By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — There is a bit of misinformation floating around about horse trainer Tiffany Husbands.
Evidently people think that she’s the lucky recipient of a stakes winner that just happened to show up in her barn and as a result, she’s become an overnight success.
Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Granted, Husbands is only 28 and yes, this is just her third year as a trainer at Assiniboia Downs. However, to get where she is today and to have the exacting owner of Starfield Stable entrust her with his impressive three-year-old filly Dazzling Gold, has been a 10-year grind – a grind of study, hard work and sheer determination.
This coming Tuesday night, Husbands will watch as jockey Edgar Zenteno tries to coax Dazzling Gold to victory in the biggest race of her young career, the $25,000 Manitoba Oaks. The Oaks is the filly version of the Manitoba Derby and on Tuesday night, seven three-year-olds are slated to run for a first prize of $15,000.
After winning the only two races of her short career, Dazzling Gold is expected to be near the front when the Oaks champion hits the wire a mile from the gate. This is the best horse Husbands has ever had the pleasure to train and she’s obviously confident about Dazzling Gold’s chances. However, she also knows the Oaks isn’t a Manitoba-bred race. She’ll get a challenge from some solid fillies bred in Kentucky, Texas and Florida.
“This year was the first time I ever entered a horse into a stakes race,” Husbands said the other day. “The first year that I had my trainer’s license, I had one horse in my barn. The second year, I had seven. This year, my third as a trainer, I started at 16, but I have 11 left. But I’m growing. I have two grooms who work in my barn now. And I have Dazzling Gold. She’s a really nice horse.
Dazzling Gold has never lost. The three-year-old Manitoba-bred filly owned by Starfield Stable has won her only two career starts – the $25,000 R.C. Anderson Stakes on July 14 and the $25,000 Hazel Wright Stakes on June 23. She won the R.C. Anderson Stakes by eight lengths and the Hazel Wright Stakes by three lengths. However, she’s not the pre-race favourite in the Oaks.
That honour belongs to Kickalittlebooty at 7-5 while the No. 2 favourite is Christmas Dance at 4-1. Dazzling Gold is next at 5-1 on the morning line.
Kickalittlebooty is a Kentucky-bred owned by Brent and Heather Hrymak, trained by Brent Hrymak and ridden by leading jockey Antonio Whitehall. She has run twice this year and finished first in the Chantilly Stakes on June 16 and second in the Jack Hardy Stakes on July 7. She was the upset victor of the Chantilly, paying $34.40 for the win. Then, in the Jack Hardy, she lost by a neck to the second favourite in this Tuesday night’s race, Christmas Dance.
Christmas Dance is a Florida bred owned by Scott Anderson and Shelley Brown, trained by Shelley Brown and ridden by Rafael Zenteno Jr. Like Dazzling Gold, she has had two career races. She finished second in a maiden special weight on June 29 and then, a week later, won the Jack Hardy Stakes on July 7.
Dazzling Gold has never raced against either Kickalittlebooty or Christmas Dance.
“Dazzling Gold really ran well in the Anderson Stakes,” said Husbands. “When the dirt hit her in the face, she got mad. A lot of young horses don’t like it when they get hit in the face with the dirt, but she just got angry and ran harder. She used to be the feistiest horse in the barn, but she’s pretty good now.”
There are a lot of people around the Downs who are thrilled that Husbands has Dazzling Gold, a solid Stakes winner, in her barn. The mother of two has worked her tail off for 10 years at ASD doing just about every job in the backstretch.
“I started at the Downs right out of Carman Collegiate when I was 18,” she said. “I came here with my cousin, Alyssa Selman (the young jockey who was paralyzed from the chest down in a terrible racing accident on June 27, 2015). I moved in with her when she was galloping with Clayton Gray. I was a groom for Clayton Gray in my first year and then, the next year, I worked for Emil Corbel. That’s when I met Chris Husbands.”
Tiffany (nee: VanAssen) and Chris, one of the many great Barbadian jockeys who now rides at Woodbine in Toronto, have two children, a daughter Raelene, who is eight and a son Dominic who is five. Both are regular “workers” in Tiffany’s barn and always by her side.
After working with Corbel, Tiffany spent a year with Robbie Atras and then worked for Tanya Lindsay. It was Lindsay who encouraged Husbands to get her trainer’s license.
“She really pushed me and made me assistant trainer,” Husbands said. “She was amazing to work for. Chris and I lived with her for a while. She always had my back.”
Tiffany worked for Steven Gaskin for a short time and later with Rick Wise, but in 2019, she went out on her own. She still gallops her own horses and says that “works out to my advantage because I really know my horses.”
The horse she is particularly fond of, of course, is Dazzling Gold, a three-year-old Manitoba-bred by True Sense – Gold Nite Destiny by Haus of Dehere is owned and was bred by 78-year-old Jarvis Swereda’s Starfield Stable. Tuesday night, Dazzling Gold has a chance to claim the title of Manitoba’s best three-year-old filly.
“She ran great in her last race going a mile her second time out,” said Husbands. “It was nice to see her run that way.”
It will be even nicer to see her run that way on Tuesday night.
Live racing resumes Monday night at Assiniboia Downs at 7:30. The Manitoba Oaks is Race 5 on Tuesday night and will go to post at about 9:35 p.m.