Thursday, January 17, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14 No. 1 (Issue #671)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

How do you spell "WOW"?

E-S-C-A-P-E  C-L-A-U-S-E

“I cannot believe I’m saying a Manitoba-bred just dusted ‘em in Southern California.” – Santa Anita’s Peter Lurie before interviewing the connections of Escape Clause in the Winner’s Circle Saturday.

Escape Clause takes control at the top of the stretch

Owner/trainer Don Schnell and jockey Tyler Baze being interviewed in the Santa Anita Winner's Circle
Assiniboia Downs’ Race Book erupted in wild cheering and the Twittersphere went crazy as Escape Clause blasted to the lead in a field of six Kentucky-and Florida-bred fillies and mares on a sloppy Santa Anita track Saturday to win the Grade 3 $100,000 La Canada Stakes with, as jockey Tyler Baze said, “a whole lot left. I don’t know how good she is.”

Which had owner/trainer Don Schnell telling The Insider this week that he’s eyeing the Grade 1 $400,000 Beholder Stakes in mid-March for an upcoming start—especially since Baze’s agent, Craig O’Brien, told him that Escape Clause would likely even be a favourite in that Grade 1 stakes. “In my 43 years as an agent, I’ve never seen a move like that,” Schnell said O’Brien told him.

In the meantime, Schnell—who said he’s in demand on the talk-show circuit now—is pondering entering Escape Clause into one of these two races, both of which are $200,000 Grade 2 events:
  • The Buena Vista on Feb. 7, a one-mile race on the turf or . . .
  • The Santa Monica on Feb. 16, a 7-furlong race on the dirt.
“I like the distance in the Buena Vista,” he said, “but I like the company in the Santa Monica.” The female competition in dirt races isn’t as tough as on the grass, he said.

Escape Clause’s breathtaking move in Saturday’s La Canada Stakes prompted this email from Insider reader George Campbell: “Can’t stop watching the replay. That turn of foot reminded me of Secretariat's move in The Preakness--my heart was pumping fast.”

Watch the race here.

Happy 13th birthday, Insider!

Two crazy stories come to mind. Remember?

Tubing designed to shoot poison darts into horses' bellies was discovered buried in the turf

The Insider becomes a teenager today, celebrating its 13th birthday by recalling two of the craziest stories this column has ever covered.
  • The burying in the turf track at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong in 2007 tubing designed to shoot little drug-filled darts into the bellies of horses standing in the starting gate for 6-furlong races. The perpetrators—believed to be a Chinese criminal gang--have never been caught.

  • A former head of the California Horse Racing Board viciously scratching (“keying”) in the Hollywood Park parking lot in 2009 the Jaguar of a horse owner who had been harshly critical of the racing board for, among other things, forcing California tracks to install a synthetic surface. The Insider tracked down and posted the Hollywood Park security videos of the vandalism.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Is Escape Clause the best Manitoba-bred ever? Or is it still Fancy As?
  • Horses can smell fear
  • "I owned Escape Clause's great grandmother"
  • Reader poll: Will there be another Triple Crown winner this year?
  • What bonuses are there at ASD on U.S. holiday Monday?
  • Why does Chef Gerardo deserve a big shout-out?
“3 FOR THE MONEY” NOW AT $75 FOR BOTH THOROUGHBRED AND HARNESS: No one predicted the winners of three contest races at Laurel or at Woodbine Mohawk Park Saturday so the prize has increased to $75 in wagering vouchers for each contest this Saturday. There will be a bonus contest on Monday, a U.S. holiday, with five draws for $10 in wagering vouchers, too.

Contest races: Saturday thoroughbreds—Fair Grounds, the first three legs of the late pick-4 which includes the Le Comte prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Saturday harness—the last three races on the Woodbine card. Monday—the first three legs of the late pick-4 at Gulfstream.

$25 in wagering vouchers and an ASD toque. OTB locations here.
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 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. Royal Flush progressive jackpot for tomorrow, Friday, is $1,255.

IT’S NATIONAL POPCORN DAY SATURDAY so, of course, ASD will mark the day with popcorn available in the Clubhouse all day at $3 a bag, says food and beverage director Manley Chan.

