By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: There will be a slight delay in Richard Hamel’s quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Leading Jockey title this year. A lot has happened during the off-season to the most successful rider on the grounds but not to the extent it has dampened his spirit.
Hamel won 77 races last year to capture his fifth career Leading Jockey crown. Among those trips to the winner’s circle were 18 stakes victories, including mounts on the incredible Horse of the Year Daz Lin Dawn who romped to seven consecutive wins in stakes company.
Hamel, 49, is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and while his name doesn’t appear in the opening weekend entries, he hopes to be back in short time.
“I’m old enough to know these things take time and if it takes another week, or another three weeks, so be it,” Hamel told Denise Ryan of Postmedia.
Hamel and his partner owner/trainer Charlene Miller went through a harrowing experience last January when a fire destroyed their house in Coquitlam. “It started in the garage and within five minutes the whole place was on fire,” Hamel says. “We were asleep and the next thing we knew a neighbour was pounding on the door yelling that there was a fire. We’re slowly getting things back together but we lost a lot of our racing-related papers and collectibles.”
As Denise Ryan uncovered in her one-on-one interview with Hamel, the celebrated jockey from Terrace, B.C. has been slowly building another career doing stunts and working in films since earning his union card as a stunt rider in the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Hamel told the Sovereign Award winning journalist: “I’m not ready to leave the jockey’s life behind. Every year, coming into another racing season, I wonder if I’ve still got it. Once I get on the horses and I feel the connection I have with the animal – and if I’m healthy – then I have no question … it all comes back.”
To which I might add: his legion of friends and fans look forward to his being back in the saddle soon.