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McAleney rebounds into top spot
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Jockey Jim McAleney broke a leg just before the start of the 2007 Woodbine meeting, and returned with a newfound determination that August.
McAleney's drive to succeed has carried over to the 2008 Woodbine session, where he led the standings with 155 winners heading into the final two weeks of the meeting.
"When my leg broke, you'd naturally view it as a negative," said McAleney, a 39-year-old native of Fort John, British Columbia, who won Sovereign Awards as Canada's outstanding apprentice in 1987 and 1988.
"But it allowed me to get more focused, physically and mentally, than I've ever been before. I came back with a new appreciation for what I was doing."
McAleney, who spent some time visiting the Canadian outfits in Florida last winter with his agent, Danny Williams, was more than ready to answer the bell when the current meeting began on April 5. After recording top-five finishes in races won here from 2002 through 2006, McAleney believed a title was in reach.
"Every year, I had the intention of being leading rider," said McAleney. "I didn't think we couldn't. But a lot of years, I had to imply that positive attitude. This year, it came naturally.
"Over the last three years, we'd moved to put ourselves in place. Any given year, I knew we could go over the top."
McAleney was prominent from the outset and has led the pack in races won since mid-June.
McAleney attributes a good part of his success to his new alliances, which he forged this year with trainers such as Steve Asmussen, who has a division at Woodbine for the first time, and Sid Attard, who is perennially among the leading trainers here.
Through last weekend, McAleney had won with 34 of 190 starters at the meeting with Asmussen and 14 of 57 with Attard.
His other successful combinations included a 25-for-61 record with trainer Terry Jordan; an 18-for-113 record with Reade Baker, who in previous years had been McAleney's key patron; and a 10-for-36 mark with Lorne Richards.
"Danny's done a fantastic job," said McAleney. "He's not just being an agent, he's managing our business. He's diversified it, and allowed people to see I'm willing to ride the best horse of what's offered to us.
"Getting into Asmussen's barn seemed to get our business going. We've been able to fill in all the gaps - maiden allowance, 2-year-olds, stakes.
"I'm very grateful to Reade. His support, for the last five or six years, got us to where we're at."
McAleney also stood second in money won with $8.2 million heading into Wednesday evening's card. Patrick Husbands was the leader in the category, with $8.7 million, and stood second in races won.
With five stakes races remaining at the meeting, McAleney and Husbands were tied in that category with eight wins apiece.
While McAleney cannot single out an individual highlight for the season, he does look back on a two-week span early this summer in which he won four stakes.
Two of those successes came for Asmussen, in the June 30 My Dear with Juliet's Spirit and the July 12 Dance Smartly with The Niagara Queen. The others were for trainer Kevin Attard, as McAleney picked up the mounts on Nick Knew for the June 29 Bison City and Bucephalus for the July 5 Clarendon.
McAleney also had the singular distinction of riding a horse named in his honor: Jimmymac Bear, a Texas-bred 2-year-old who is trained by Baker and races for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion.
"I typically haven't been one to crave the spotlight, and I was unsure of how it would work out," said McAleney. "But he ran so well when he broke his maiden, and he's training very well. It's very exciting."
Jimmymac Bear has seen action twice, finishing fourth over 6 1/2 furlongs on turf and then graduating over 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack, and is pointing for the $125,000 Display over 1 1/16 miles here Dec. 6.
Looking below the border
McAleney is working on obtaining his green card, which would allow him to ride for American owners in the United States.
"There are more American trainers coming here, and we'll try and make some contacts," said McAleney. "It helps if you know who you're putting on."
Meanwhile, McAleney's immediate plans following the windup of the meeting here Dec. 7 include the Jockeys' Benefit Association of Canada's annual meeting in Las Vegas and a holiday in his hometown.
Husbands reflects on year
Husbands, 35, has been Woodbine's leading rider on four occasions since moving here from Barbados in 1994. He also has won five Sovereign Awards as outstanding jockey and is a likely finalist along with McAleney in that category this year.
"I had a lot of high hopes, and some things went wrong," said Husbands. "But, I had an extremely good year."
Husbands, who has recorded 58 wins from 317 starters in tandem with trainer Mark Casse, has no difficulty in identifying the high point of his season.
"It was the Breeders' Cup, with Sealy Hill," said Husbands, who piloted that 4-year-old filly to a second-place finish in this year's Filly and Mare Turf. "We had a trip that was out of this world. It was a great feeling.
"At Woodbine she always wanted to go left, go right, or pull herself up."
Husbands himself will be going straight to New Orleans following the conclusion of this meeting to join his agent, Gary Kemplen, for a second campaign at the Fair Grounds.
Last year, Husbands did not start riding there until Jan. 10 and compiled a record of 14-6-13 for earnings of $487,000 through the balance of his stay.
Casse, who had a division in New Orleans for the first time last year, is eyeing another new frontier this winter as he also is sending a string to California.
"I got established in New Orleans last year," said Husbands. "Everyone's getting to know me. Mark's sending his best stock to California, but if I went there, I'd have to start all over.
"After the Fair Grounds, I just want to play it by ear. I'll see what direction Mark takes at Keeneland."
Sale viewing begins
Horses entered in Saturday's Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society winter mixed sale will be available for inspection beginning at 9 a.m. on Friday.
A total of 187 horses - 104 broodmares, 31 weanlings, 27 yearlings, 24 horses of racing age, and one stallion - have been cataloged for the sale, which begins at 2 p.m.
The sale will be broadcast live at cthsont.com.