Thursday, February 25, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 7 (Issue #778)

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

NO CHANGE! 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.


Take that, Charlatan!
21-year-old Irish jockey, David Egan, on 19-1 Mishriff, celebrates catching Mike Smith on U.S. favourite Charlatan to win $20m Saudi Cup. But he was fined! See below.
(Amr Nabil/AP photo)


Will you say: “Thank you, Mr. Bigg!”?

My mission today is to have you say: “Thank you, Mr. Bigg!” The column is filled with handicapping tips designed, not only to give you a possible edge in Saturday’s handicapping tournament, but to offer a fresh perspective for all your playing.

I’ll bet you haven’t heard of the “up-and-down and pop” winning angle described under WIN A TON IN ’21. And how good is your turf handicapping? Take the “T or F” turf test and see.

And what are the six commandments of tournament play? The guy who wrote the book on successful contest play tells you below.

Don’t be bashful letting The Insider know if something you read today gives you a winning edge:

Bullet briefs . . .

  • T or F? Test your turf racing smarts
  • So long, Arlington Park; Churchill sells track, plans to build a track elsewhere
  • Are you playing in Saturday's tourney? Here are six commandments for contest play
  • Say it ain't so: For a second year, Mike Smith gets days for Saudi Cup ride
  • Finally, Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner makes his 2021 debut Saturday
  • Will Gretzky the Great be great in new Kentucky Derby prep race tomorrow?
READY FOR SATURDAY’S HANDICAPPING TOURNEY? SIGN UP BY TOMORROW AT 5PM: This month’s online Player’s Choice handicapping tournament goes this Saturday with the usual $1,750 of prize money at stake. An entry fee of just $25 will put your plays into the mix. Sign up by 5 p.m. tomorrow by calling the mutuel desk at 204-885-3330 ext. 225. See contest rules here.
Click to enlarge.

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

Do you have your new HPIbet account card that replaces the previous HPI card and the ASD Player Rewards card? Assiniboia Downs has joined the HPI rewards and bonus program and the new program began Monday, Feb. 1. See details here. If you haven't received your new card in the mail call 204-885-3330 (ext. 225) to check on the status.

OFF-TRACK WAGERING: One location is open. Note that the Rookies sports bar OTB in the Central Hotel in Transcona is now open from noon to 10 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. It’s the only Winnipeg OTB currently open.

GREEDY CORNER: Note that 20-cent jackpot pick-6 pools are gathering the most steam at Santa Anita where the pool is approaching $500K and at Turf Paradise where the pool is closing in on $400K. See all carryovers here.

Finally, B'Cup Juvenile winner makes 2021 debut

Essential Quality to race Saturday at Oaklawn; will Gretzky the Great be great?

Essential Quality winning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Darron Cummings/AP photo)
This will be an important weekend for 3-year-olds trying to land qualifying points to get into the Kentucky Derby:

GRETZKY THE GREAT is the horse to watch at Turfway. The colt will likely be favoured in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park, a brand new Derby prep race (since Churchill now owns Turfway). Gretzky the Great won a Grade 1 stakes at Woodbine. And that’s the name of a winner if there ever was one.

ESSENTIAL QUALITY is the horse to watch at Oaklawn. The winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile finally gets to make his 2021 debut in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park after the race was postponed two weekends because of inclement weather. In Derby future pools, he is the second choice after Life Is Good.

GREATEST HONOUR is the horse to watch at Gulfstream. The handy winner of the Holy Bull Stakes will face some of the same horses again Saturday in Gulfstream’s Fountain of Youth, a prep race for the Florida Derby. It will be one of nine stakes races at Gulfstream.
*       *       *
"A male Zenyatta"
Will La Perouse be the first Japanese colt to win Kentucky Derby?

Is this the year a colt racing in Japan wins the Kentucky Derby? Could be. There are four Kentucky Derby qualifying races in Japan and, this past Sunday, a colt described by one observer as “a male Zenyatta” won one of those qualifying races, the Hyacinth Stakes. That earned the winner, La Perouse, 30 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Despite a slow start on the Tokyo Racecourse, La Perouse put away 10 colts in impressive fashion to win going away. Noted one fan: Looks like a powerful horse--a big stride. Looks like a male young Zenyatta.”

La Perouse will certainly be the horse to watch on Saturday, March 27. That will be the last Derby qualifying race in Japan, the Fukurya Stakes, at Nakayama Racecourse near Tokyo. The winner will earn 40 Derby qualifying points. Outside the U.S., there are also seven Derby qualifying races in Europe.


How good are your turf smarts (in route races )?

1. T or F?
Class is more important in turf races than dirt races.
2. T or F?
A Group 2 horse from Europe is equivalent to a Grade 1 horse in North America.
3. T or F?
A turf horse setting a slow early pace has a good chance of winning the race.
4. T or F?
The more the turf rail is moved out, the better the chance a front-runner has of winning the race.
5. T or F?
It is easier for turf horses to stretch out in distance than dirt horses.
6. T or F?
Compared to dirt races, turf races are usually run faster early and slower late.
7. T or F?
A good jockey is more important in turf races than dirt races.
8. T or F?
European turf horses prefer a softer turf course than North American turf horses.
9. T or F?
A horse that runs poorly on soft turf tracks in Europe is a better bet when shipped to North America.
10. T or F?
Saving ground is more critical in turf races than dirt races.

See answers below under the DATES TO CIRCLE segment.


