Thursday, January 14, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 1 (Issue #772)

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

ASSINIBOIA DOWNS REMAINS CLOSED AS COVID RESTRICTIONS CONTINUE but online wagering fun continues as does emailing of programs, home delivery and pick-ups by ASD staff. See bottom of column.



The Insider turns 15 today

What comes to mind as The Insider celebrates its 15th birthday is the weirdest unresolved thing I ever encountered in the world of racing. That was the discovery buried in the turf course at Happy Valley race course in Hong Kong in 2007 of plastic tubing designed to shoot darts containing drugs into the bellies of horses lined up in a gate at that spot. As a New York Times reporter based in China confirmed with The Insider this week, the culprits seem never to have been caught so the bizarre mystery will just persist.


It's horses and hockey today!
Payoffs precede faceoffs

When you think about it, this day carries a lot of excitement in the countdown to the first NHL hockey game of the season for the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames at 7 p.m. CT. Virtually speaking, before the game, starting late in the morning, you can land via HPIbet in Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Kentucky and West Virginia. Wow!

Those are the locations of just the thoroughbred tracks you can wager on but there are a bunch of standardbred locations as well. How many places can you hit by tonight?

Here’s a fun idea: Pick a hunch horse number and race number and blindly place a wager on that number at all tracks. Just for the fun of it. I would take #4 in race 4 at each track. Let’s see what happens.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Longshot Les nails longest shot of his life and takes down half of Tampa's pool
  • Did you know ASD race-starter Derek Corbel rode at Aqueduct?
  • Ky Derby prep race in Dubai takes a big purse hit. How much?
  • When will the Queen's Plate be run?
  • What Kentucky Derby prep race runs this Saturday?
TIME IS RUNNING OUT! WHO ARE YOUR TOP 10 HORSES OF THE PAST 50 YEARS? Submit them in a contest to win a trip to Kentucky to mark the 50th anniversary of the Eclipse Awards. Download ballot here. Entry deadline is Jan. 25.
Click to enlarge.

Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are racing in January? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Download 2021 LIVE RACING SCHEDULE here.


Nails longest shot horse of his life
Les Buzzell bets $70 on 95-1 horse at Santa; also wins half the pick-5 pool at Tampa

“Thought I would show you my wins today,” business owner Les “Longshot” Buzzell emailed The Insider Saturday evening in a decidedly understated tone. Ho-hum. He just caught:
  • For an outlay of $72, he collected half the pool of the early pick-5 at Tampa, $27,644. His wheel was 3 X 2 X 3 X 2 X 2. His horses paid $25.60, $8.60, $8.20, $30.40 and $17.20.
  • Then later that afternoon he nailed the longest shot horse of his life. He bet $70 on a 95-1 horse in race 6 at Santa Anita and collected $6,664. The 3-year-old colt, Just a Command, was obviously a huge overlay. Although the colt trailed the field in his first lifetime start, his trainer had won three of six races, was 28 per cent with maiden claimers and added blinkers. See program page here.
When he’s not playing the races, Les runs a company that installs railway signals and has a big deal brewing overseas.

Caveman alert
New "go for the gusto" strategy will feature giant group tickets; get involved!

Okay, it’s a new year so here’s the new deal. There’s been a call to load up “I won bigger” betting group tickets each Saturday with all potential winners in each leg of pick-6, pick-5 or pick-4 tickets with a view to landing a major score. It’s the “caveman” approach to ticket formation but it’s an approach many players have asked for.

But those who DON’T like the caveman approach will love spot plays during the week because 20 per cent of Saturday’s bankroll will be saved for smaller plays, primarily by Dave Boehmer who has a history of hitting multi-thousand dollar payoffs for pick-6, pick-5 and pick-4 tickets costing under $100. Those plays could be made ANY DAY OF THE WEEK to add extra excitement to your day.

