However, the most dramatic news regarding the tussle for leading rider came off the track when it was announced that Richard Hamel’s ride in the Lions Gate Stakes would be his last ever at Hastings.
A five-time leading rider at Hastings, the veteran was facing a three-day suspension that would have ruled him out of the final weekend, but his shock announcement means that the 2019 title is now a three-way shootout between Reyes, Perez and Gonzalez.
Hamel’s curious decision to leave the stage without taking a curtain call became even more anticlimactic when he pulled up Don’t Hold Me Back on the far side of the track. It is typical of Hamel, who began riding at Hastings back in 1989, that even on his final ride at the track, he would put the welfare of the horse first.
Racing people who have known Hamel and followed his remarkable career far longer than this writer will be better placed to put his life’s work into its proper context. However, it has been a privilege to see him add so consummately to his legacy these past few years, and any young rider would do well to spend an afternoon or two replaying his victories to see exactly how to deal with the unique challenges of the tight East Vancouver bullring.
Hopefully, racegoers at Hastings will have a proper opportunity to say goodbye to a true ambassador for Canadian horse racing at some point in the future. It is the least that he, and we, deserve.