He won the first race of the thoroughbred racing year at Woodbine aboard Houdini Affair, but the real magic trick today for jockey Rafael Hernandez was making the competition disappear.
Hernandez won five races from the 10-race card on opening day amid clear blue skies and in front of a good crowd that seemed to have their spirits lifted by the racing and the weather.
Apart from the first one, Hernandez’s biggest win of the day was the $100,000 guaranteed Jacques Cartier Stakes race in the eighth.
Aboard Canadian Horse of the Year Pink Lloyd, below, Hernandez guided the chestnut to an incredible ninth straight win in nine straight stakes races across the six furlongs of Woodbine’s Tapeta track surface.
The Robert Tiller-owned four-year-old – in only its second year of racing – is usually ridden by Woodbine jockey mainstay Eurico Rosa da Silva, but da Silva is currently serving a suspension for a riding incident from last year.
So Tiller signed up Hernandez instead, and Hernandez signed the autographs instead.
Other action on the day saw the return of Canadian jockey Chantal Sutherland to the Woodbine track after years of racing down in the US.
Sutherland, the first woman to win the Santa Anita Handicap, is also one of only three Canadian-born female jockeys to have more than 1,000 wins. Emma-Jayne Wilson, a regular in the jockeys room at Woodbine, is currently off her rides recuperating from injury.
Canadian racing legend Sandy Hawley made an appearance at the track as well.