Thursday, March 2, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 8 (Issue #575)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Here they come for Season 60!

Horses hit the training track and Equi-ciser as spring training begins

ASD's Season 60 has officially begun with the opening of the training track and Equi-ciser as assistant director of racing Derek Corbel and race secretary Ray Miller continue on their road trip selling the merits of racing at ASD.

The 50-day meet kicks off a week after the Kentucky Derby, on Mother's Day, May 14, the first of six afternoon cards that begin at 1:30 p.m. Otherwise, post time is 7:30 p.m. Most weeks operate on an easy-to-remember Wed-Fri-Sat schedule. See the live race days here.

Almost half the race days (22) will feature important stakes races, with the most important, the $75,000 Manitoba Derby being held on holiday Monday, Aug. 7. See the stakes schedule here.

This will be the second year for the Assiniboia Racing Club where dozens of new owners will be anxiously following the progress of the horse(s) that they invest in. Last year's Club experienced a Hollywood ending. Will this year's Club duplicate or top that?

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Two important Derby preps Saturday: Gotham and Fountain of Youth
  • Whine and shine: Tournament winner almost didn't enter
  • When should you bet a "seconditis" horse? See Marshall's tip.
  • "I won big" betting group get bacon treat second week in a row
  • How do you think the 250th anniversary of racing in Canada should be marked?
  • World Cup to feature Arrogate and return of money-making handicapper

GORRIE'S $54 IS HIGHEST OF MONTH IN PARLAY CONTEST: Even Al “Mr. Parlay” Ilott was out on the weekend to try to catch Shawn Gorrie's $54 five-race show parlay that was highest of the month but no one did – so congrats to Shawn who wins a prime rib buffet for two. Your parlay opportunities continue tomorrow and Saturday night. The Downs will match the winnings of the highest one each night and, of course, the biggest of the month gets rewarded a prime rib buffet for two, too.

Earl Grantham
First to win Derby souvenirs

GRANTHAM WINS SOUVENIRS IN FIRST DAY OF COUNTDOWN CONTEST: The first of 15 Championship Series prep races for the Kentucky Derby began Saturday and continues this Saturday with the Gotham at Aqueduct and the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. Your 10 best scores out of the 15 races in the “Countdown to the Derby ” contest will count toward winning a $100 win/place bet on the Derby on the first Saturday in May. Financial consultant Earl Grantham was first to have his entry drawn to win a handsome Derby travel mug and pint glass. TWO draws will take place this Saturday, one after each prep race. See the contest leaderboard here. Congrats to Paul Gray, Trevor Tilston-Jones and John Urbanski for being quickest out of the gate with their prediction that Girvin would win last Saturday's Risen Star Stakes.

FREE WEDDING SHOW TICKETS TO FIRST 10! The highly successful Big Day Wedding Expo –organized by ASD bartender Cory O'Grodnik --makes its third appearance at the Downs Saturday and Sunday and Cory says 10 pairs of tickets worth $25 a pair will be made available FREE to Insider readers who simply go to the Clubhouse bar at any time and request a pair of tickets. The transformation of the ASD facility during the show is phenomenal. Pass the tickets on to someone who may have a wedding in the future! Visit the Expo website here.

QX104 � Today's Country

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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 March? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Jets

EVERY FRIDAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY: Free VLT tournaments starting 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.

EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: 5-Alive "Double Your Winnings" contest from 7 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. and $10 buy-in poker. Registration 8 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m.


Almost didn't enter

Initially critical about tourney changes, George Moehring crushes rivals

Tourney director Dawn Forbes presents trophy to winner George Moehring. Others (from left): Ken Stewin (3rd), Trevor Tilston-Jones (4th), Alan Hampton (5th). Missing: Barry Mymko (2nd)

Life works in mysterious ways. The first person to agree with that statement this week would likely be George Moehring, a retired real estate appraiser who won his very first Player's Choice handicapping tournament.

The ironic part is – it was touch and go whether he would even enter the tournament after he lamented the changes to the tournament that saw the prize money double but left the lunch brunch and Player Rewards points on the sidelines. “I am going to have to think very, very hard to rationalize participation in this new program in the future,” he had said in a strongly worded but colourfully written email after the January tournament in which he finished fourth.

And his reward? Winning the thing -- while other players probably wished he had thought harder about not entering. He not only won, but did so convincingly by increasing his $40 bankroll to $92.50--$20 more than his closest rival, Barry Mymko. That bankroll increase would have been enough to win most Las Vegas tournaments (the winner of $800,000 in the January national contest had just doubled his bankroll).

George likely noticed, too, that the revised tournament with double the prize money resulted in a big jump in participation, with 44 entrants, about 50 per cent more than the usual number.

