Thursday, January 4, 2018

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 49 (Issue #618)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday to all race horses in the Northern Hemisphere!


Imagine you’re holding the 20-cent Rainbow 6 ticket that will scoop the entire $571,744 jackpot on race 10 above last Thursday at Gulfstream Park if the horse on the lead, #9 Cryogenic, just keeps going. Click on the photo to see how the race plays out.

Now you know why this race has been the talk of the racing world.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • My 10 favourite headlines of 2017. Are they among yours?
  • Merry Ukrainian Xmas! Dig into perogies and cabbage rolls at tonight's prime rib buffet.
  • Player tosses $20 bills to anyone and everyone to celebrate big win (See Shout-out)
  • Want to make 2018 especially profitable? See Marshall's six suggestions below.
  • "Friends don't let friends bet chalk!" What's that about? See THE WEEK THAT WAS

CONGRATS TO “FAST TALKING TONY” FOR FAN APPRECIATION WIN! The latest stop by the Fan Appreciation fairy was at the Canad Inns Windsor Park OTB last Saturday--players enjoying complimentary beverages and wings—and Tony Grenier having his entry drawn for a 60-second betting spree. His $160 in $2 bets netted him $342 when #11 won race 11 at Gulfstream but, noted ASD off-track supervisor Shannon Davis, he could have won $1,368 had he gone with his original intention to place all of his bets on that horse instead of only some of them.

QX104 � Today's Country

Official stations of horse racing.
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94.3 The Drive

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Want highlights for the next 17 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

FRIDAYS, SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS : Free VLT tournaments starting 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.

EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: $10 buy-in poker. Registration 8 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m. The Royal Flush progressive jackpot was won on Saturday, Dec 23 paying $4,440!

Click to enlarge

TAKE THIS DETOUR DURING SASKATCHEWAN BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION: Probably the least disruptive way of dealing with the closing of Saskatchewan Avenue during the construction of a new bridge over Sturgeon Creek is to take the Hamilton Avenue/Cavalier Drive detour loop illustrated here. The new bridge is necessary to better accommodate spring runoff and heavy rains. Saskatchewan Avenue is to re-open Thursday, Oct. 18. The good news is that the road surface—ranked “fair to poor” by the city—is to be upgraded, too. What a treat THAT will be!

My favourite headlines of 2017

Are they among your favs?

  1. Linda Kropius with Dandy Deen

    NO-NAME TRAINER SLAYS GIANTS: Training in relatively obscurity, native Albertan Linda Kropius worked her magic on 8-year-old Galitzianer--a “bag of bones with bad teeth” she had claimed for $3,000 U.S. at Turf Paradise-- to capture the most important race for older horses at the Downs, the $25,000 Gold Cup, at 9-1, defeating Manitoba Derby winner, Plentiful. Then she followed up on that closing weekend at the Downs by winning the top race for babies, the $25,000 Winnipeg Futurity, with filly Dandy Deen at 9-1, putting away 3-5 Cheertothenewyear from the barn of leading baby conditioner Ardell Sayler. Some achievement from a trainer with only five horses and whose 2013 record was a single victory in 42 starts!

  2. MANITOBA FILLY BEST SINCE 1978: Season 60 will surely come to be known as the Year of the Filly. More specifically, the Year of the Manitoba-bred Filly—Escape Clause. Not since Liz’s Pride won all eight of her ASD races as a 2-year-old in 1978 has a locally bred filly shown a talent that not only massacred fillies and mares in ASD races but put away fillies bred in Alberta and B.C., too. She also equalled Liz’s Pride's record by finishing second in the Manitoba Derby against the boys.

  3. Trainer Murray Duncan cuts Derby cake with co-owner Audrey Farol, Derby Belle Francine Fournier, jockey Tyrone Nelson

    TRAINER SOARS FROM ZERO TO HERO: At Manitoba Derby time in 2016, veteran ASD trainer Murray Duncan hadn’t won a single race in 16 tries. A year later he had 11 wins from 23 starts and was standing in the Winner’s Circle holding the Manitoba Derby trophy – all thanks to his claiming smarts at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. He had claimed Derby winner Plentiful for $15,000 U.S. and 4-year-old filly C J’s Flair for $6,250 U.S. Plentiful won three other stakes besides the $75,000 Derby and C J’s won three stakes including the Winnipeg Sun and Canada Day and finished second in two others.

  4. OPENING DAY WOWZER: ONLY 4 ½ LENGTHS SEPARATE ALL WINNERS: Seven races with a total margin of victory by the winners of 4 ½ lengths. Does it get any more competitive than that? And that’s the way Season 60 started—with a competitive bang—and a likely record for an opening day card.

