Thursday, January 2, 2020

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14  No 50 (Issue #720)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

and, remember, if you don’t receive The Insider in the usual way,
you can always find it--and past columns--at

Your year to see things more clearly!

And Happy Birthday to all race horses in the Northern Hemisphere!

(Their counterparts Down Under don’t turn a year older until Aug. 1.)

Bullet briefs . . .

  • "She's a monster!" Who said that and about whom?
  • What made the Top 10 list of the past decade? Do you agree?
  • Is the $20 million Saudi Cup a "sportswashing" event?
  • What's the Phrase of the Year?
  • When should you bet "cheap" speed?
$150 STILL AT STAKE IN SATURDAY’S “3 FOR THE MONEY” CONTEST:  Pick the winners of the first three legs of the early pick-4 at Santa Anita Saturday to win $150 in wagering vouchers. The Santa card features the Sham Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep race.

with a draw in the Race Book at 4 p.m. for a chance to pick the ace of diamonds from 45 cards to win $1,000 or pick one of the two jokers for $100 (the other cards are $25). Tickets are $5, three for $10, available until 3:30 p.m. and you’re helping the Winners Foundation.

When you attend staffed OTBs during January, be sure to fill in an entry to be drawn Saturday to win 10,000 Player Rewards points!
Click to enlarge.

Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are running in January? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? NFL, Jets

FREE VLT TOURNAMENTS FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AT 8 PM: Enter in the Club West Gaming lounge Friday and Saturday. Get into the draw for 10 chances to win $20 in free VLT spins. Top winner from each night participates in a month-end finale for more spins and $250 in prize money.

POOL TABLES, ELECTRONIC DARTS, TAP TV TRIVIA: These are the new games added to Clubhouse fun on the plaza. Pool games are just $1 (insert coins). Tap TV Trivia: Download the free app on your phone to answer 12 questions every 20 minutes to see if you’re better and faster than others. NOTE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY ARE TRIVIA NIGHTS WITH PRIZES! Starts at 7 p.m.


GREEDY CORNER: See all jackpot carryovers here.
EYE ON LIVE: The Insider asks . . .

What stood out for you in 2019?

Hidden Grace with trainer Michael Nault (James Carey Lauder photo)
CEO DARREN DUNN: “My 2019 highlight was standing in the Winner’s Circle thinking that running the 3-year-old Manitoba-bred filly Hidden Grace in the Matron Stakes against the hard-knocking, fit, tough older mare, Tadaa, who had won three stakes in a row, this early in her career may have been a mistake. When Hidden Grace absolutely throttled the field, essentially in-hand, my immediate thoughts were: OMG – she is an absolute monster! Could it be Escape Clause part 2 – the sequel-- already?”

Steve Keplin, Jr. winning his first stakes race at ASD (the Free Press) and to see how proud his father, Steve Keplin, Sr., was of him brought tears to my eyes.”

“I did like seeing small barns have successful meets: Steve Keplin, Bill Mooney, Maria Stanford, Doug Mustard. I also like seeing the huge crowds for Canada Day. Also, the crowd seems to be getting younger each year which is a great sign.”  

Hidden Grace winning the Matron.”

  1. Escape Clause (right) loses to Midnight Bisou by just a nose (Coady Photography)
    The past decade will be remembered--certainly by Manitobans--as the most momentous in the province’s racing history because a filly bred in Russell, Man., Escape Clause, earned fame (“the Darling of Del Mar”) and fortune (more than $1 million) racing against some of the best mares on the continent, losing by a mere nose to Midnight Bisou who’s being pointed to the $20 million Saudi Cup. The Don Schnell-trained mare won an Eclipse Award as top mare in Canada and her breeders, Cam Ziprick and Barry Arnason, were honoured in Kentucky as Canadian Breeders of the Year.

  2. Adding to the pride of Manitobans this past decade were the exploits of Goldencents, the son of a Manitoba mare. He won back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Mile races in 2013-2014 and is currently the #1 sire in the world for stallions who have produced two crops of foals. His top three progeny are Mr. Money (earnings: $1.14 million), By My Standards ($630K) and Newstome ($174K). His mother, Golden Works, and grandmother, Body Works, were both bred in Manitoba by the late Phil Kives who would certainly be proud of his connection to greatness.

