Thursday, January 24, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14 No. 2 (Issue #672)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

It’s Compliment Day today!

Today, Jan. 24, is officially COMPLIMENT DAY in Canada, the U.S. and many other countries. Giving a compliment not only makes the recipient happy, it does something for the giver as well.

Who or what will you compliment today? (The day originated with two women in New Hampshire in 1998.)


Horse of the Year to be named tonight
at Eclipse Awards banquet at Gulfstream

Justify or Accelerate?

Will Justify be the first Triple Crown winner NOT to be named Horse of the Year?

Will Justify be “punished” for such a short career (from February to June) by becoming the first Triple Crown winner not to be named Horse of the Year? We’ll know at tonight’s Eclipse Awards presentations at the annual $425-a-plate banquet at Gulfstream.

“I have gone back and forth on my vote for weeks,”
said racing columnist Ron Flatter, one of 249 voters from the media and racing industry. “This is a vote for Horse of the Year and not Horse of One-Third of the Year,” he notes.

Sure, Justify overcame the Curse of Apollo by becoming the only horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Triple Crown without having raced at 2. But Accelerate won FIVE Grade 1 stakes including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a feat only accomplished by Affirmed, Alysheba and Cigar since the graded stakes system began in 1973.

What do you think? What’s your criteria for Horse of the Year? Would you reward a horse who’s here and gone in a blaze of glory or a horse who keeps on giving?

*       *       *

  • HPIbet columnist Marshall Posner: Justify
  • Two-time handicapper of the year Ron Phelps: Accelerate
  • Escape Clause owner/trainer Don Schnell: “It’s 50/50 but I’d have trouble voting against a Triple Crown winner so it’s Justify”
  • Tourney-winning handicapper Roger Jones: Accelerate
  • ASD long-time horse owner Dave Champion: Accelerate “because Justify stopped racing after Triple Crown win”
  • ASD racing secretary Dustin Davis: Justify
  • ASD assistant director of racing Derek Corbel: Justify
  • HBPA director and coordinator of Assiniboia Racing Club John Field: Accelerate
  • Never-say-die racing columnist Ivan Bigg: Catholic Boy

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Never entered a tournament? Marshall tells you why you should
  • Sign up for first 2019 Player's Choice tournament Saturday; $1,750 at stake
  • What ASD horse has been dubbed "the Assiniboia Assassin?"
  • Daughter scolds Daddy for spending so much on Pegasus statue; there's another one
  • What two horses will win the $16 million in Pegasus World Cup races Saturday?
PRIZES FOR BOTH “3 FOR THE MONEY” CONTESTS NOW AT $75: With no winners on Monday in the “3 for the money” contest on thoroughbreds, this Saturday’s prize is $75 in wagering vouchers (first three legs of the late pick-4 at Gulfstream) which is the same prize for Woodbine Mohawk Park harness racing at night (last three races of the card). Remember, an invitation to the hottest press conference/luncheon (for live racing) is on the line, too.

but, during February, there will be a draw on Saturdays for 5,000 in Player Rewards points. See OTB locations here.
QX104 � Today's Country

Official stations of horse racing.
Click to listen

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 $817.50.


"Honestly, she keeps getting better!"

"Hillbilly" Schnell gets 30-40 requests for interviews about "the Assiniboia Assassin"

“Honestly, she keeps getting better. I hate to keep saying it but that’s the truth,” owner/trainer Don Schnell told The Insider this week from Turf Paradise in Phoenix where Manitoba’s mighty mare, Escape Clause, is being prepared for the $250,000 grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, Feb. 16.

Schnell said he’s besieged by interviewers and has already done “30 or 40” since Escape Clause won the Grade 3 $100,000 La Canada Stakes two weeks ago. He’s also received “about 45” congratulatory texts and email messages “even from phone numbers I don’t know.” The 5-year-old has been dubbed “the Assiniboia Assassin” by the Thoroughbred Daily News.

“She’s more of a hero there (at Santa Anita) than anywhere else,”
Schnell continued. “They were clapping when she came to the Winner’s Circle.” Why are players so adoring? They’re intrigued, Schnell said, by the fact that “a hillbilly dumb enough to race in California” is actually crushing the competition there.

The race she is pointed to--a 7-furlong race on Santa Anita’s main track--is not her best distance (she prefers further, he said) but she needs a start before her biggest lifetime test: the Grade 1 $400,000 Beholder Stakes at one mile on Saturday, March 16, also on the dirt track.

Don’t you love the attached photo of her, taken by track historian Bob Gates in ASD’s backstretch? The glint in her eye seems to show a high degree of intelligence. That’s born out, according to Schnell, by her intense curiosity in everything happening around her.


  • Saturday at noon: First 2019 Player’s Choice tournament at ASD for the title of Horseplayer of the Month featuring $1,750 in prize money. Sign up by 9 p.m. tomorrow for $25 or by noon Saturday for $35. Never entered a tournament? Marshall tells you why you should below. Remember, ASD offers $35,000 in prize money and Vegas trips throughout the tournament year. Put yourself in the running for a share!
  • Saturday afternoon: Two Pegasus World Cup races worth $16 million, one on dirt, one on turf. There’s a Kentucky Derby prep race, too: The Smarty Jones at Oaklawn.
  • Sunday afternoon: Mandatory payout of Gulfstream’s Rainbow 6 has been rescinded.
ACCELERATE FAVOURED IN PEGASUS WORLD CUP INVITATIONAL: As expected, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Accelerate, is the 9-5 favourite to win the $9-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational. The 4-year-old drew post 5 in the 12-horse field. City of Light is the 5-2 second choice, having won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. And Gunnevera, who finished second in the Classic, is 8-1.

