Thursday, January 12, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 1 (Issue #568)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Psst! Oaklawn opens tomorrow . . .

. . . which means a chance to score big with Diodoro/Atras horses

Rob Atras (right) with MB Derby winner Inside Straight who races tomorrow at Oaklawn

If you bet Robertino Diodoro horses in the opening days of Oaklawn Park one year ago, here’s what you would have won:
• Subtle Indian $37.40
• Becker’s Galaxy $23.20
(a 20-cent superfecta paid $8,956)
• Magic Cash $19.00

So will you be watching opening day tomorrow when two Diodoro horses, conditioned by his Manitoba-born assistant, Rob Atras, race in two races -- and one of those horses is Manitoba Derby winner Inside Straight? Straight is entered in a $125,000 stakes race. Rain was in the forecast which is exactly what Inside Straight likes (he won on a sloppy track on Derby Day last year).

His other horse is Half Dome Dude who is entered in a starter allowance race.

Atras, as you’ve read before in The Insider, is a leading win-percentage trainer for his boss almost everywhere he goes. He just came from Remington Park where he won an incredible 43 per cent of his starts (37-16-6-2) and last year at Oaklawn he had 31 per cent wins (70-22-6-8).

Rob tells The Insider he has 38 horses at Oaklawn. “No real stand outs. Which is good,” he says. “Some nice talented allowance types mixed with solid steady grinders.”

There you go. Will you be watching tomorrow? Will there be some boxcar prices similar to last year? First post tomorrow at Oaklawn is 1:30 p.m. Look for Half Dome Dude in race 5 and Inside Straight in race 8. Good luck, Rob, and good luck to us!

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Happy 11th birthday, Insider! (Aw, shucks!)
  • Sunday afternoon live racing is back! Schedule below.
  • Next Marshall/Glen handicapping workshop is Tuesday night. Sign up!
  • Will American Pharoah's phirst phoal be named Pharoah's Phirst?
  • Did you know . . . racing's sire of sires was almost gelded?
  • Charley Horse a ballet dancer? With size 30 feet?

ROY HUNCHAK STRIKES FIRST IN 2017 PARLAY BID: So one of the Downs’ most loyal patrons, Roy Hunchak, has taken the lead in the first month's $6 show parlay contest in five races. His $41.40 on Saturday on Woodbine standardbreds (see entry here) exceeded that of Al "Mr. Parlay" Ilott's $26 entry on Friday. The Downs matched both of their winning amounts and now let's see whether Hunchak's entry lasts the month to win a prime rib buffet for two. Your next chance to argue the point is tomorrow and/or Saturday at 7 p.m.

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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? NFL-Jets

EVERY FRIDAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY: 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: 5-Alive "Double Your Winnings" contest from 7 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. and $10 buy-in poker. Registration 8 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m.

U.S. HOLIDAY RACING MONDAY: Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in the U.S. so major tracks will be racing with a post time of 11:20 a.m. for Aqueduct. The next Kentucky Derby prep race, the Smarty Jones, will be featured at Oaklawn Park Monday.

What are Santa Anita's tricks and traps?

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP FOR TUESDAY’S SECOND WINTER WORKSHOP? The first winter seminar hosted by Marshall and Glen in December was a big hit and, lucky you, they are following up with another free one this Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the lower level Finish Line. Topics to include:

  1. Vertical wager strategies: Best ways to play exactor, tri and super tickets
  2. Super Hi-5: When to play, when to pass
  3. Importance of workouts
  4. Santa Anita tricks and traps: must-know betting angles at Santa
  5. Learn from the experts: stay current with latest trends, access free race analysis, use Twitter, etc. to interact with experts
  6. HPIbet questions: bring your laptop or tablet. Marshall and Glen will answer any questions you have about HPIbet

New Friday special: Tastes as good as it looks

FREEBIES: 2,500 Player Rewards points plus $10 added to your HPI account when you’ve bet $50 over the following week. Bring your laptops. Phone 204-885-3330 ext. 0 to sign up!