Is Escape Clause best MB-bred ever? Or is it still Fancy As?

Escape Clause gets 112 E fig with Grade 3 win but Fancy As earned 116 for Grade 2 third

ESCAPE CLAUSE (mare): Has earned $423,500 in three years of racing . Won a Grade 3 stakes race Saturday at Santa Anita with 112 E fig

FANCY AS (gelding): Earned $670,092 in eight years of racing (2000-2007). Finished third in two Grade 2 races at Santa Anita with 116 E fig

Is Escape Clause the best Manitoba-bred horse ever? Or does she have a bit more to do to pass Fancy As for that honour?

Fancy As with Alberta trainer Ron (Red) Smith after winning Canadian Derby in 2001

Fancy As, in his career from 2000-2007, wasn’t able to win a graded stakes at Santa Anita as Escape Clause did on Saturday. But he did finish third in two Grade 2 stakes—with an Equibase speed figure of 116 in the Strub Stakes--and Escape Clause’s win came in a lower-level Grade 3 stakes with a 112 E fig. But, then again, she had something left in the tank. So let’s call it a tie.

Their lifetime records are almost the same: Fancy As (27-16-2-3); Escape Clause (28-19-3-3). Interestingly, both finished second in the Manitoba Derby but Fancy As went on to win the Canadian Derby and B.C. Derby, races that Escape Clause didn’t enter.

In terms of earnings, Fancy As reached $670,092 in his eight-year career which is $250,000 more than the current earnings of Escape Clause. But a few more stakes victories—even over the next three months—will put her right there. Will she do it?

Will she, in the words of a local horseman, become known as the “senorita of Santa Anita” after being regaled as the “darling of Del Mar” in previous starts?


What are the odds of a Triple Crown winner this year?

Some say 5-1 or 10-1, half say 20-1

Half the respondents in an Insider poll think there’s only a 20-1 chance there will be another Triple Crown winner this year. One-quarter of respondents think the odds are 5-1 and one-quarter say 10-1.

No one places the odds lower than that. Add your opinion by emailing with either a, b, c, d or e in your subject line: (a) Even money (b) 3-1 (c) 5-1 (d) 10-1 (e) 20-1.

The results so far are: (a) 0 (b) 0 (c) 5 (d) 6 (e) 12


GREAT RACING: It’s the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday in the U.S. when all major tracks are racing.
Aqueduct and Parx at 11:25 a.m.
5x the usual Player Rewards points on all wagers; a special “3 for the money” contest on Gulfstream races which includes five draws for $10 in wagering vouchers.

THE BIGGEST SHOUT-OUT, of course, goes to Escape Clause and her connections who prompted the biggest celebration in the Clubhouse since American Pharoah ended the 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015 by winning the Belmont Stakes. The biggest hope now is that the super mare will not be sold. A Florida horseman reminded The Insider what the owner of the great Man o’War said in 1939 when he was offered $1 million for the horse: “Many people have $1 million but only I have Man o' War."

Chicken Piccata

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to ASD’s Chef Gerardo for creating a menu of authentic Italian dishes for the Valentine’s dinner and dance that already has me drooling and see if you don’t get the same response by reading the menu here. You don’t have to speak Italian to look forward to Chicken Piccata, Veal Pizzaialoa, Eggplant Rollatini, Mushroom Spinach Risotto or Panzanella Salad, just a few of the savoury dishes.

Chef Gerardo introduced a similar menu last Valentine’s which he termed his “coming out party as ASD chef” which attracted 183 diners and this year’s has the added attraction of music and light show by NuFrequency. The gourmet event is just $29.95 and tickets are available from Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.

to Santa Anita for posting an all-time wagering record for the first day of a meet of $20.4 million on Dec. 26. Augurs well for a prosperous season for the “great race place,” I would think.