So that will be the approach starting THIS SATURDAY: two “go for the gusto” major caveman tickets on Tampa races. If you’d like to join in, email Sheri at then watch the races and cheer for that bombs-away horse that will produce a mega-score. As usual, each $20 share will be generously topped up with $5 from the Downs.
  • Jan. 23: $4 million Pegasus World Cups
  • Feb. 20: $20 million Saudi Cup
  • March 27: $12 million Dubai World Cup
Big cut: UAE Derby slashed from $2.5 million to $750K
All undercard races on Dubai World Cup Day in March take a hit

Plus Que Parfait winning the UAE Derby last March with $2.5 million purse, now reduced to $750K (Dubai Racing Club/Neville Hopwood)
The UAE Derby, a Kentucky Derby prep race that is one of nine races to be run at Meydan Racecourse on Dubai World Cup Day on Saturday, March 27, in the United Arab Emirates has taken a big purse hit. The purse will be $750K, down from $2.5 million last year.

In fact, a total of $8.5 million has been lopped from the eight races on the undercard. Left untouched is the $12 million Dubai World Cup. Total purse money this year is still a hefty $26.5 million.

Plus Que Parfait
, trained by Brendan Walsh, won last year’s UAE Derby. In 11 races since then, the colt’s best finish was second in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic Stakes. His $1.8 million in earnings came primarily from his UAE Derby victory.

The fifth running of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on dirt will go a week from Saturday at Gulfstream. See possible list of starters here. The previous winners of the 1 1/8-mile dirt race were: World's Best Racehorse Arrogate (2017), Horse of the Year Gun Runner (2018), Breeders' Cup Mile winner City of Light (2019) and Mucho Gusto (2020). There will also be the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational.
YOU NAMED ME WHAT? Not Tonight Bobby. At first blush, the name of this 3-year-old filly racing at Gulfstream Park leads the mind in one direction but that changes when you note the name of the filly’s sire is Shanghai Bobby. Let me guess, though, the person(s) who named the filly is enjoying his/her cleverness. Was it one of her Kentucky breeders? Castle Park Farm, Frederick Wieting, John McCormick or Bridget Sperl?
Derek Corbel is ASD starter and assistant director of racing

ASD race-starter Derek Corbel rode at Aqueduct
"I remember the horses in front of me getting smaller and smaller"

Did you know that Derek Corbel, Assiniboia Downs’ race starter and assistant director of racing, rode in a race at Aqueduct in New York in 1995 at the age of 21? He was representing Canada in a world final for amateur riders after being named Canadian amateur champion for riding two winners in one day (Sept. 4, 1995) at Assiniboia Downs.

Derek Corbel (left) with Nik Goodwin in 1995 before winning amateur race on Lord of the Pack
The 6-furlong $29,000 race was on Dec.10, a day so cold (“minus 50 windchill,” he remembers) that he borrowed cold-weather gear from jockey Richard Migliore. But he particularly remembers the no-talent horse he was drawn to ride. “I was sick,” he recalls. In seven starts, the 3-year-old gelding, All America, had finished last or nearly last and did not even finish two races. The horse, the longest shot in the 11-horse field at 74-1, broke last and went backwards from there. “I just remember the horses in front of me getting smaller and smaller,” Corbel painfully recalls. See the race chart for that race here.

That race brought to an end his two-year dabbling as an amateur rider. Weighing in at 135 pounds (amateur riders carried 140 pounds), Corbel rode in six races, logging two wins at ASD and a second at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon. His cousin, Keith, had a couple starts as an amateur in 1997, winning one of the races.

trained at ASD primarily from 1984 to 2015, logging 844 wins from 5,885 starts. His top horse, Ericka’s Lass, won six stakes races. He made headlines in 2011 when he went on a limb to guarantee that Jon’s Golden Run, a horse named for Manitoba Olympic skeleton gold medalist, Jon Montgomery, would win the nine-horse Buffalo Stakes for 2-year-olds--which the horse did--and never won again in 13 starts.

