Thursday, January 3, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 13 No. 52 (Issue #670)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

(If this column looks askew in your email, click here for an online version.)

What's a horse doing in the hospital?

Bullet briefs . . .

  • What made 2018 memorable? The Insider's top 15.
  • "He's fired!" says trainer after Escape Clause finishes fourth
  • How do you spot a false favourite? (Sign up for Wednesday workshop to find out)
  • Horse Racing Roulette kicks off at Santa; is it working?
  • Touching shoe-removal ceremony ends career of world's richest standardbred
  • What's historian Bob "crowing" about this week?
ROZMUS WINS “3 FOR THE MONEY;” GAME CONTINUES SATURDAY AT SANTA: Congrats to Jeff Rozmus who predicted the winners of races 4 to 6 at Santa Anita Saturday to collect $75 in wagering vouchers in the weekly “3 for the money” contest which resumes Saturday at Santa Anita with three races starting with the Kentucky Derby prep race, the Sham Stakes. Rozmus also has a chance of being invited with a guest to the hottest press conference/luncheon in town (for live racing).

VLT hostess Sue awards Zaldy Bauto with $250 tourney prize (Kathryn James photo)

The five winners of $10 in wagering vouchers in a draw were Murray Chaban, Ray West, Alan Hampton, Damian D’Souza and Paul Gray.

WILD PRIDE GIVES ZALDY A LUCKY YEAR-END: Machinist Zaldy Bauto, a veteran ASD player, picked the Wild Pride VLT game to unleash his luck in the final tournament of the year Saturday. And it worked. When his name was drawn for $20 in free spins, Wild Pride not only rewarded him with $26.50 but propelled him into the monthly finale that night which added another $78.75 plus the grand prize of $250 for winning the most. Congrats, Zaldy! Unleash Your Luck continues every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Enter the draw at the VLT cage.
QX104 � Today's Country

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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? Jets, NFL. ASD subscribes to NHL League Pass - watch any NHL game any day!

FREE VLT TOURNAMENTS: Enter in the Club West Gaming lounge every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. 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.

POKER EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: $10 buy-in poker in the clubhouse on the second level. Registration starts at 7:00 p.m and the game starts at 8:30 p.m. Maximum of 60 players. No late registration.


"He's fired!"

Don Schnell removes Ruben Fuentes after "horrific" ride in Robert J. Frankel Stakes

Ruben Fuentes won’t ride Escape Clause again after what owner/trainer Don Schnell described as a “horrific” ride aboard the Manitoba filly in the Grade 3 $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita last Saturday.

“He made not one, not two, not three but four or five mistakes”
during the 1 1/8-miles turf race, Schnell told The Insider in an interview on his return to Turf Paradise where the filly is stabled. “His instructions were to lay second.” Instead, he said, “he kept getting into trouble. It got worse and worse. He’s fired.”

Tyler Baze
Will he replace Ruben Fuentes?

The filly wound up at the back of the pack but still made a determined surge late to finish fourth in the eight-horse field which was worth $9,000 U.S. in purse money. That effort still gave her the highest Equibase speed figure in her life, 112, compared to the 105 she received for winning the Kathryn Crosby Stakes at Del Mar two months ago. Fuentes rode Escape Clause in that race and in a subsequent race in which she finished third.

Her troubled trip on Saturday didn’t take much out of her, Schnell said, and he said it is “50-50” that she’ll be entered in a $100,000 stakes on the dirt at Santa Anita on Saturday, Jan. 12. An alternative race would be a turf stakes on Monday, Jan. 21. And the jockey? Possibly Tyler Baze, he said, or flying Scott Stevens there from Turf Paradise.



"Be a better bettor" workshop #1

Learn how to spot vulnerable favourites, about breeding, how to avoid mistakes

If you know the answers to the bulleted questions below, you can skip the first free workshop of the year next Wednesday in the Clubhouse hosted by fan education specialists Glen and Marshall. Otherwise, attending the workshop is a good way to get a leg up—especially in handicapping tournaments—on players who can’t answer these questions. The answers should also obviously help boost your wagering success.
  • What’s the easiest way to spot a vulnerable favourite?
  • What trainer means business when his horses run a bullet work before their next start?
  • Which freshman turf sire is hitting with 50 per cent of his firsters?
  • When is breeding most relevant in your handicapping?
  • Which trainer has a whopping 38 per cent win rate with 2-year-old first-time starters over the past five years?
  • How can you maintain your focus and alertness throughout the day to maximize your handicapping acumen?
  • Which trainer/jockey combo connects at a 50 per cent win rate?
  • Which trainer wins at 60 per cent with older horse favourites (4+)  over the last five years?
Sign up by calling Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0. It’s 7 p.m. next Wednesday on the Clubhouse plaza. Refreshments will be served.


