Thursday, March 4, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 8 (Issue #779)

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

Great news!

Assiniboia Downs is now open to horses AND PEOPLE!

VLTs, the Race Book and dining facilities will be open at 9 a.m. tomorrow and select OTBs will be open throughout the city, too!

Manitobans have faithfully been following coronavirus protocols for several months, resulting in a low number of new COVID-19 cases which has prompted the province to open up access to VLTs, restaurants and lounge activities.

So, just as horses are arriving in the backstretch for spring training (see below), people are being invited to return to the Downs for VLT play, simulcast racing and ordering their favourite menu dishes. Social distancing and mask-wearing will be required. Tables may be shared only with household members and provincial regulations require be produced.

ASD HOURS: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
OTB HOURS: Canad Inns Windsor Park
9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. daily; Pembina 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; Central Hotel (Rookies) 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Sunday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Please note that the Green Brier is only open to purchase programs from the kiosks or deposit HPI money via the self serve terminal located in the lobby (9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and Sundays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Since you may now download race programs at the Downs and at OTBs, the Downs is discontinuing home delivery of programs. (Note that the Winnipeg casinos remain closed so programs are unavailable there.)



Take a hike, cancer!
Despite a seeming death sentence last fall, trainer ships in horses for spring training

Shelley Brown with barn favourite Stevie Mac
Can it be? Yes, it can. Shelley Brown, the ASD trainer who was told last fall that her body was riddled with stage 4 cancer, is shipping in 20 horses starting today for spring training. “I’m more excited than ever about racing,” she told The Insider.

And how is she feeling? “Great,” she said, “although I do have my tough times.”

Most of us would see that as an understatement. She almost died from infection last fall after a lung operation and she requires radiation treatment to beat back “a lot of cancer in my bones”--especially in her shoulder, left hip and spine. She endures monthly injections into her stomach and requires medication to toughen her bones and relieve nerve pain.

Especially important in her cancer fight, she says, is a new drug, Ibrance, that suppresses the production of estrogen that induces cancer growth. She also undergoes naturopathy treatment.

She is beating cancer with her thoughts as well. “You have to have the right mindset,” she said. “You have to let things go, to let your demons go and see yourself as being healed.”

Having her horse, Real Grace, win the Canadian Derby last fall in Edmonton gave her a big lift, she said, and buying a cocker-poodle puppy. Rylie “has given me joy” and taken her mind off her health concerns. “He has to go to the dog park each day,” she notes.

Because of the brittleness of her bones, she won’t be throwing around bales of hay anymore or even saddling a horse but, like a good film director, she’ll be pointing out to her grooms the techniques and little secrets of horse conditioning that resulted in her becoming the first female trainer at ASD to earn the training title in 2012.

Shelley is back, baby!
*       *       *
WHAT OTHER TRAINERS ARE SHIPPING IN? Derek Corbel, the assistant director of racing and race starter, says he expects these trainers also to be shipping in today: Steven Gaskin, Larry Cizik, Jim Donley, Fred Rawson, Steve Thompson, Jennifer Jordan, Mike Nault and Elton Dickey. The Equi-ciser opens Saturday and the training track opens in two weeks, weather permitting--and hasn’t the weather been great?

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Millions at stake at Santa Anita Saturday in a mandatory payout of the 20-cent pick-6
  • The punch that landed leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. a $1,000 fine
  • How a jockey's hunch ride produced a $107 winner
  • Why does tourney winner Jeff Rozmus deserve a bigger-than-usual shout-out?
  • Want to make your horse more mellow? Wearing the scent below may do the trick.
HANDICAPPING TOURNEY REVEALS THE WACKY WORLD OF CONTEST PLAY: The results of last Saturday’s Player’s Choice handicapping tournament are posted below but what isn’t readily apparent is how wacky the world of handicapping is. Last Saturday’s tourney winner, Jeff Rozmus, finished near the bottom in January’s tournament. In other words, he soared from near-zero to hero. And where did January’s tourney winner, Kevin Palmer, finish in February? Near the bottom. He plunged from hero to near-zero. It can be an unforgiving game, can’t it?
Click to enlarge.

Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are racing in March? 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.