THIS SATURDAY’S PREP RACE: The $200K Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. Horse to beat: Mandaloun trained by Brad Cox. The colt is two-for-two as a 2-year-old. Highest Equibase speed: 94.

The $150K Smarty Jones on opening day of Oaklawn’s 2021 race meet. The stakes race is named for the colt, Smarty Jones, who won three prep races and the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2004.

Life Is Good. E speed 112.

Richard Mairs
Will he ride at ASD this year?
WILL ASD’S 2019 LEADING RIDER, RICHARD MAIRS, RETURN THIS SEASON? Jamaican jockey Richard Mairs, ASD’s leading rider in 2019, will be back riding at ASD this spring if Derek Corbel, ASD’s assistant director of racing (see above), gets his way. He was preparing foreign-worker paperwork this week to make it possible for Mairs and about nine other jockeys from the Caribbean to come and ride at ASD with federal approval. COVID-19 prevented the jockeys from coming to Canada last year.

Woodbine has announced it will stage the 162nd Queen’s Plate about two months later than it usually has: Sunday, Aug. 22. “We are optimistic that this timing could give us the best opportunity to welcome guests back at Woodbine Racetrack for the most exciting event on the Canadian horse racing calendar," Jim Lawson, president and CEO of Woodbine Entertainment said.

On the auction block in Keeneland this week have been broodmares from the mighty Canadian-owned Sam-Son Farm which the owners are breaking up after almost 50 years in the horse breeding/racing business. Mark Samuel, who is an equestrian rider, has been quoted as calling his Farm’s dispersal “a bittersweet outcome of a long-term evaluation and discussion.” Among the Farm’s most famous horses have been Dance Smartly, the first Canadian owned and bred horse to win a Breeders’ Cup race and the second filly ever to win the Canadian Triple Crown; Breeders’ Cup winner Chief Bearhart and Eclipse Award winner Sky Classic.

Frankel, the greatest racehorse in the world 2010-2011 ( photo)
OWNER/BREEDER OF WORLD’S GREATEST RACEHORSE DIES: Prince Khalidbin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the founder in 1977 of one of the biggest horse breeding/owning operations in the world, Juddmonte Farms, has died at 83. You know him best, perhaps, as the owner of Arrogate, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup, but Europeans know him best as the breeder/owner of the greatest racehorse in the world from 2010-2011, Frankel, who was 14 for 14 including Europe’s classiest races.

Juddmonte logged more than 500 stakes wins, 440 of which were won by horses he bred. One-fifth of his stakes victories were Grade/Group 1 calibre. "Prince Khalid will always be remembered as a quiet, dignified, benevolent family man, whose horses spoke for him,” a Juddmonte spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Thousand Words, the colt I had backed to win the Kentucky Derby, has been retired to stud with a fee of $7,500 to $10,000. Purchased for $1 million as a yearling, he flashed brilliance as a 2-year-old but had an erratic 3-year-old career, winning two stakes but inexplicably finishing up the track in others despite outstanding workouts. He never got to run in the Kentucky Derby because he flipped in the paddock before the race. Trained by Bob Baffert, the son of Pioneerof the Nile earned $327,500 (9-4-1-0). Will his progeny outshine him?
Savvy football picks by TravyFootball: Divisional playoffs

Eight teams remain after last weekend’s wildcard games:  

