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Rafael Hernandez nips Justin Stein to capture his first Woodbine rider's championship

TORONTO — Rafael Hernandez has captured his first Woodbine Racetrack jockey's title.

Hernandez earned the honour with 129 victories — just three more than Justin Stein — during Woodbine's abbreviated thoroughbred card. The 2020 season was scheduled to conclude Dec. 13 but ended Sunday after the Ontario government issued a minimum 28-day lockdown order for the Toronto region due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 season was to begin April 18, but was delayed until June 6 due to the global pandemic.

Hernandez's mounts earned more than $7.18 million this year. The 36-year-old jockey had finished second in the jockey standings to the now-retired Eurico Rosa Da Silva the last two years.

Hernandez registered a meet-leading 17 stakes wins this year. He claimed his first Grade 1 victory in the E.P. Taylor Stakes with the Chad Brown-trained filly Etoile and teamed up with Canadian star Pink Lloyd, who won four stakes for trainer Robert Tiller and Entourage Stable.

Stein's season included capturing the Grade 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile with the Kevin Attard-trained Starship Jubilee. His mounts surpassed $7.19 million in earnings.

Kazushi Kimura finished third (83 wins), ahead of Emma-Jayne Wilson (79) and Luis Contreras (76). 

Mark Casse captured a 12th trainer's title with 93 wins and more than $7.13 million in earnings. Norm McKnight (44 wins) was second, just ahead of Tiller (43).

Attard, whose stable amassed $3.51 million in earnings, was fourth with 37 wins. Josie Carroll, whose 29 victories included those registered by OLG Triple Crown winners Mighty Heart and Belichick, was third with $3.49 million in earnings.

Hernandez and Casse were a hot commodity, combining for 37 wins, including six stakes, from 117 starts.

Gary Barber was the top money-winning owner with more than $1.56 million in purses followed by Stronach Stables ($1.24 million) and Live Oak Plantation ($1.14 million). Bruno Schickedanz (35) had the most wins, followed by Barber (17).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press