  5. "Best I've ever seen"

    ASD PLAYERS DO THEMSELVES PROUD IN VEGAS TOURNEY: ASD players took on many of the best handicappers in North America in the Horse Player World Series at the Orleans Hotel Casino in Las Vegas in March and did themselves—and the Downs—proud. Bonnie Simmonds’ entry came seventh out of more than 570 entries and earned about $10,500. Randy Premachuk came third out of all entrants on the second day of the tournament and Murray Chaban finished second on the third day. With David Blake and Wayne Misko winning lesser amounts as well, the ASD five picked up a total of about $28,000 in prize money!

  6. FIREWORKS DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE: CanFire Pyrotechnics put on a fireworks display on Canada Day that did the impossible—unifying horseplayers into one agreeable “the best I’ve ever seen” mass. “The Downs has created momentum to make itself the destination for the best fireworks anywhere,” printing executive Randy Premachuk told The Insider after the spectacular show. Indeed, it has. Which means you should circle Canada Day Sunday, July 1 as a reminder to invite fireworks aficionados to racing that night.

  7. RISE AND FALL OF ARROGATE: Arrogate vanquished Horse of the Year California Chrome in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in January and thrilled onlookers with a last-to-first victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March. But he had bridgejumpers looking for a bridge to jump from as he could muster only fourth in a five-horse Del Mar stakes race in July, setting up show prices of $22, $67.40 and $38.20. Then, of course, came the biggest disappointment for his fans in November when he ended his racing career finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as the 2-1 favourite.

  8. Modesty's Tribute at yearling sale

    “NAME THE FILLY” CONTEST CATCHES FIRE: A whopping 848 names were submitted to Canstar Community News’ “name the filly” contest to mark the 250th anniversary of horse racing in Canada. The winning name was Modesty’s Tribute (submitted by Evelyn McKenzie), deemed by the judges to be the most fitting since the very first organized horse race in “Canada” was won by a mare named Modesty on Quebec’s Plains of Abraham in 1767. Modesty’s Tribute, bred at the Ziprick Thoroughbreds farm in Russell, Man. was bought for $15,000 at the annual CTHS yearling sale and the filly should hit the track as a 2-year-old in June, fingers crossed.

  9. 3-YEAR-OLDS GIVE HORSEPLAYERS BIGGEST HEADACHE SINCE 1926: Horseplayer confusion reigned supreme on the road to the Triple Crown. Which colts were going to show up for their prep races and which ones were going to regress? The head scratching continued through each of the Triple Crown races: Not since 1926 had the top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes been ALL DIFFERENT horses. More bewilderment followed in subsequent stakes races for 3-year-olds. Derby winner Always Dreaming finished eighth in the Preakness, third in the Jim Dandy and ninth in the Travers. Preakness winner Cloud Computing could do no better than fifth in the Jim Dandy and eighth in the Travers. Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit was fourth in the Travers.

  10. SO CLOSE YET SO FAR -- THE WORST BEAT OF THE YEAR: Whining is part of the betting scene. We all have our “woulda, coulda, shoulda” stories. But the worst beat of any player anywhere this year had to be last Thursday when the lone ticket-holder for $571,744 at Gulfstream Park watched the jockey fall off the winning horse only metres from the wire. How long does it take to get over a beat as bad as that? Probably never. Half a million bucks – so close yet so far. Sigh! And boo to the conspiracy theorists who impugn a nefarious motive to the fall.

THE BIGGEST SHOUT-OUT OF THE WEEK BY FAR goes to Louie, an inventory man at a bus company, who was dispensing $20 bills to everyone in sight at the McPhillips Station Casino and the Race Book at the Downs (including me) after winning $27,000 in a Super Hi 5 wager at Gulfstream Park two Saturdays ago—which came just days after he cashed a $6,700 superfecta on an Australian race. “I only make bets where I can win big money,” he told The Insider. He comes to the track only occasionally, he said, with his father-in-law who’s more of a regular, so he’s not interested in simpler wagers that would win him less money.

Louie said he was using part of his winnings to fly to his native Phillipines. The Super Hi-5, which he bought at McPhillips Station Casino, cost him $12 (he wheeled the favourite with two horses second and third with three horses underneath) and the Aussie superfecta cost him $100 in 20-cent combinations (he wheeled ALL on top with a bunch of horses underneath).


“FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS BET CHALK:” A rather neat sentiment printed on a T-shirt and cap that is being promoted by Delta Downs in Louisiana to create interest in announcer Don Stevens’ YouTube channel, HorseManDon, which posts interesting goings-on at the track. I clicked on a video feature on a jockey who had a camera affixed to her helmet as she took a horse for a workout. Kind of interesting. Which is not what could be said for Don’s fashion sense as he touted his YouTube channel during Delta Downs simulcast races: He was wearing a gaudy red shirt with a highly clashing scenic tie. Yikes! Friends don’t let friends wear combos like that!