GREEDY CORNER: Mandatory payout at Santa Anita Saturday! Santa’s 20-cent jackpot pick-6 should grow beyond $3 million Saturday, which is Big ‘Cap Day at the California track. The “I won bigger” betting group will hope to turn around their fortunes by making this pool their main play. Contact Sheri at sherig@ if you’d like to share in the ticket(s).

Irad’s $1,000 punch
Unhappy with Paco Lopez’s objection against his horse, Known Agenda, in the fourth race Friday at Gulfstream, top jock Irad Ortiz Jr. hauls off on Lopez, resulting in a $1,000 fine. Stewards dismissed the foul claim.


Gulfstream shocker
Prohibitive favourite fades as 52-1 filly wires field in Kentucky Oaks prep race

Go figure. Essential Quality, the colt who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall and has designs on the Kentucky Derby, made his 2021 debut at Oaklawn Park Saturday, doing what most expected of him. He won the Southwest Stakes at even money.

By contrast down at Gulfstream Park, Vequist, the filly who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and has designs on the Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, went backwards in the Davona Dale Stakes at prohibitive odds of 1-2, finishing second-last in the field of 10. Going to the lead in that race and never looking back was the longshot of the week, #1 Wholebodemeister, who paid a lofty $107.60 for a $2 win ticket.

Did you bet her? Who knew she had the capability of elevating her Equibase speed figure to 98 in the stretch-out to a mile after posting a 76-best in sprint races? Her jockey, Edgard Zayas, had a hunch she could improve: “Last time, she was between horses and didn't like it,” he was quoted as saying after the race. “I knew she would be solid if I could keep her in the clear. My plan was just to break out of there, put her on the lead and see what she got.”

He found out--and so did we. Players who gave her a shot (by taking “all”?) were cashing handsomely: A $1 pick-5 that was comprised of three favourites (including Fountain of Youth winner Greatest Honour) and a 5-1 horse paid more than $9,000. And the 20-cent superfecta paid $28,000.

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to Jeff Rozmus who won the monthly Players’ Choice handicapping tournament Saturday for the second time in four months, not an easy achievement. Betting $2 across the board on 10 horses, the retired sewer bylaw enforcer turned $60 into $100.50, $8 more than runner-up Darcy Backman. What were his main plays and why?
  • “I always play two first-time starters,” he said. His first was in race 1 at Gulfstream where he tried to beat the favourite with an 18-1 horse trained by the hot Bill Mott (31 per cent wins according to Saturday’s program). He collected $17.90 when the horse finished second.
  • In race 5 at Aqueduct, a colt with a good debut sire and a mother who won at first asking, won, adding $32 to Jeff’s bankroll. “I love playing those types.”
  • “I watched the first couple of races on a sloppy track at Laurel and speed was the play,” he noted. So he played a horse he thought was the speed and it won, resulting in another $25.90.
  • He can’t remember why he liked an 8-1 horse in race 11 at Gulfstream but it was the right odds and it won, giving him another $25.80.
What those plays DID show, however, was his handicapping versatility. He won the tournament in November by playing horses who had raced wide in replays he had watched. The top five finishers among 62 entrants were:
1. Jeff Rozmus
-- $100.50 bankroll -- $1,000 and a trophy
2. Darcy Backman
-- $92.50 -- $400
3. Brett Perrault
-- $78.60 -- $200
4. Wayne King
-- $76.00 -- $100
5. David Blake
-- $72.10 -- $50

The next online tournament is Saturday, March 27, which is Dubai World Cup and Florida Derby Day

It's stablemate vs stablemate at Santa Anita Saturday
Life Is Good to face Medina Spirit in San Felipe Stakes

The last time they met, Life Is Good beat Medina Spirit
Will life remain good for Life Is Good at Santa Anita Saturday when the colt takes on his stablemate, Medina Spirit, again in the San Filipe Stakes? It’s another prep race for horses looking to accumulate qualifying points to enter the Kentucky Derby.

Both are Bob Baffert trainees. In their previous encounter in the Sham Stakes on Jan. 2, Life Is Good won but Medina was making up ground. Since then, Medina won the Robert B. Lewis, another Derby prep race, in an exciting, grueling stretch duel.

