03/31/2011 11:34AM

Woodbine jockeys eager to get started

Michael Burns
Eurico Rosa Da Silva won the Queen's Plate on Big Red Mike last year and went on to be the leading rider at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Eurico Rosa da Silva wasn’t content to stand pat after recording his first Woodbine riding title at the 2010 meeting. Da Silva, 35, already was en route to Aqueduct for a winter campaign when he sat out the final day of the meeting with a suspension.

Now, after fashioning a record of 11-24-11 from 100 Aqueduct mounts, Da Silva is back at Woodbine with positive feelings about his New York experience.

“I think it went very well,” said DaSilva, who won 190 races and was second in money won with $9,176,607 here last year. “There are plenty of good riders there, and when you go, there are fears of the competition. But when you start riding you learn to be comfortable, and get confident in yourself.”

Da Silva did allow himself a week off before returning to work here last Saturday morning.

“It’s going to be a long season,” he said.

Jockeys cranking up for long meet

While Da Silva was able to stick to his game plan for the off-season, that was not the case for local riders Patrick Husbands, Emma-Jayne Wilson, and Luis Contreras.

Husbands, who finished second in races won here with 172 and was tops on the earnings front with $9,235,989, originally had intended to ride at Fair Grounds following a holiday in his native Barbados.

“I was going to ride there but things didn’t work out,” said Husbands.

Husbands wound up making the rounds in Florida and spent time at Palm Meadows, Payson Park, and in Ocala with the occasional trip to Gulfstream, where he was winless from just 10 mounts. He also rode in his homeland on Barbados Gold Cup Day and began the 2011 season with a pair of winners in Trinidad on New Year’s Day.

“I was back and forth, all over,” said Husbands, who returned to the Toronto area from Miami on Monday. “I’m looking forward to another good year.”

Following the opening weekend action, Husbands will be sitting out next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after losing his appeal of a September 2010 suspension.

Wilson headed out to Pennsylvania for a winter at Parx Racing along with her agent, Mike Luider. Wilson was 4 for 39 with 22 in-the-money finishes at Parx but a spate of cancellations there prompted her to move to Florida in early February.

“We wanted to try something a little different, with a little more action, but it didn’t come to fruition,” said Wilson. “We made a shift to Palm Meadows. We had a lot of connections there, and figured we’d stay busy.”

Wilson also made a number of trips to Gulfstream and compiled a record of 2-1-2 from 17 starts there before returning to Toronto in mid-March. Her meeting in Florida wound up on a high note as she returned for an upset score aboard Rahy’s Attorney in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Pan American.

“We’re getting ready to fire up this year,” said Wilson. “My time off last year has made me very eager, and keen.”

The 29-year-old Wilson won 70 races to end seventh in the standings here last year, despite missing almost three months with a lacerated liver.

Contreras moved his tack here in the spring of 2009 as the first-call jockey for trainer Steve Asmussen, with his immigration status allowing him to ride only for American owners. While Contreras had a solid enough campaign that year, with 67 winners, he really came into his own here last October after his status was upgraded to allow him to ride for any outfit.

Contreras, who finally cut through the red tape in October with the help of his new agent, Tony Esposito, went on a roll to finish fourth in the standings with 127 winners.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, Contreras headed home to Mexico for a vacation. He planned to ride at the Fair Grounds before returning to Woodbine but had immigration issues in his homeland and his U.S. campaign wound up consisting of a single mount, a seventh aboard Don Cavallo in the March 19 Tampa Bay Stakes.

“I just got my paperwork for the U.S. that week,” said Contreras, who competed at Mexico City’s Hippodromo de las Americas during his enforced stayover and remains the second-leading rider there with 23 winners.

“I’m ready to get going here now.”

Campbell begins initial local campaign

Jockey Jesse Campbell, who checked in this week after riding out the Fair Grounds meeting, will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Contreras but is hoping for a quicker transition.

“I’ve been working on getting my papers for a long time,” said Campbell, a 33-year-old native of Ohio who has been riding since 1997 and now makes his home in the Chicago area. “I’m hoping to be able to ride for everybody in May.”

Campbell, whose 1,629 career wins include 60 stakes headed by his victory aboard Apart in last year’s $500,000 Super Derby, initially will be allowed to ride only for American owners.

“I’m hoping to ride some for Steve Asmussen,” said Campbell. “I’ve also ridden quite a bit for Mark Casse down at the Fair Grounds and I’ve ridden for Larry Rivelli, who will have horses here.”

Campbell’s history here consists of just one mount, as he finished off the board when riding Honey Gold for trainer Michael Stidham in the My Dear Stakes. But that visit and subsequent conversations with Canadian horsemen during his travels contributed to a favorable impression.

“Woodbine is obviously a big, beautiful place and the money and quality of horses is very good,” said Campbell. “I’ve heard nothing but good about Toronto, too, and it’s not that far from Chicago. I’ve had a home renovation company there for the last five years and it will be easy to pop home if something comes up.”

◗ Da Silva, Wilson, Omar Moreno, Jim McAleney, Corey Fraser, Cassandra Garcea, Caroline Duquet, and Krista Carignan are scheduled to be available for a meet-and-greet beginning at 11:45 a.m. at the main entrance here Saturday.

The jockeys will be handing out mystery betting vouchers worth a minimum amount of $2.

◗ Jim Mazur will host a one-hour seminar beginning at 11 a.m. here Saturday on the second floor of the grandstand. Attendees will receive a free copy of Mazur’s “Winning at Woodbine.”