Announcer Kirt Contois
New responsibilities

NEW RACING SECRETARY, TRACK HANDICAPPER FOR ASD: The Manitoba Jockey Club has announced that Dustin Davis, the longtime assistant race secretary, has been appointed to the position of racing secretary at Assiniboia Downs, taking over from Ray Miller. Also, Kirt Contois will have new responsibilities in addition to calling the races: he’ll assume the position of assistant race secretary and will replace Rob MacLennan as on-air track handicapper, something he did some years ago. (MacLennan will head to Century Mile, the new track in Edmonton, which opens in April, where he has accepted a position in the racing department. That will not include on-air handicapping, he tells The Insider.)

As racing secretary, Davis will have the primary responsibility of soliciting horses from trainers to produce race cards for the public to wager on. Davis will also work with Contois to develop a stakes schedule, produce “condition” books for different types of races and recruit horsemen to race at the Downs. “Please join us in congratulating Dustin and Kirt on their exciting new promotions,” the MJC announcement says.

Research in Italy has shown that horses can smell fear. And how did researchers find that out? By collecting armpit sweat from people watching a scary video and others watching a happy one and having horses sniff each. Differences in horses’ heart rate were noted depending on whether the horses were smelling “scary” sweat or “happy” sweat. In other studies, certain herbs such as anise (licorice flavour) and cumin rubbed on a horse-handler’s hands will elicit a positive response from an ordinarily ornery horse.

Saturday’s “I won bigger” betting group nailed Santa Anita’s Rainbow 6 twice. Problem was, longshots didn’t fire in the “all” legs so each ticket, keying Escape Clause in the fifth leg, of course, paid just $163 each. Also, although trying a different ticket-structuring strategy thanks to fan education specialist Glen Sirkis, the group missed on the Tampa pick-5 when their horse on the lead in the last leg (which would have given them $1,500) was passed by a horse they had on another ticket but not the secondary ticket. Confidence remains high, however. See you Saturday 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza once again for the late pick-5 at Tampa and the Rainbow 6 at Santa.

CHURCHILL NOW OWNS PRESQUE ISLE: Churchill Downs Inc. has added Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pennsylvania to its stable of race tracks that now include Churchill Downs in Kentucky, Fair Grounds in Louisiana, Arlington Park in Illinois and two harness tracks: Ocean Downs in Maryland and Miami Valley in Ohio (50 per cent owned). Presque Isle has a Tapeta synthetic surface and Arlington Park has a Polytrack surface. Churchill purchased Presque Isle—which includes a casino--from Eldorado Resorts for almost $179 million, according to reports.

Buckpiat wins 1988 Winnipeg Futurity
(With thanks to historian Bob Gates)


Readers write . . .

"I owned Escape Clause's great grandmother"

“Dear Ivan: Escape Clause’s third dam is Choo Choo. I bought the mare in foal to Gallapiat at the Fasig Tipton sale. That foal, Buckpiat, was one of my best horses. Won the Winnipeg Futurity in 1988 and set early fractions at ASD in 1989, finishing second to Nephrite when he set the track record for six furlongs. Small, almost black colt, that didn’t want to go a step over six furlongs.”Henry Thilmony

Interesting lineage connection to Escape Clause, Henry. Thanks for sending.

THE BEST OF BOB: Seabiscuit in Winnipeg?

Did you know . . . that a fan favourite horse nicknamed “the Toytown Express" led a Victory Bond Parade in Winnipeg from Main Street to City Hall in 1941? Read “The mighty Seabiscuit raced in Winnipeg?" here. (First published in August 2012.)

Note that the Lecomte Stakes goes this Saturday


  • This Saturday: Kentucky Derby prep race at Fair Grounds (Lecomte) with a highly-competitive 14-horse field.
  • This coming Monday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S.): 5x Player Rewards on all wagers, special “3 for the money” contest on Gulfstream with five $10 draws.
  • 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)
  • Monday, Feb. 4: Reservations open for Mother’s Day brunch for live racing
  • Thursday, Feb. 14: Valentine’s Dinner & Dance on the main level with NuFrequency Light & Sound. $29.95. It features a great Italian-inspired feast by Chef Gerardo. See menu here . Call Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0 for tickets.

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3975 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3K 2E9
Ph (204) 885.3330 • Fax (204) 831.5348

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