HOW GEORGE BUILT UP HIS BANKROLL TO $92.50: George had success at Tampa, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds and Gulfstream. Six of his 10 picks won with an average win payoff of $10.20. A couple “rule” horses won for him: The highest pace number at Tampa, the best closing kick on the turf at Fair Grounds.

CONGRATS, TOO, TO THESE RUNNERS-UP: Barry Mymko $72.50 bankroll ($400 prize money); Ken Stewin $57.70 bankroll ($200 prize money); Trevor Tilston-Jones $53.70 bankroll ($100 prize money) and Alan Hampton $53.30 bankroll ($50 prize money). See full list here.

*        *        *

LEADERBOARD DOMINATED BY “I WON BIG” PARTICIPANTS: After two tournaments in 2017, five of the seven top positions on the leaderboard consist of participants in the Saturday morning “I won big” workshops. They include George Moerhing (first), Ken Stewin (fourth), John Urbanski (fifth), Dave Blackmore (sixth) and Brian McKellar (seventh). See full leaderboard here.

A unique handicapping aspect of the “I won big” workshops is the separation of horses into “rule” horses and “opinion” horses. A rule supersedes an opinion and, as such, a rule horse is almost always added to tickets EVEN WHEN opinions on the horse are negative. Three of the five winners in last Saturday's winning $4,600 pick-5 ticket at Tampa were “rule” horses. Attending a workshop will show you what constitutes a “rule” horse.

YOU NAMED ME WHAT? Gurlin. How many horse names do you know where you instantly know the dad and the sex of his offspring? Gurlin is obviously the daughter of Curlin, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup and Preakness Stakes. Not quite taking after her dad, it took Gurlin eight races to break her maiden which she did at Ellis Park in a $30,000 claimer. In her most recent start she finished third in a $30,000 claimer at Gulfstream in January.


Two biggie preps this Saturday

Fountain of Youth entrant Irish War Cry "couldn't look better" in work

Irish War Cry "couldn't look better"

When you hear that an unbeaten 3-year-old “couldn't have looked better” in a recent workout, you've got to believe that horse, Irish War Cry, is the horse to beat in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on Saturday.

And up north at Aqueduct--where the Gotham prep will be run-- El Areeb appears to be the horse of the moment.

So those are the horses to give serious attention to as you enter the second week of the “Countdown to the Kentucky Derby” contest to win a $100 win/place wager on the Derby.

A longshot horse I like? Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth. Probably more for the superfecta than to win.

WHO ARE THE TOP FUTURE-POOL HORSES? McCraken at 6-1, Irish War Cry at 7-1 and Mastery at 8-1.

MEANWHILE, ON THE FILLY SIDE: Judging by the action on Jerry Hollendorfer's Unique Bella in the Kentucky Oaks Future Pool, we might as well concede the race to her. She's at even money while her closest rival is Farrell at 10-1. Might Unique Bella's connections consider racing her in the Derby instead? She does have a vaunted 110 Equibase speed figure.


Got ideas?

What would be an appropriate way to celebrate this anniversary?

We know this is Canada's 150th birthday but fewer people realize that 100 years before confederation, the first advertised horse race was held on the historic Plains of Abraham in Quebec on July 1 – meaning that July 1 is also the 250th anniversary of horse racing.

What do you think would be an appropriate way to celebrate the occasion? (July 1 is a Saturday race night at the Downs.) Send your suggestions to .

For starters, read the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame press release here.

Don't you love what the Gazette de Quebec wrote about the first race ever 250 years ago?

"The horse race for a purse of forty dollars was held on Wednesday, first of the month, on the Hill of Abraham. It was easily won by Captain Prescott's mare Modesty, much to the discomfiture of those who, purporting to know about such things, had wagered against her and were thereby parted from their money."


Arrogate: Desert bound

TOP HORSE AND TOP HANDICAPPER HEADLINE WORLD CUP: Lovers of great racing and great handicapping should be pleased to hear that the best horse in North America, Arrogate, is pointed toward the $10 million Dubai World Cup three weeks from this Saturday – and that the proven money-making handicapper of all races on World Cup Day, Rob MacLennan, will once again be watching many dozens of replays from around the world with a view to helping pad the pockets of Insider readers once again. I know some of you are looking forward to this already.

DID SOMEONE SAY "BACON" -- AGAIN? For the second Saturday morning in a row, the “I won big” betting group will be crunching on a bacon treat, thanks to nailing a pick-5 at Tampa Bay that netted participants more than $4,600. The previous week the group cashed a pick-4 paying almost $4,000. And, for the second week in a row, it was a longshot pace-setter that set up the healthy price. At 10/1 in the fourth leg it was #10, G.I. Girl, with the highest pace number and cutting back to a sprint after showing speed in mile races, an important “rule.”