  1. Daddy sues daughter, brother sues sister. Who doesn’t love a family spat involving the rich and famous? In this case, it’s the Stronach family’s tug-of-war for control of their horse-racing and business empire. Interesting to see daddy, Frank, as combative as ever even at 86.

  2. The $3,200 filly from Russell, Man. wins the hearts of California race-goers by beating blue-bloods there. She’s Escape Clause, of course, the “darling of Del Mar.” Her latest graded stakes race at Santa Anita—where she posted her highest Equibase speed figure ever despite a troubled trip in which she finished fourth--shows she belongs with those.

  3. Winx walks under arch at Flemington on way to another win (Vince Caligiuri/Getty images)

    Winx wins 29 races in a row—and shows no signs of weakening. Fittingly, the 7-year-old mare is accomplishing that feat in racing-crazy Australia where the national holiday is tied to the Melbourne Cup and per-capita wagering is higher than anywhere else in the world. Her next attempt to make it 30 in a row: likely Feb. 16

  4. At last, the 135-year-old Curse of Apollo is broken. Justify becomes the only horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at 2.

  5. Job One—winning the Breeders’ Cup pick-6--gets done, twice, by the “I won bigger” betting group. Yes, favourites dominated, but the group had other horses on their tickets to scoop a bigger score.

  6. Touted by your loyal scribe for 10 months, Catholic Boy wins the Travers Stakes at Saratoga impressively at odds of 7-1. Vindication, at last!

  7. Queen's Plate winner Wonder Godot foregoes Canadian Triple Crown bid to race at Saratoga where she finishes last (Michael Burns/Woodbine Entertainment photo)

    Top trainer perplexes and disappoints his Canadian followers: Mark Casse passes up a chance to win the Canadian Triple Crown—which hasn’t been done since Wando in 2003—by sending his Queen’s Plate/Prince of Wales-winning filly Wonder Gadot to compete in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga instead, a race not won by a filly since 1915--and she finishes last. Sad.

  8. “We have your back” is essentially what the Manitoba Conservative government tells ASD after the release of a racing sustainability report commissioned by the agriculture minister. Not that taxpayers will be on the hook for any money; almost every cent the non-profit Manitoba Jockey Club earns is generated by patrons who wager, dine, party or play VLTs at the Downs. What amounts to a small additional investment by government returns $35-40 million to the provincial treasury annually, according to the study. “Now that’s a winner,” says CEO Darren Dunn.

  9. A gritty performance by Media Melee in the Manitoba Mile Stakes. Of course, grit and determination is what makes race horses race horses. But this race sticks out because, after dueling early and seemingly done in the turn, he comes on again to win. It’s a jaw-dropper. Watch that race here.

  10. “Doing the right thing” award to Paul Ryneveld, general manager of Century Downs, for paying Prayven Badrie’s $40,000 hospital bill for hip surgery after the co-leader at ASD was trampled during a race on the final day of Century’s meet—and had insufficient insurance to cover medical bills. “The industry should help the industry,” Ryneveld said. Lesson learned (on the insurance front) by that company. ASD has always had comprehensive coverage for those unfortunate situations.

  11. 10,000 and counting: What a crowd at ASD on Canada Day—and the Queen wasn’t even visiting!

  12. Only the second deadheat for the jockey title in ASD’s 61-year history: Antonio Whitehall bags two races on the final day of the meet to Prayven Badrie’s one--tying each other at 41 wins apiece.

  13. Big night for Assiniboia Racing Club when both of their horses win

    “The stars lined up,” ASD trainer Jared Brown aptly puts it when the two horses owned by the 54-member Assiniboia Racing Club—Californium and Ebadan--win on the same night. It doesn’t get better than that.

  14. Dug out of the Siberian permafrost is the 40,000-year-old body of a foal that looks like he was born yesterday. More surprising is the fact that he’s an extinct breed of horse that thrived in temperatures of -60C. Brr!