Fish and chips is the new $10 Friday night special on the weekend Pyramid of Taste and Value. Pepperoni personal pizza with Caesar salad remains the Saturday feature and spaghetti and meatballs with garlic toast is Sunday’s. They all begin at 5 p.m. and continue all night.


New schedule is out

Sunday afternoon to replace Sunday night racing

By popular demand, Sunday afternoon racing returns

Sunday afternoon racing is back! In the 2017 live season schedule recently released, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will feature afternoon instead of evening racing and the final day of the 50-day meet will be Sunday afternoon. Parade to post 1:15 p.m.

Three Monday holidays will also feature afternoon racing: Victoria Day, May 22; Derby Day, Aug. 7 and Labour Day, Sept. 4. However, please note that Canada Day, Saturday, July 1 will feature an evening post time.

So what happened with the Sunday night racing experiment? Here’s what CEO Darren Dunn says:

“While we were encouraged by some of the results we saw, our expectations were still higher. And while such a significant schedule change perhaps warrants more opportunity to grow than just a one year trial, in the end, based on the majority of feedback from our onsite customers, we decided to make a change back. Putting our live race signal head-to-head against “A” tracks such as Gulfstream, Woodbine, Belmont Park, etc. is not a preferred angle, but there is absolutely something to be said about the experience of our customers and afternoon racing, on select days, clearly provides a certain enjoyment and satisfaction.  Family Fun Days, afternoon racing on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. have been a tradition at Assiniboia Downs for years and we will now return to honour that.”

More Wednesdays have been added, too, making Wed-Fri-Sat the typical week of racing throughout the meet with parade to post at 7:15 p.m. There will be 12 Wednesday night race cards compared to eight last year. Wednesdays are popular with corporate groups.


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COUNTDOWN: 19 DAYS TO MOTHER’S DAY RESERVATIONS. Wednesday, Feb. 1, will be your first opportunity to book Mother’s Day brunch for afternoon racing or Mother's Day dinner following live racing. Mother’s Day, May 14 is the first day of live racing so book quickly. Note the number: 204-885-3330 ext. 0. Book Father’s Day and Derby Day while you’re at it!

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Special promotions are in the works . . .

. . . to mark Season 60 of live racing

Cruising through the years to Season 60

When horses charge out of the Downs’ unique red starting gate for the first race of the 2017 season on Mother’s Day, May 14, that race will also mark the first day of the track’s 60th season of live racing. It goes without saying the Downs will showcase special promotions to make the meet especially memorable. Of course, 2017 is also special because it’s Canada’s 150th anniversary and it’s the National Hockey League’s centennial. Sweet 17!

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HBPA THOROUGHBRED YEARBOOK NOW AVAILABLE: Click here to download the Manitoba HBPA 2016 yearbook jam-packed with stats and pictures of last year’s live racing season and other info and stories including a great one on horse owner/breeder Jean McEwen who wants to become the first in Canada to win a race with a distinctive white-patched "frame overo" breed of thoroughbred with one or two blue eyes. HBPA director John Field also gives you the dope on the first (successful) year of the Assiniboia Racing Club. This is the first season the horsemen's group has posted it online.

Northern Dancer beats Hill Rise in 1964 Kentucky Derby (Jerry Cooke photo)

Did you know . . . Northern Dancer was almost gelded because he was so unruly but his owner, E.P.Taylor, overruled trainer Horatio Luro and the Canadian stallion, winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Queen’s Plate in 1964, went on to become the #1 male-line progenitor of modern thoroughbreds? Five years before his death in 1990 his stud services for a season fetched $1 million at an auction. California Chrome, American Pharoah and most Breeders’ Cup winners are among his many descendents.