Doing the pick-5 crunch

In the final leg, another highest-pace-number horse, #2 Justadarling, went to the lead in the turf route and didn't look back. Speed kills! “This is the most I ever made in racing,” said Ray, the newest member of the group, who picked up $115 for his $20 investment. The group will be looking to three-peat this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza. You're invited, of course. Under discussion will be the last five races at Tampa. As usual, each $20 share will be generously topped up with $5 from the Downs.

WHAT DOES A $300,000 CELEBRATION LOOK LIKE? In an annual group outing a week ago at Gulfstream Park,12 guys from a bourbon distillery in the U.S. rented a suite and ponied up $20 each to play the 20-cent Rainbow 6 – and won the $324,180 pool when a 25-1 first-time starter won the last leg and theirs was the only ticket. Someone recorded their celebration on a smartphone right after their longshot crossed the wire – which you can watch here (scroll down to the video)– and imagine yourself being part of that kind of celebration in the not-too-distant future.

VLT tourney winner Ernie Vandal
(Corinne P. photo)

RETIRED BUS DRIVER TURNS $20 INTO $127 TO WIN VLT TOURNEY: Sunday night was lucky for retired school bus driver Ernie Vandal. Playing Big City 5's in the month-end Unleash Your Luck VLT finale, Vandal turned his $20 in free spins into $126.95, which won him an additional $250 as the tournament champ. Congrats, Ernie! Free VLT tournaments continue every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. Simply add your name to the draw.

PICK-4 POOL AT LOS AL SETS ANOTHER RECORD: Despite short fields, the early pick-4 Sunday night at Los Alamitos continues to be among the most popular on the continent. The Southern California quarter horse track hit a record $197,198 pool this past Sunday; its previous record was $192,292 last April. There were six to eight horses in each leg of the pick-4. A winning ticket paid $71.70. Quarter horse racing offers a speed thrill unlike other racing; the spirited finishes can literally take ones breath away. Los Al races Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.


Readers write . . .

Best female to run at the Downs? MacLennan says it's Fanfreluche. But . . .

Bob's all-time female fav

Historian Bob's question in the last Insider: “Who was the best female horse to race at ASD?” elicited this response from ASD handicapper/paddock host Rob MacLennan:

“It was 1970 Manitoba Derby winner Fanfreluche: She was a Sovereign and Eclipse award-winning 3-year-old filly in 1970, Canadian Horse of the Year in 1970 and won the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga one month after winning the Manitoba Derby. Well before my time.”

Bob's response? “Clearly Fanfreluche was the best but clearly I failed to indicate that the ‘contest' was only open to horses who ran locally and excluded shippers. I'll be careful to add that qualifier in future stories of this nature.” See Bob's female fav here.

HPIBET Marshall Posner

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q. What is seconditis and is it curable?

A. Seconditis is a condition where a horse has a major tendency to finish second in race after race – because of an inability to pass horses in the lane or by allowing horses to pass them at the wire. Seconditis is often a maiden affliction although older horses can certainly be affected as well. They're good bet-against horses because they are often post time favourites due to all of their second-place finishes. I normally stay away from them since it can be very difficult for horses to unlearn this habit.

Long Notice (#2) ridden by Bill Shoemaker, pulls himself up to finish second to Prince of Light in June, 1987 (Archival photo courtesy of historian Bob)

When should you consider a win bet on a seconditis horse? (1) A change to a better jockey who has never ridden the horse before. (2) An improved trainer with an equipment change. A switch to a better trainer with added blinkers and a bullet work merits instant consideration.

A BIGG RECALL: If you were playing ASD races in the 1980s, you'll recall a classic seconditis horse by the name of Long Notice. In his last five years of racing, from 1985-89, the ungelded horse finished second 23 times but first just six times. Even Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker couldn't get him to win. In a visit to the Downs on June 3, 1987, Shoe furiously edged Long Notice ahead as he neared the wire but, true to form, Long Notice appeared to pull himself up to finish second – again. Historian Bob tracked down the results of that race here. See Long Notice photo with Bill Shoemaker aboard and trainer Bill Bilous here.

Got a question for Marshall? Email

HISTORY ON THE HOOF: The best of Bob

This week Bob tells the story of the top-notch conditioner who trained for “the house”-- Jack Hardy's JY Stable--for two decades. Some of the horses in his charge over the years include Ruling Lark, Bocage, Windspray, Mays Relic and Bala Roman. Remember them? Read Bob's blog here.

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