  15. “Back from the dead to win tournament.” My favourite 2018 headline actually was coined by retired bricklayer John Whitehill whose heart was jolted back to life twice, two weeks (and the insertion of a pacemaker) before he returned to the Downs to win the September trip-to-Vegas handicapping tournament and finishing second for Handicapper of the Year. You can’t keep a good horseplayer down.
What stands out for you? Email


New Year's Eve selfie
(Newsflare photo)

Blacksmith removes Foiled Again's front shoes after final lifetime race

TOUCHING NEW YEAR’S EVE GOOD-BYE FOR RICHEST STANDARDBRED: Did you watch it? Sandwiched on New Year’s Eve between the start of the Canada/Russia junior hockey game and the Jets/Oilers NHL tilt, history was being made at The Meadows harness track in Pennsylvania where the world’s richest horse, Foiled Again ($7.6 million) was ending a 19,000-kilometre farewell tour in a final race before the clock struck midnight, making him 15 and too old to race.

Voices were cracking in the announcer’s booth and in the Winner’s Circle as a blacksmith removed his front shoes and the gelding was given good-bye kisses on the forehead. Sentimentalists had bet him down to 6-5 (maybe for souvenir tickets?) but the tough open field produced a fifth-place finish, just a blip though in a career with 109 victories and wins in every stakes race on the continent at least once including the Breeders’ Crown. What a touching way for the year to end!

Sample roulette ticket at Santa Anita

HORSE RACING ROULETTE OFF TO AN INTERESTING START: Wagering purists might be scoffing at the new red/green/black Horse Racing Roulette wager being offered at Santa Anita (and to be offered at Gulfstream during Pegasus Week)—and might point to the relative lack of play ($3,492 per race average on opening day)—but if those plays were made by newcomers who won a bit and were motivated to examine past performances to win even more, then the bet accomplishes what it sets out to do.

(E.g. They collected $4.20 for betting “black” in race 2 but could have collected $21.40 if they picked the winner out of the “black” group.) Interesting tidbit: McKinzie paid $4.40 for winning the Malibu Stakes but still paid $3.60 as part of the “red” roulette group.

As it turned out for the “Bigger” group’s Jackpot Hi 5 plays at Woodbine Mohawk Park a couple weeks ago, two thoroughbred specialists were surprisingly good at sleuthing out harness contenders and, if their suggested 20-cent wheels had been combined, this column would be reporting a $14,000 win. (One player had even owned a standardbred in Saskatchewan but hadn’t mentioned that fact.) Live and learn.

Going forward, the group will concentrate on THE LAST FIVE RACES AT TAMPA (pick-5) in the Saturday sessions on the Clubhouse plaza at 10:30 a.m. where the group collected $24,000 last January. And, for a minor wager, since the pick-6 at Gulfstream is inscrutable in the best of times, I’m thinking maybe Santa Anita’s Rainbow 6 is the way to go. That’s my preference but let’s see what others say. Today’s mantra: “Let’s gather steam in 2019!” Or, if you prefer, “we’re achin’ for bacon!”

WHEN HE’S NOT TAPPING OUT YOUR WAGERS, HE’S TOSSING A BALL: Many of you know Travers Cummings as the nimble-fingered ticket seller and mutuel supervisor in the Race Book. But he has a good touch with a football, too, as quarterback of the year-round Pit touch and flag football league team that recently won a championship. See Travers wielding the championship belt with teammates here.

THE BEST OF BOB: A "double feature" kicks off 2019

THE MAN THEY CALL “GB:” Did you know that prior to training thoroughbreds, “GB” supplied horses to Shrine Circus stars, Hugh O'Brian (Wyatt Earp), Chuck Connors (The Rifleman) and western star, Johnny Ringo? Read about it here. (First published in July, 2015.)

Did you know that the old crow (aka "the Whittier Park Clocker") who inhabited the elm tree in the infield of old Whittier Park put a curse on the St. Boniface track that lead to its demise in 1952? Bob shares the tale of the Clocker here. (First published in June, 2016.)

Jan. 26 at Gulfstream


  • This Saturday: Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita (Sham Stakes)
  • Saturday, Jan. 19: Kentucky Derby prep race at Fair Grounds (Lecomte)
  • Monday, Jan. 21: U.S. holiday – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Thursday, Jan. 24: $425-a-plate Eclipse Awards banquet at Gulfstream; who will be Horse of the Year?
  • Saturday, Jan. 26: 2019 Player’s Choice tournaments kick off; $16 million Pegasus World Cup races at Gulfstream ($7m Turf, $9m Dirt). Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn (Smarty Jones)

My #1 tip for having a winning year at the races:
Play to your strengths.
(Marshall will have others at Wednesday’s workshop)

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