  3. If Escape Clause was the decade’s top female, Balooga Bull was ASD’s top male horse. The gelding won the Manitoba Derby, the Gold Cup three times and the Horse of the Year title twice in the first half of the decade. It was fitting and poignant that 12-time leading trainer Ardell Sayler had brought his favourite retired horse to the track two months before the owner/trainer died.

  4. Beyond Assiniboia Downs, the biggest event of the decade was surely the 36-year Triple Crown drought being brought to an end by American Pharoah in 2015, followed by Justify three years later. The previous Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.

  5. Santa Anita, Del Mar and Keeneland ended their experimentation with a synthetic surface and returned to dirt. That earned them the right to stage Breeders’ Cup races.

  6. Australian mares Black Caviar and Winx won 25 races and 33 races in a row, respectively.

  7. Gulfstream started a new low-cost Jackpot pick-6 wager at the beginning of the decade that caught fire and now is offered at most tracks.

  8. Huge fan favourite Zenyatta kicked off a great decade for female horses by winding up her career with 19 wins out of 20 starts, with the sole blip coming in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic when she couldn’t quite catch Blame.  

  9. The fall that cost a bettor $571,000
    The good news is wagering in North America is about the same as it was in 2010: $12 billion annually. It dipped a bit in the middle years but recovered.

  10. The worst beat of the decade goes to the Gulfstream bettor who would have collected $571,000 on the Rainbow pick-6 on Dec. 29, 2017 if jockey Emisael Jaramillo hadn’t fallen off his horse, Cryogenic, when the horse ducked in from the whip just metres from the wire. Watch race here.

“It is what it is.”

Russell Wilson
Game loss “is what it is”
Suddenly, players in the Race Book started using this phrase. Then it popped up with increasing frequency in televised interviews with an entertainer and sports figures, the latest being Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson who made the comment after the team’s loss to San Francisco this past Sunday.

It’s funny how this happens. Which reminds me of what happens in the gardening world in the spring (because my other passion is landscaping). For no apparent reason, gardeners independently decide they want to plant the same colour or colours of plants which means garden centres quickly run out of that colour(s) and other colours go begging. Growers try to guess what colour(s) will be most popular but are rarely correct.

$20 million Saudi Cup comes under scrutiny
Richest race in the world is part of a sporting blitz by Arab kingdom

Expect to hear the term “sportswashing” applied with increasing frequency to the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup--the richest race ever--to be held in Saudi Arabia at the end of February. (Sportswashing is defined as “the hosting of a sporting event as a means for a country to improve its reputation.”)

“Saudi money in U.S. horse racing is the sport’s next moral jam,”
reads a headline in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece on sportswashing. States the writer: “We don’t expect horse trainers, jockeys and owners to be statesmen. We have a reasonable expectation, however, that they shouldn’t be collaborators, either.”

The Saudi Cup is among a handful of high-profile sports events in the Arab kingdom including the heavy-weight boxing championship, Formula E racing, a major tennis tournament and an equestrian festival.

As an enticement to enter the race, Saudi Arabia is reportedly paying the shipping costs of prominent North American horses. Among those pointing to the race are Maximum Security, McKinzie and Midnight Bisou (who beat Escape Clause by a nose in an Oaklawn Grade 1 stakes race.)
POCKET PLENTY IN '20: When should you bet "cheap" speed?

In bottom-level claiming races filled with suspect horses (such as non-winners of two races lifetime) . . .
(1) “Cheap” speed could wire the field at high odds. Therefore, look for a horse with the most early speed (high pace numbers):
(2) Look for horses who have the highest speed number SOMEWHERE in their past performance lines. They don’t need to be recent. Such horses are wake-up possibilities. Favourites are bad bets.