Gormley #5 edges American Anthem to post 116 "E" fig

SHAM STAKES IS FASTEST PREP SINCE BREEDERS' CUP: John Shirreffs’s Gormley and Bob Baffert’s American Anthem duelled all the way down the Santa Anita stretch in the Sham Stakes Saturday in what was the most exciting Kentucky Derby prep race so far—and the fastest since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Gormley prevailed ($5.20), notching a 116 Equibase figure, just one less than Juvenile winner Classic Empire. The next prep is the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Monday, a U.S. holiday.

SHOCKER OF THE WEEK: Sure, there are instances when a horse with terrible form wins a race and we wonder how. But Los Alamitos players Saturday were hit by a double whammy when Papa Al won a 4 1/2f maiden dash and paid $65. Not only had he lost his first two lifetime starts by a total of 41 lengths, HE WAS 5 YEARS OLD! Rarely do we see horses starting their careers at that age. Can we say “late bloomer?”

Charley Horse learns dance steps with other mascots

DID CHARLEY DO A PIROUETTE?: ASD’s own Charley Horse joined other mascots Tuesday at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet headquarters on Edmonton Street to learn a routine that will be part of Sharing Dance Day Thursday, June 8 at the University of Winnipeg as part of Canada’s 150th birthday activities. Everyone is invited to participate. Free classes are available every Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the RWB. Find out more here.

"YOU CAN'T WRITE THIS STUFF:" So a friend experiencing a series of bad beats phones me Sunday and recounts another one in a string of many: He takes #6 and #9 in the first leg of a pick three on quarter horses at Louisiana. His #6 leaves quickly and is in front but drifts and interferes with #9. His #6 wins and, in a tight photo, #9 finishes third. But his #6 is disqualified for interfering with his #9 and the horse who beats his compromised #9 is declared the winner. The $1 pick-3 pays over $242. “You can’t write this stuff,” he says. Race-trackers everywhere can sympathize.

American Pharoah's first foal

PHIRST PHOAL FROM THE PHAROAH: Okay, do the usual “ahhh” as you examine American Pharoah’s cute first foal born last week at Brookdale Farm in Versailles, Kentucky (aren’t all foals cute?). Already there’s talk the colt will be named Pharoah’s Phirst. The foal is among many you can expect from the Triple Crown winner who “worked” morning, noon and night a year ago to service 208 mares – at $200,000 a pop. A full day was the equivalent of his winning a $1 million race ($600,000 in earnings). The mother of his first foal is a Tizway filly, Kakadu, who just turned 4.

FRESHLY-SMOKED BACON TO PERK UP "I WON BIG" GROUP? Not doing enough “keying” in critical races cost last Saturday’s “I won big” group the pick-5 and pick-4 at Tampa Bay but the offer by Glen Bennett (trainer Cole Bennett’s father) to treat the group to freshly-smoked bacon from Starbuck, Man. this Saturday should blunt feelings of loss. And, hey, maybe that’s just the picker-upper the group needs to nail this Saturday’s picks! The tasteful workshop starts at the usual 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza and everyone is invited.

UNDERDOG WIN CRUSHES BOOKIES: Not since the Grey Cup game has there been as thrilling a football game as the college championship in the U.S., with the underdog Clemson Tigers beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in a last-second touchdown catch. But it left Vegas bookmakers gasping. William Hill said it was the worst hit on any game ever. Seems just about everybody was betting the underdog. One superbook reported that of the first $11,020 bet on the game, $11,000 was on the underdog. What a game, though, with jaw-dropping circus catches as both teams marched down the field for last-minutes tit-for-tat touchdowns.

HPIbet TIPS 'N' TRICKS with Marshall Posner returns next week. The segment will now appear every two weeks.

HISTORY ON THE HOOF: The best of Bob

Harry Gumprich passed last summer. This week Bob shares the story of the man, who as a young boy together with his family escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938. He would eventually find his way to Manitoba where he raised cattle and became an owner, breeder and trainer of thoroughbred race horses at the Downs. Read more here.

So whose horses you gonna be watching for tomorrow at Oaklawn?
And don't forget Tuesday night's handicapping workshop!

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