bullet went on to finish sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita while Biofuel was an unlucky fourth in the Juvenile Fillies.

Locally, six of Da Silva's stakes scores here have come for trainer Malcolm Pierce. Five were for Reade Baker, two for Mark Frostad, and one apiece for Mike Doyle and Nick Gonzalez.

"I ride pretty much for everyone," said Da Silva. "My agent, Don Parente, is doing a great job for me."

Following his previous campaigns here, Da Silva has taken a brief vacation following the end of the meeting and then jetted off to ride in Singapore or Macao.

"I haven't had a break since I've been to Canada," said Da Silva, who will head to Brazil after Christmas for a holiday in Sao Paulo with family.

Then, Da Silva has planned something completely different as he will visit the ecological wonderland of Pantanal, which extends from Brazil into Bolivia and Paraguay and is home to an incredibly diverse group of flora and fauna.

"I've always dreamt to do it, and this is the time," said da Silva.

Husbands improves all-around numbers

Husbands, who will be taking home his third straight riding title and is in line for a third straight Sovereign Award and a seventh overall as Canada's outstanding jockey, went down to the wire before clinching the title on the final day last year.

But there has been no such suspense this season as Husbands opened up early and has never looked back.

Heading into Wednesday's program, Husbands, 36, had ridden 181 winners, 48 more than runner-up Chantal Sutherland, for purses of $10,557,837. His number of overall wins, stakes wins, and purses won all are career highs.

"I'm still looking for a few more wins," said Husbands, who will have his usual quota of live mounts during the final week of the meeting even though he will be serving a one-day suspension on Thursday.

Husbands, who is in his third year with agent Gary Kemplen, has been closely allied with trainer Mark Casse's barn in previous seasons.

And, although Husbands has continued to ride for Casse that arrangement has become far from exclusive.

"The big difference this year is I've been riding for the whole racetrack," said Husbands. "That's been the highlight of my career."

Husbands plans to head south following the conclusion of the meeting to take care of some personal and other business in Barbados and eventually will wind up back at Fair Grounds for a winter campaign.

Husbands, who had been based in New Orleans for the past two winters before moving to California to ride for Casse's California division last year, will be on call for Woodbine-based trainers Malcolm Pierce, Josie Carroll. and Mark Frostad at Fair Grounds.

Kentucky Bear sells for $100,000 as stallion

The stallion prospect Kentucky Bear brought $100,000 to top the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's annual winter mixed sale at the Woodbine Sales Pavilion on Saturday.

Bear Stable and partner purchased Kentucky Bear, a Grade 1-placed 4-year-old, who was campaigned by Bear Stable. Cara Bloodstock, as agent, consigned Kentucky Bear, a son of Mr. Greeley and stakes winner Tate.

The highest-priced broodmare was Keys to Heaven, who was sold for $23,000 while in foal to Corinthian. Josham Farm, as agent, bought Keys to Heaven from Sam-Son Farm.

A total of 110 head sold for $590,100, a gross which was 77 percent higher than last year, when 101 head yielded $332,900. The average of $5,365 was 63 percent higher than last year's average of $3,296. Forty-six were listed as not sold, compared with 71 in 2008.

w Authors Lou Cauz and Beverley Smith will be on hand from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday on the second floor of the grandstand here for the launch of "The Plate: 150 Years of Royal Tradition from Don Juan to Eye of the Leopard." The book will be offered here at a sale price of $24.95. The list price is $39.95.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink