Thursday, February 28, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14 No. 7 (Issue #677)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

YOUR MORNING TRIVIA TEASER: What’s the fastest time ever recorded for a thoroughbred horse? (a) 40 mph (b) 44 mph (c) 48 mph (d) 51 mph. See answer at bottom of column.


First to arrive, first to cross the finish line?
(John Ganas photo)

If the early bird gets the worm, does the early-arriving horse get the lion’s share of the purse? Steven Gaskin, above, hopes so.

The Gold Cup-winning trainer brought the snowy backstretch alive Saturday when he shipped in 13 horses including Bob Crockett’s 3-year-old Manitoba filly Roni Rocket, above, (4-1-0-1) to begin training for the 62nd season of live racing 11 weeks away. Gaskin said he would have more than 20 bedded down in the stalls by the end of this week.

With only three years in the business but with a name that makes him a natural for equine training success (“gaskin” is the large muscle on a horse’s hind leg homologous to the calf in humans), Gaskin already won five stakes last season including the Gold Cup and Manitoba Mile with Media Melee, the Jack Hardy Stakes with Estherfourfourteen, the J.W. Sifton with Why So Blue and the Balooga Bull with Zack Ridge Road.

MERRY-GO-ROUND OPENS, TOO: Coincident with the arrival of horses was the opening on Sunday of the indoor Equi-ciser that sends horses walking, trotting or galloping in wide circles at increasing speeds as they become more fit. Horses generally enjoy the merry-go-round, whinnying and bucking as they go. Weather permitting, the training track is scheduled to open Tuesday, March 12.

And the first people to order food from the backstretch diner which opened Saturday? Horse owners Dave Blake and Cristen Parks from Kenora who enjoyed breakfast before heading to the grandstand to play in the Handicapper of the Month tournament.

Meanwhile, ASD’s assistant director of racing, Derek Corbel, is in the skies dropping in on tracks and training centres to recruit more horses for the 50-day season that begins on Mother’s Day.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Yes, you can learn how to be lucky
  • Saturday afternoon drama at Gulfstream: Is Hidden Scroll the next Justify?
  • Whitehill whallops the competition again
  • Psst! Marshall's got a Santa Anita horse for your "horses to watch" list
  • What can you win at OTBs on Saturdays in March?
WIN $150 SATURDAY IN “3 FOR THE MONEY” CONTEST: With no winners in last week’s “3 for the money” contest, this Saturday’s pot is at $150 in wagering vouchers for predicting the winners of the first three legs of Gulfstream’s late pick 4.

The contest on Kentucky Derby prep races continues Saturday with the running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream. Who will win? A draw will also be held for a set of two Triple Crown “Justify” glasses.

Get into the draw every Saturday in March at an off-track betting location to win an Assiniboia Downs T-shirt (and you know how “cool” the designs are) plus $20 in wagering vouchers if your name is drawn. Locations.
QX104 � Today's Country

Official stations of horse racing.
Click to listen

94.3 The Drive

Click to expand


Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are running in March? Find out here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Jets. 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 $2,422.50.

GREEDY CORNER: $400,000-plus carryovers today at Gulfstream and Santa Anita in the Jackpot pick-6. First post at Gulfstream 11:35 a.m. and at Santa Anita 2:30 p.m. Quick-pick tickets are available at five for a loonie. View others here.

How to be LUCKY

Luck is random, right? There’s nothing you can do to cultivate it, right? Or can you? This headline, from an old Globe and Mail newspaper screams the opposite:

“Luck is a skill that can be learned and bent to your will.”

What? This wasn’t Luck magazine, or whatever, this was the staid Globe and Mail making this assertion. What the story boiled down to is this: Those who BELIEVE they are lucky and act in a positive confident way will get luck flowing their way.

It’s mostly about demeanor. If you’re the “why me?” type, Lady Luck is more apt to look away. Besides, you’d figure out a way to make good luck feel like bad luck anyway.

The article’s point seems to be borne out by the luckiest race-player I’ve ever met, Leslie “Longshot” Buzzell, whom you’ve read about multiple times in this column. When he’s not running a railway signal installation company, he’s collecting thousands of dollars on horses at ridiculously high odds. They just seem to win for him. Most players would love to have $5 on a 78-1 horse. His bet is in the $60 to $100 range. And his attitude? Laughing, enjoying the camaraderie, always upbeat, often saying “this is way too much fun.”

Although he handicaps most of his plays, his abundant confidence even had him betting—and cashing-- a $100 wager on an 18-1 horse that matched the number that came up on the Wheel of Fortune that someone else had spun. Now that’s out and out luck.

As a university researcher in the Globe article puts it: “The lucky ones are not intrinsically lucky. Their experience has taught them to behave that way.”

Is Hidden Scroll the next Justify?

Colt comes into the Fountain of Youth with 115 E figure, 12 more than Justify

How good is Hidden Scroll, the 3-year-old son of Hard Spun who set a blazing 115 Equibase speed figure in his first lifetime start a month ago? Is he the next Justify (whose first lifetime E figure was a mere 103)? Will he move up a notch in this Saturday’s Fountain of Youth prep race at Gulfstream?

If he wins, the following Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita will be especially important. That’s when the favourite to win the Kentucky Derby, Game Winner, is scheduled to make his first start of 2019 after winning all four of his races last year including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But Game Winner’s highest E figure was 111.

In the latest Kentucky Derby futures pool, Game Winner is the 5-1 favourite and Hidden Scroll is tied for second with Improbable at 7-1. A domineering performance in the Fountain of Youth could catapult him to the head of the class. Should be a good one!


won the Fountain of Youth in 1996 at odds of 143-1 then never won another stakes race for the rest of his 33-race career.

There will be two contests centred around the Fountain of Youth. One will earn you points for a $200 bankroll to play the Kentucky Derby and give you a chance to win a set of two Triple Crown “Justify” glasses in a draw. And the other could win you $150 in wagering vouchers. See Fun & Games above.

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to the perennial handicapping favourite John Whitehill, a retired bricklayer who “came back from the dead (after two heart stoppages)” to win a trip to Las Vegas in last summer’s handicapping tournament and who won February’s Handicapper of the Month tournament Saturday by turning $60 in win/place/show wagers into $124.60. “I spent 15 hours analyzing five tracks,” he told The Insider. And the work obviously paid off—to the tune of the $1,000 top prize. “I aim for horses with odds of at least 5-1,” he said. His biggest scores were:
  • At Parx, a class-dropping horse with a new, better 33 per cent trainer. John collected $25.60
  • At Parx, a 25-1 longshot that had shown exceptional quickness last time before tiring badly. John collected $28.90 when the horse finished second.
  • At Tampa, a “bounce” horse (won big two races ago) that made him $26.60 when it finished second.
Way to go to the runners-up, too. Here are the top five with their bankrolls and prize money:
  1. John Whitehill – bankroll $124.60 – prize $1,000
  2. Damian D’Souza - $114.40 - $400
  3. Earl Grantham - $107.30 - $200
  4. Ken Stewin - $102.10 - $100
  5. Bill Drew - $95.50 - $50   Full results. HOTY leader board.
A BIG SHOUT-OUT to perogy producer and originator Janet Gray of Naleway Foods Ltd. for allowing herself, though tired, to be coaxed to the track Friday night to play VLTs by her race-playing husband, Glen, because the previous three times he had played in the monthly handicapping tournament, she had won VLT money to pay his $25 entry fee. She could not have known just how worthwhile her concession to her husband would turn out to be.

Not only was her entry drawn to receive $20 in free spins in the “Unleash Your Luck” VLT tournament but, playing Wild Life, she turned those spins into $230 and a berth in the following night’s monthly finale when more free spins won her $32 which was enough to collect the $250 grand prize, too. That means she won enough—free-- to cover entry fees if necessary for Glen’s next 20 tournaments lasting through most of 2020! But something tells me she already has March 22, the day before the next tournament, pencilled on her calendar.
YOU NAMED ME WHAT? Run Spot Run. Now this 3-year-old gelding racing at Tampa brings back memories, doesn’t he? And also gets us thinking Run Dick Run, Run Jane Run, Go Dick Go, Go Jane Go, Run Sally Run, etc., etc. And, yes, those have all been names of race horses through the years. There was even a quarter horse named Go Puff Go who unfortunately never got to race. Purr Puff.


“BIGGER” LOSS WAS A BIT OF A MYSTERY: How the winner of the third leg of the Tampa pick-5 was left off “I won bigger” group tickets Saturday is a bit of mystery considering the horse was the speed of the race and came out of a “key” race. When tickets were being created, it just somehow eluded being added—and hence losing out on more than $4,000. You can throw brickbats at me for letting It happen. Let hockey’s Patrik Laine be our mentor in shaking off the scoreless drought to post a solid win this Saturday at Tampa 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza (late pick-5) and maybe one of the Rainbow pick-6s at Gulfstream and Santa where about a half million is at stake.

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q. When does a bad break equal a bad trip?  

This week’s topic is “trip handicapping.” For starters, avoid the universal “bad trip.” In other words, don’t add a troubled trip to your stable mail if it happened in a major stakes race, especially a Kentucky Derby prep race. Why? Because everyone saw the same thing in these highly scrutinized races ensuring that the value on the horse in question will be non-existent. Focus your attention and trip notes on other races that are much less watched and publicized.

Also consider the nature of the trouble. For example, a bad break for a speed horse usually means “game over” but not for a deep closer.

Look at #5 Dignitaire in race 9 at Santa Anita for Friday, Feb. 22 (view PPs here). He’s a stalker who was dropping in class and looked to have a good chance to win. However, he stumbled badly at the start, spotting the field five lengths. Then he raced three to four wide throughout the first turn and into the backstretch before managing to achieve a pace-pressing third while extremely wide. Needless to say, he flattened and tired badly in the stretch. In my opinion, this bad break definitely cost him the race. Watch the replay and see if he doesn’t also belong on your short list of horses to play back next time out!

Got a question for Marshall? Email

THE BEST OF BOB: Newspaper titan's true love was racing

Did you know that John Sifton, the master of Stoneacres Farm, always considered himself a horseman who dabbled in the family newspaper business and not the other way around? John died in 1969 and his wife, June, passed in 2016. In this week's blog, Bob remembers John's love for horses and wonders what might have been had he not been taken from us at the youthful age of 43. Read it here. (First published in September 2012.)
National Meatball Day next Saturday features four Derby preps to play while you eat


  • This Saturday, March 2: Kentucky Derby prep race-- the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.
  • Friday, March 8: Future wager pool #3 on the Kentucky Derby (until Sunday). Also includes wagering on the Kentucky Oaks.
  • Saturday, March 9: National Meatball Day features four Kentucky Derby prep races– the Gotham at Aqueduct, the San Felipe at Santa Anita, the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa and the Jeff Ruby Steaks (note the spelling because the sponsor is a steak house) on the synthetic Turfway track.
  • Tuesday, March 12: ASD training track opens (weather permitting)
  • Saturday, March 16: Kentucky Derby prep race–Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn

JANUARY: Geoffrey Metcalf, retired salesman. Bankroll $90.30.“I look for trouble lines, equipment changes, good trainer stats.”
FEBRUARY: John Whitehill, retired bricklayer. Bankroll $124.60. “I look for horses with odds at least 5-1.”
Will it be you? Tournament goes Saturday March 23. Entry fee $25. Prize money $1,750.

ANSWER TO TRIVIA TEASER AT TOP OF COLUMN: (b) 44 mph. Actually, 43.97 mph or 70.76 km/h. A 2-year-old filly, Winning Brew, holds the title. Clocked at Penn National on May 14, 2008. Two furlongs in 20.57 seconds

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