  • Packers over Rams 25-14 The weather alone should give the Packers the advantage here. It’s going to be cold, and nobody plays better in the cold than Aaron Rodgers. Rams stud defender Aaron Donald suffered torn rib cartilage last week against the Seahawks but is still expected to play.
  • Bills over Ravens 28-24 This should be the game of the weekend. The Bills defense has to play much better than they did last week against the Colts if they hope to slow down the suddenly resurgent Lamar Jackson. Having said that, Josh Allen is looking pretty unstoppable himself and the Ravens defense will also have their hands full. 
  • TOP PICK Chiefs over Browns 38-20 It’s easy to forget how good the Chiefs are because they haven’t played a meaningful game in a while. And as impressive as the Browns looked last week against the Steelers, taking on Pat MahomesTravis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill is something totally different. 
  • Bucs over Saints 23-17 The two oldest QBs to ever face off in a playoff game Drew Brees was 2-0 against Tom Brady during the regular season but the Bucs are vastly improved since then and this game should be much more competitive. There’s speculation that Brees will retire if he loses. It’s not all bad for him though: he already has signed a contract with NBC to do play-by-play for Sunday night games starting in 2022. 
LAST WEEK’S GAMES (4 for 6): The Browns proved you can be missing your head coach, multiple assistant coaches, multiple starters, and be prevented from practising for an entire week, and still win . . . Jared Goff had three pins surgically inserted into his broken thumb and still managed to play! (I still don’t understand how) . . . The Ravens got their revenge on the Titans in more ways than one . . . And Tom Brady continued his quest for another Super Bowl ring... 
THE BEST OF BOB by Bob Gates: Is this legend fact or fiction?

Do you know the legend of the Whittier Park clocker? As local racing yarns go, our history guy says there are none better than this one! Click here and decide for yourself, fact or fiction? (First published June 2016)
Racing ramps up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday
  • This Saturday: “I won bigger” group play continues online. Kentucky Derby prep race at Fair Grounds--Lecomte; Sunshine Millions stakes races at Gulfstream and Santa Anita
  • Monday, Jan. 18: U.S. holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day). Major tracks are racing. First post: Aqueduct 11:20 a.m.
  • Friday, Jan. 22: Oaklawn Park meet begins with the Kentucky Derby prep race, Smarty Jones.
  • Saturday, Jan. 23: Two Pegasus World Cup races at Gulfstream ($3 million dirt, $1 million turf)
  • Friday, Jan. 29: 50th Eclipse Awards presentation virtually from Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Saturday, Jan.30: First Player’s Choice tournament of the year; two Kentucky Derby prep races: Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, Holy Bull at Gulfstream
Don't overdo the birthday cake!
Go, Jets!

While Assiniboia Downs and OTBs remain closed due to Code Red coronavirus directives, here’s how to play races, make deposits or withdrawals and get racing programs.

Where can I wager and watch the races?

  • You can wager on your account at or by calling a Telephone Account Betting Operator at 204-885-9800. No account? Call 204-885-3330 ext. 225.
  • Watch the races at or on MTS T.V. channels 179 & 180

How do I open an HPIbet account?

  • You can open an acccount quickly and easily at or by calling the mutuel desk at 204-885-3330 ext. 225.

How do I make a deposit to my HPI account?

  • Deposits can be made at using a Credit Card, Interac Online or PayPal.
  • Deposits can be made by e-transfer. Send e-transfer to and place your HPI account number in the message portion of the e-transfer .
  • Deposits can be made using a credit card by calling 204-885-9800.
  • Deposits can be dropped off at the General Office by using our curbside drop-off service. Please call 204-885-3330 ext. 225 to make these arrangements in advance.
  • Deposits can be picked up from your home. Please call 204-885-3330 ext. 225 to make these arrangements in advance.

How do I make a withdrawal from my HPI account?

  • Withdrawals can be made at
  • Withdrawals can be made by calling 204-885-9800

How can I get a Program or Daily Racing Form?

  • Programs and Daily Racing Forms will be emailed to you. Request the track you want by emailing Sheri at
  • Programs and Daily Racing Forms can be obtained via contactless curbside pickup. Call 204-885-3330 ext. 225 in advance to make those arrangements or email
  • Programs and Daily Racing Forms will be delivered to your home. Call 204-885-3330 ext. 225 to make those arrangements or email

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3975 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3K 2E9
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