Labour Day Monday at Assiniboia Downs has always been a big day on the Winnipeg racing calendar and this Monday will be no different, with the $50,000 Matron Stakes attracting some star horses.
In 1991 there were 10 races on the Labour Day card highlighted by the CTHS Sales Stakes and the International Amateur Jockeys Challenge, as well as stakes wins by Patty Kim, Point of Principle and Rocket Smoke. In 2001 What Four and Goin N Style dominated the Sales Stakes while top Manitoba-bred Gus Again added another Agassiz win and Con’s Night Flight flew late to win the Distaff.
This year's Labour Day card has the makings of an instant classic, with the $50,000 Matron Stakes for older fillies and mares going 1 1/8-miles potentially being the most competitive and entertaining race of the meet.
Eight rivals of considerable talent have entered in the 2014 Matron. A review of their excellent credentials along with morning-line odds follows below in Post Position order.
1. Baetykaty (4-1) ships in from Canterbury Park for trainer Robertino Diodoro, and while she comes into the Matron off a subpar effort in a very quick sprint, she earlier rattled off five straight route wins in Pennsylvania. She has worked over the surface under the care of assistant Rob Atras and goes for the high powered juggernaut that is the Diodoro operation. The rallying mare should get a good trip behind significant speed.
2. Tempered Sapphire (5/2) ships in from Edmonton for trainer Rod Cone after two huge wins in stakes at Northlands Park. Her 10 ¼-length win in the City of Edmonton Distaff was dominating, as was her 13 ¾-length win in the Mademoiselle at the same track two starts ago. She is in career best form and is a big good looking mare. Her versatility is a major asset and the only question mark is the quality of the fields she beat in her last two, as those races featured short fields. The probable favorite off two awesome wins.
3. Can’t Use Nellie (15-1) was an impressive NW1X allowance winner on August 2 when she overcame traffic to draw off handily. This is a big move up in class for the 3-year-old filly who is still a non-winner of two lifetime. This might be viewed as a prep for the Jack Hardy Stakes for a filly with lots of upside.
4. Key to Glory (25-1) comes into the Matron off a third place finish in the Winnipeg Sun Stakes. She will sit well back early and try to rally late as she did in the Sun. Something must have went awry in the Distaff Stakes as she showed little at even money. The distance should not be a concern for this daughter of Discreet Cat.
5. Go Go Lolo (3-1) is the current local champ of the female set with four wins from five starts here at ASD. She has won all three stakes for older mares here in 2014. Regular rider Travis Cunningham fits this late rallying mare perfectly and she should get a good pace in front of her. This is the toughest field Go Go Lolo has faced this year and her last allowance win was not as visually impressive as her Winnipeg Sun and Canada Day stakes wins. Is she over the top or was she just saving something for the big day? The biggest local threat for sure.
6. Portales (10-1) is a talented 4-year-old filly trained by Charlie Smith, who guided her to the 3-year-old filly championship here last year. She has tactical speed and has run good races in her three starts here this year without winning. In her last start she showed an abundance of speed and was caught very late. The nine furlongs might be a touch too far for this big daughter of Sharp Humor, but her trainer certainly knows how to win stakes here, especially with fillies and mares.
7. Ciaran’s Prize (7/2) won the Assiniboia Oaks by setting a slow pace under jockey Quincy Hamilton and lulling the field to sleep. She was never really asked to run in that race for 3-year-old fillies and it's likely she has more to show us. This field is much tougher, but Ciaran’s Prize has good tactical speed, jockey Quincy Hamilton has won two in a row on her, and she is in great form. She appears to like this track and could be a major factor if she can handle the class raise.
8. Hello (8-1) was named Champion Older Mare here in 2013 but was not herself early in the meet. She woke up with a big rally in her last start however, and just missed to Go Go Lolo after a furious late rally. At her best, Hello is a major contender in this race. She won it by 6 3/4-lengths last year with leading rider Paul Nolan aboard and he will again be up on Monday. If she has truly regained her top form, she could have a big say in the outcome at a nice price.
This year's Matron is wide open and you can make a case for every horse in the race. It should set up fairly from a pace perspective and it could end in a multi-horse photo. You're also likely to get a decent price on whoever you choose to back at the windows.
Post time is 1:30 p.m. on Monday, and I’m certainly looking forward to it!