The Sham Stakes, the Kentucky Derby prep race named for the hard-luck horse that battled Secretariat in Triple Crown races in 1973, will go this Saturday at Santa Anita. But this past Monday’s Jerome Stakes that didn’t go because of unusually cold weather at Aqueduct, will be re-scheduled once there is a prospect of improved weather, according to a NYRA spokesperson. Very cold weather – as much as 18 degrees colder than normal – is forecast for New York this weekend which puts racing in doubt again.

Harold Scramstad

Trainer Harold Scramstad, who had a small stable at the Downs from 1976 to 2006 passed away in a personal care home on Dec. 27 at the age of 90. His final visit to the Winner’s Circle came in July 2006 when his mare, Polkacity, wired the field at 14-1. He also worked in multiple positions for the City of Selkirk and was known as a man of high integrity where his word was his bond. He leaves four sons, Larry, Les, Doug and Kenton, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Kenton and Les have continued to train a few horses after their father retired and each won a race last year (Orbit Express and Rockets Revenge respectively). Harold had requested that no funeral be held.

Is a race as easy as it looks? Often it’s not but last Saturday’s pick-5 at Tampa Bay was just that—very easy with three keys—but the “I won big group” read too much into it and, in the end, cashed just a $228 pick-4 when it could have made about $3,000 with a $5 pick-5 because three keys and the best bet of a top tournament player all won. Lesson learned. It’s not likely this Saturday’s play will be so obvious—but we’ll see—10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza.

that since the last Insider (on the shortest day of the year) day length has increased by eight minutes. Days will start getting longer faster in mid-February. (FYI: As a weather and climate buff, I have nine volumes of stats from Environment Canada on every aspect of sunshine, precipitation, soil temperature, frost, wind and more for everywhere in Canada.)


Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q. I want to be the best horseplayer I can be in 2018. What would you suggest?

  1. Become a Specialist – Focus on the tracks you enjoy most and have the most time to follow. The more you play the same track, the better your chances of understanding the subtleties of surface bias, trainer patterns, jockey streaks, betting patterns, etc. Familiarity breeds success!
  2. Do Your Homework – Whenever possible, handicap the card before you come to the track. These days you can download the PPs online several days before the races or pick them up ahead of time at program kiosks at the track or at an OTB.
  3. Watching replays is a must

    Watch Race Replays This is the strongest angle in handicapping. Always watch replays on races where you feel you have a strong play or intend to “single” a horse. If you read about a “troubled” line in any race, watch the replay! If there are several horses returning from the same race, watch the replay to determine which ones should be considered in the re-match.
  4. Exercise Self-Discipline – Just because there are 10 races on the card doesn’t mean you have to play them all. Learn when to press and when to pass!
  5. Always Check Race Changes – Before you bet any race, make sure to check the scratches, jockey changes and/or surface changes before making any bets. These changes can impact your decisions in a big way. Remember, if you don’t have time to check the track changes, you don’t have time to make a bet!
  6. Track Your Results & Learn From Your Mistakes – Record your wagers each day and grade them as a loss or win. This will help you understand which bets are more profitable than others. You might be surprised with the findings and you’ll definitely become more accountable to the plays you make.

Got a question for Marshall? Email


Did you know . . . that trainer Murray Duncan of 2017 Manitoba Derby fame owned and trained a horse called Precambrian who won eight races in a row in 1961? Read more about that wonder horse and see which ASD horses have had the most wins here.


  • Oaklawn begins Friday, Jan. 12

    TONIGHT: Ukrainian Christmas-themed prime rib buffet.
  • Saturday, Jan 6:  Kentucky Derby prep race – Sham Stakes at Santa Anita
  • Friday, Jan.12: Oaklawn Park meet begins at 1:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Jan.13: Derby prep – Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds
  • Monday, Jan.15: U.S. holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day); Smarty Jones prep race at Oaklawn. FREE breakfast sandwich to first 25, special "I won big" workshop, 5X Player Rewards for bets made on-track and at OTBs, draw for 60-second betting spree at ASD
  • Thursday, Jan.25: Horse of the Year revealed at Eclipse Awards banquet at Gulfstream
  • Saturday, Jan.27: First Player’s Choice tourney of the year; $16 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream

NEXT INSIDER: How did paddock host Rob MacLennan’s picks fare during live racing? Would you have made money blindly betting his selections? See next Thursday’s Insider.

The most painful spill of 2017?
Jockey Emisael Jaramillo took a week off to recover from body soreness. The bettor with the $571,000 ticket to this horse will likely never recover.

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