Particularly interested in this race will be those who bet Medina Spirit at long odds in a Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool. They’d love to see their choice beat Life Is Good who has been favoured in the pools. In this weekend’s future pool, Life Is Good is the 4-1 second choice while Medina Spirit has morning line odds of 30-1.

Both horses have been working extremely well: Medina Spirit was best of 11 horses Saturday in a 6-furlong workout with a clocking of 1:11.20. That’s huge. Then Sunday, Life Is Good was one second slower but, on the previous Sunday, was fastest of 54 in a 5-furlong workout.

Should be a good one!

Candy Man Rocket will be the colt to beat Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs. He comes off a bullet workout among 36 horses. And watch out for Freedom Fighter in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He was best of 63 in a recent clocking at Santa Anita where he earned a 105 Equibase speed rating by finishing second in the San Vicente Stakes a month ago.

Essential Quality now favoured over Life Is Good

Got a hunch? You can future-bet both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks this weekend

Got a hunch? Bet a bunch!
Here comes another chance to take a shot on a longshot horse to win either the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks. Make your win or exactor wagers from tomorrow thru Sunday.

Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has made Essential Quality the favourite at 7-2, followed closely by Life Is Good at 4-1. That reverses the order from the previous future-wager pool. Essential Quality, in his 2021 debut last Saturday, easily dominated the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Life Is Good will be racing in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Saturday, the first time he has raced since beating his stablemate, Medina Spirit, in the Sham Stakes at Santa on Jan. 2. Will Life Is Good race as well as he did in the Sham or will Medina Spirit (who is 30-1 in Derby futures) overtake him?


If this horse were smelling lavender instead (inset), he would likely be feeling pretty mellow
RACING CLUB BUYS A HORSE: The Assiniboia Racing Club has purchased a maiden 3-year-old gelding who has been racing at Charles Town in West Virginia, the Club’s coordinator, John Field, has told The Insider. It was a private sale after the horse, Benroy, had finished third in a $12,500 U.S. maiden race. Devon Gittens is the Club’s trainer, Field said. There are 46 Club members with 47 shares.

WANT TO CALM DOWN A HORSE? Wear lavender cologne. A study of eight horses showed that a lavender scent blown into the air from a humidifier resulted in seven horses having a reduced heart rate. In other words, the horses became more mellow. That opens up all sorts of aromatherapy possibilities, doesn’t it? If you want to sharpen a horse’s brain in readiness for a race, what if a jockey dabbed on the bracing essence of rosemary? Hmm.

Last year’s leading trainer, Jerry Gourneau, is now racing at Fonner Park where he has two wins from 13 starts (13-2-1-1). Fonner races Fridays at 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

There will be no race meet in Saskatchewan again this year because of the effects of the pandemic. The not-for-profit Prairieland Park, an agriculture and fair complex in Saskatoon that includes Marquis Downs, has not been able to hold money-making events such as the Ex which has helped subsidize about $500K in racing losses each year.
THE BEST OF BOB by Bob Gates: Old man on a bench muses about decades of racing

There really was an old man who sat on the benches in front of the grandstand a couple of hours before the races started. He'd sit on his ground-level perch and dream about race-trackers from 1960, 1970, 1980 and 2000. Click here to see how many names you recall from Bob's list from yesteryear. (First published in August 2020.)
Gotham Stakes goes Saturday at Aqueduct
  • Tomorrow: Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool #4 starts and is available to Sunday at 6 p.m. Also future-wager the Kentucky Oaks. See Derby interests here and Oaks interests here.
  • 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
  • Sunday, March 14: Daylight Savings Time begins.
  • Wednesday, March 17: St. Patrick’s Day. Win wads of green!
  • Friday, March 19: ASD training track opens, weather permitting
  • Saturday, March 20: Kentucky Derby prep race: Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds
  • Saturday, March 27: Dubai World Cup day. Player’s Choice handicapping tournament. Kentucky Derby prep races: the Florida Derby, Jeff Ruby Steaks, UAE Derby.
How are you celebrating the Downs’ reopening tomorrow?    
For starters, I’m looking at making three $300 win wagers

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