BIGGER BETTING GROUP STILL LOOKS FOR BREAKTHROUGH: Two winning horses missing from the group’s pick-5 tickets last Saturday had initially been included on the tickets but then rejected for cost reasons. This Saturday, there’s a chance of making a big score at Gulfstream which has a $1 million-plus Rainbow 6 pool. But the group will also consider its usual late pick-5 at Tampa. Will the group see more clearly now that it’s 2020? See you 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza to see (no pun intended). Joe’s getting very impatient for a bacon fix and I don’t blame him.

Did you watch it? Century Mile in Edmonton pitted Santa Clause against the Grinch in the Race to Save Christmas match race. Very well produced. Watch it here.
SAVVY NFL PICKS by TravyFootball: Wild card round
  • Bills over Texans (Saturday afternoon): The Texans are making their sixth playoff appearance since returning to the league in 2002 and for the sixth time they will be playing in the early Saturday wild card game. Both teams didn’t play either of their starters last week so they should be well-rested but I like Buffalo’s defense to help get them the victory.
  • Patriots over Titans (Saturday night): It’s been a VERY long time since the Patriots have played in the wild card round (2009) and they definitely don’t look like the Patriots teams of the past but every time people think this team is washed up, they end up holding the Super Bowl trophy. Until they are officially out, I’m not betting against Tom Brady.
  • Saints over Vikings (Sunday noon): A rematch of the “Minnesota miracle” from a few years ago, The Saints come into this game on quite the roll. They decided to hold a workout for crazy free agent WR Antonio Brown this past week. The Vikings are just hoping that the “good” Kirk Cousins shows up.
  • Eagles over Seahawks (Sunday afternoon): The Seahawks almost caused me two heart attacks, both in games against the 49ers. I’m done seeing this team, I don’t want them around anymore, my blood pressure can’t handle Russell Wilson scrambling around making plays. Eagles QB Carson Wentz might be the only healthy player left on the team but he still managed to drag what’s left of them into the playoffs and even won the division by beating everyone’s favourite team to hate, the Dallas Cowboys.
MY $5 PROLINE TICKET (worth $97.80): Buffalo over Houston ($2.75), Patriots over Titans ($1.75), Saints over Vikings ($1.35), Eagles/Hawks tie ($3.10).

PICKS RECORD: Last week: 3 correct out of 4. Overall (since week 3): 34 correct out of 56.

NOTE: In exceptional cases (e.g. injuries to key personnel), these picks may be amended in the online version of The Insider early Saturday afternoon. Go there ( for updates.

THE BEST OF BOB: The daring "car guy" who built Assiniboia Downs

What do you know about Jack "The Car Guy" Hardy's life story and his daring business venture to build Assiniboia Downs? Read Bob's blog which recounts Jack's life here. (First published August 2012)

Owner/trainer Murray Duncan and the Stewart family winning the Manitoba Derby in 2017 with Plentiful, this following the death of Garylle Stewart on Derby Day in 2016.  It gets no better; it was a true fairy tale win.  I will never forget either day!
Sham Stakes Kentucky Derby prep race goes this Saturday at Santa Anita
  • This Saturday: Kentucky Derby prep race: Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.
  • Saturday, Jan. 18: Kentucky Derby prep race: Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. Sunshine Millions stakes at Gulfstream and Santa Anita
  • Monday, Jan. 20: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the U.S.; major tracks are racing
  • Friday, Jan. 24: Oaklawn Park meet begins 1:30 p.m. Kentucky Derby prep race: Smarty Jones.
  • Saturday, Jan. 25: Pegasus World Cup Day at Gulfstream
EVERY THURSDAY: Dig into super-tender certified Angus prime rib buffets with soup, salad bar, pasta station and signature Bourbon Bacon Brownie dessert every Thursday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. in the ambience-rich Terrace Dining Room. Reserve with Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.

Bookings for Mother’s Day brunch and dinner open Monday, Feb. 3. It’s the first day of live racing on Mother's Day. See schedule here.

© Copyright 1996-2020 All Rights Reserved. Assiniboia Downs.
3975 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3K 2E9
Ph (204) 885.3330 • Fax (204) 831.5348

Like us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter  Read our Blog  See us on Instagram  Watch us on Youtube