Six commandments for contest players
By Peter T. Fornatale

ASD’s next Player’s Choice handicapping tournament is this Saturday. Here are “six commandments for contest players” as outlined by Peter T. Fornatale in the Daily Racing Form after he wrote the book on successful tournament play:

1. Have a game plan
. Know what score you need and devise a plan to get there.
2. Focus on decisions, not outcomes.
The process is more important than the specifics of what happened in any race or contest.
3. It’s an information game.
Get information other people don’t have or learn to use the available information better than your competition.
4. Never forget the importance of being different.
Open your mind to new ways of thinking about handicapping.
5. Cap horses (horses paying at least $42) come in all shapes and sizes;
tailor your handicapping to find them.
6. Never stop learning

It was an exciting race . . .

. . . but winning jockey David Egan and second-place Mike Smith are penalized

U.S. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith was a bridesmaid once again in the Saudi Cup, losing the $20 million race Saturday on favourite Charlatan to 19-1 Mishriff who mowed him down in the stretch with Irish jockey David Egan aboard.

And, although Smith likely tried to be on his best behaviour after being fined $210,000 last year and getting nine days suspension for his second-place finish on Midnight Bisou, he found himself being suspended two days for interfering with Sleepy Eyes Todd who finished fifth.

The big fine this year, $100,000, was meted out to winning jockey Egan. His crime? Striking Mishriff one time more than the permissible 10 times. He also received a two-day suspension for his offence. By my count, Smith struck Charlatan just five times compared to 14 on Midnight Bisou last year.

It was seconditis day for U.S. horses on the eight-race card that started at 7 a.m. CT (4 p.m. in Saudi Arabia). Ontario-bred, William Mott-trained, Channel Maker lost to True Self ($14.60) in the $1 million Neom Turf Cup and Steve Asmussen trainee Cowan was the runner-up in the $1.5 million Al Rahji Bank Saudi Derby, losing to Japanese longshot Pink Kamehameha ($63.20).

Big money was to be had in the Saudi Cup with Charlatan second and Knicks Go fourth and 99-1 Great Scot finishing third. The $2 exactor (Mishriff/Charlatan) paid $139.20, the $1 triactor $2,400 and the $1 superfecta $8,340. The $1 pick-3 paid $10,500.

The world’s second richest race, the $12 million Dubai World Cup, goes Saturday, March 27 from Meydan Racecourse.
Horse moves up in class for one race, then down, beating a horse that beat him in a previous race
WIN A TON IN '21: Do you know the "up-and-down and pop" betting angle?

A pick-4 play by the “I won bigger” betting group at Tampa Sunday was lost to a horse that fit the “up-and-down and pop” angle. What’s that? A horse moves up in class for one race, then moves back down to the same level he was racing at and wins.

The horse in question, #5 Race Day Speed, was in race 8, a race in which the Bigger betting group keyed the favourite, #7 Grimhilde. Grimhilde had beaten Race Day Speed by seven lengths two races back. But after that race Race Day Speed was moved up from that $16,000 maiden claimer to a maiden special weight condition where he finished fifth.

Then he was dropped back down to $16,000 to race against the horse who had beaten him in their previous encounter--and this time he prevailed. See the program page here. #7 was the group’s key; #5 beat him on the “up-and-down and pop” angle.
QUOTABLE QUOTE: “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.” -- “Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) in the movie, “The Color of Money” (1986)

For sale
SO LONG, ARLINGTON PARK: Race days are numbered at Arlington Park in Chicago. The track’s owner, Churchill Downs Inc., is selling the property but promises to complete the 2021 race meet from April 30 to Sept. 25. “In the meantime,” says a Churchill announcement, “we are very committed to pursuing the relocation of Arlington's racing license to another community in the Chicagoland area or elsewhere in the state.”

An increasing number of race tracks in the U.S. are allowing or are considering allowing limited spectators in the face of COVID-19 concerns. Fonner Park, which recently opened its meet in Grand Island, Nebraska, is allowing 75 per cent of normal, Keeneland is open to limited reservations for its spring meet in April and Santa Anita is now considering some spectator involvement.

Gulfstream has had a 50 per cent spectator policy and Tampa Bay Downs appears to be close to normal, judging by the number of spectators shown on the apron in front of the grandstand during televised race coverage. Laurel Park in Maryland allows 250 fans. Aqueduct in New York only permits a limited number of horse owners. The U.S. is experiencing a steep decline in the number of new coronavirus cases but has had more than 500,000 deaths.
THE BEST OF BOB by Bob Gates: Fillet-o-finger?

He did what? In what was one of the wackiest reasons for booking off his mounts one day, jockey Larry Bird couldn’t ride because he sliced his finger while filleting a fish. Click here for other fun facts on outdoorsman and rider extraordinaire Larry Bird. (First published in July 2019)
New Derby prep race at Turfway tomorrow
  • Tomorrow: New Kentucky Derby prep race: John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park.
  • This Saturday: Player’s Choice tournament, Kentucky Derby prep races: Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park
  • Saturday, March 6: Trio of Kentucky Derby prep races: Gotham at Aqueduct, Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa and San Felipe at Santa Anita. Spring training begins at ASD.
  • Saturday, March 13: Kentucky Derby prep race: Rebel at Oaklawn Park.
  • Friday, March 19: ASD training track opens, weather permitting
  JOB OPENING: Want to become a race steward-in-training or judge-in-training for the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission? Click here for details.

ANSWERS TO T OR F QUIZ: (1) T (2) T (3) F (4) T (5) T (6) F (7) T (8) T (9) T (10) T.


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. (Please note that Rookies OTB is open daily from noon to 10 p.m and Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.)

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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