At odds of 5-2, Yoshida, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, is favoured to win the new $7 million Pegasus on the turf. The field of 10 appears quite a bit more competitive than the dirt race.

With betting pools fattened by wagers from casual players, Saturday is greedy time at Gulfstream for the pros. Take advantage!


The mother of all hats
(Jason Halstead photo)

Talk about a labour of love. Horse owner Anne Champion’s creation of the entire ASD grandstand and tarmac on a hat was, by far, the most jaw-dropping creation ever in the Manitoba Derby Day hat contest and this photo, by Jason Halstead, captured the image for an eternity, well-deserving of fan photo of the year. Top that, anyone!


DAUGHTER SCOLDS DADDY STRONACH FOR “UNSOUND” SPENDING: In public court filings, Belinda Stronach calls out her 86-year-old father Frank for “improvident and unsound business decisions (that) have reduced the family net worth by a staggering $580 million (U.S.)” that include $55 million for two bronze and steel statues of Pegasus slaying a dragon (one at Gulfstream and another still in storage in China), an organic cattle ranch in Florida, a golf course in Florida, an electric bicycle venture, a pumpkin seed-oil business and $51 million to run for president in his native Austria. Frank had sued her to wrest control of the family businesses including seven race tracks in the U.S. and one in Austria, from her and she has counter-sued.

“Confidence remains high,” said last week’s Insider about Saturday’s “I won bigger” betting group—which was a harbinger for a profitable day Saturday when the group cashed a pick-5 at Tampa that paid almost $1,900 and the pick-6 at Santa Anita that paid $454. Not quite a bacon bonus (we need $3,000 for that) but reason for quiet satisfaction. Basically, “rules” came through especially at Santa which is becoming a strong track to play. Let’s build on that for this Saturday which you may wish to attend if you’re entering the handicapping tournament at noon. Will a “dark” horse come to light? That’s 10:30 a.m., Clubhouse plaza, late pick-5 at Tampa, Rainbow 6 at Santa.

Readers write . . .

"Attending ASD is on my bucket list"

“Dear Ivan: I love reading your newsletter. I live in Maine and don't know if I'll ever get to play ASD in person but it's on my bucket list. I did notice an error in this week's edition. Ocean Downs, the harness track that Churchill owns is not in Maine. It's in Maryland. Penn National owns one of the two harness tracks in Maine, Bass Park.” Lill Hawkins

The online version was corrected upon receipt of your email, Lill. Thanks for correcting.


Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q: Why should I enter my first handicapping tournament?

While I’m not a regular handicapping tournament player, I do enjoy them several times per year. Here’s what I like best and why you should consider entering one: 
  • Handicapping tournaments, especially the Player’s Choice at ASD, offer great value. Considering it only costs $25 to enter with another $60 of your own money that is used to place your bets (you keep all of the winnings), there is $1,750 in cash payouts for the top five finishers with $1,000 going to the winner.
  • Tournaments offer a great opportunity to hone your ability to pick a winner. With the emphasis on betting only one horse to win, place and show, you can focus on selecting a single as opposed to trying to figure out the exacta, tri, or super.
  • Use tournaments to increase your confidence in selecting and playing long shots. Chances are you’re going to need to find one or two medium priced horses to have a shot at the victory so finding value is necessary. 
  • Tournaments can help you improve your discipline because you have to be very selective considering you have a finite number of picks to make. 
Why not take a shot at the upcoming tourney? Make it happen immediately by calling 204-885-3330 ext. 225 (the mutuel department) and paying the $25 entry fee on your credit card. Will you be thanking me?

Got a question for Marshall? Email
QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Tournament players are not looking for the most logical winner; they're looking for the most playable illogical winner.” -- Jeremy Plonk, editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine.

THE BEST OF BOB: Who was the best filly/mare? (Before Escape Clause, of course.)

Who was the best filly/mare to race at the Downs? Taboga, Electric Fever, Miss Missile, Picatune or was it someone else? Who's your choice? Historian Bob discusses some of the prime candidates here. (First published in August 2013.)


  • Eggplant rollatini on Italian-inspired Valentine's Day menu

    Tonight: Eclipse Awards banquet at Gulfstream. Who will be named Horse of the Year? Does Catholic Boy have a chance at beating Justify for top 3-year-old male? (Lol!)
  • This Saturday: First 2019 Player’s Choice tournament begins at noon (see Marshall’s reasons for entering); $16 million Pegasus World Cup races at Gulfstream ($7m Turf, $9m Dirt). Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn (Smarty Jones).
  • This Sunday: Mandatory payout of Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream has been rescinded.
  • Saturday, Feb. 2: Mandatory payout of Rainbow 6 at Santa Anita. Will it reach $15 million? Three Kentucky Derby prep races on tap: Withers at Aqueduct, Holy Bull at Gulfstream, Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita.
  • 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.
  • Holiday Monday, Feb. 18: Kentucky Derby Countdown contest begins that includes a draw in the Race Book after each of 15 prep races for two souvenir Justify Triple Crown glasses. Contest winner receives $200 bankroll to bet the Derby.

Who gets your first compliment on Compliment Day?

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