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Taylor: The New Kid at the Downs is Red Hot

July 4, 2024 4:04 PM | Sports

By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)

Presented by:

Assiniboia Downs

Rachaad Knights

Assiniboia Downs jockey Rachaad Knights. (SCOTT TAYLOR PHOTO)

WINNIPEG — Rachaad Knights started his budding professional jockey career on a donkey in Barbados.

“Back home in Barbados, I lived about five minutes from the racetrack,” he recalled. “A neighbour used to have a donkey. My cousins, my brothers, we all used to live in the same area and we all used to get on the donkey and ride him all over. You could say I got into horse racing because I lived near the racetrack and I could ride a donkey.

“We liked riding the donkey. We’d actually gallop the donkey. But I really wanted to get to the racetrack, so I knew that everything it going there at about 5 in the morning so I’d ride my bicycle up there. I was nine at the time and we lived by the racetrack in Saint Michael and I really wanted to get into the thoroughbreds but we moved to Saint George, up where Antonio Whitehall lived and I knew Antonio from the racetrack. He had a horse and he put me on it and said, ‘Oh, you can handle yourself,’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ so I started going to the racetrack with him.

“It was on a Saturday during the race meet, he introduced me to an owner/trainer named Mr. John Chandler. He told me I could start exercising horses on Monday. Mr. Chandler gave me everything – he gave me my exercise license, my racing license and he also gave me my first ride. I got my first win on a horse trained by the late Mr. Boston John.”

It would be a major understatement to suggest that Knights has come a long way since his childhood days riding a donkey near the racetrack,

This summer, Knights has been the talk of Assiniboia Downs ever since the virtually unknown newcomer won Race 4 on opening night back on May 20 aboard Brody’s Streak for trainer Tom Gardipy Jr. Over the last nine nights of racing, he’s been red-hot and is now, somewhat remarkably, second in the jockey standings. Not bad for a 26-year-old who has been trying to get to Winnipeg since 2018.

“I got here through Antonio Whitehall who is also from Barbados,” Knights explained. “Damario Bynoe, Sachin Parris, Shavon Belle and Renaldo Cumberbatch are also all from Barbados. Whitehall had been trying to get me here for five years now and finally got the chance. I’ve been really fortunate to get lots of chances to ride and it’s been a great opportunity.

“All I can do is work hard every day and live to the reputation that I can be a champion jockey. I had been applying to come here since 2018 and then COVID came, but I’m so happy to be here now and I want to prove to Whitehall that I can be as good as he thought I could be.”

Prayven Badrie continues to lead the way in the jockey race. Badrie, who once again won twice this past week, continues to lead with 20 wins, 15 seconds and 11 third-place finishes and $179,040 in earnings for his owners. He’s made 71 starts this season.

With his four wins, Knights is now tied for second with his good friend Damario Bynoe. Bynoe won once this week and now has 16 wins, 13 seconds and eight thirds and $180,467 in winnings. Knights, who has 10 wins in the nine nights of racing, has 16 wins, seven seconds and eight thirds and $143,390 in earnings.

Whitehall, Knight’s close friend and the defending jockey champion remained in third place with 15 wins, 17 seconds and 16 third-place finishes. He’s made a Downs-leading 98 starts and has a Downs-leading $197,472 in winnings.

Veteran Ronald Ali is still in fourth place with 14 wins, eight seconds and 18 thirds and $162,026 in earnings while veteran Renaldo Cumberbatch, who won twice this past week, is fifth with 13 wins, eight seconds and nine-thirds and $136,532 in winnings.

“I thought it would be as successful as it’s been,” Knights said. “But I do want to thank my agent Shane Ball and all the owners and trainers who have given me the opportunity to ride. It started a little bit slow, but it start picking up and now I’m grateful to be able to ride some good horses.”

Knights’ goal is to one day ride a Kentucky Derby winner – “There are a lot of great races around the world, but everybody wants to win the Kentucky Derby.” – and plans to one day ride on the big tracks in the United States.

In the meantime, he’s thankful that his family back home can see all his races on the internet, and he just wants to keep the hot streak alive.

“I want to become a champion jockey,” he said with a smile. “I get a lot help here. Any time I ride and if make a mistake, Whitehall or Bynoe or even Cumberbatch will tell me what I need to do to get better.

The next major stakes race to take place at the Downs is the Manitoba Derby Trial on Monday, July 15. The $125,000 Manitoba Derby is only five weeks away.

The next night of live thoroughbred racing at Assiniboia Downs goes to post Monday night at 7:35 p.m.