Thursday, March 14, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14 No. 9 (Issue #679)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

"Worth whinnying about," snorts Charley Horse


Charley Horse is excited about upcoming Sundays at the Downs--with good reason!

St. Patrick's Day fun (and fortune?) this Sunday
Get 5x the usual player rewards, win free Lepracoin VLT spins and more

Spring training has Charley Horse champing at the bit, whinnying about all the fun on tap at the Downs on upcoming Sundays. This Sunday, clothe yourself in green to generate the luck of the Irish and dive into these special offerings:
  • Get 5x the usual Player Rewards on all bets made at the track
  • Attend the special “I won bigger” betting group workshop at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse Plaza featuring the late pick-5 at Tampa
  • Use “lucky” $10 betting vouchers (won in 10 draws to be held Saturday)
  • Enter the draw for free spins in the new Lepracoin VLT game
  • Enjoy Irish lamb stew with toast for $9.95
  • Look for “hunch” St. Patrick’s Day plays
Super mare Escape Clause likely to race next Sunday
Big day also includes $800,000 Sunland Derby and 5x Player Rewards points

Charley reminds us that two big races at Sunland Park in New Mexico are just the beginning of another must-attend Sunday on March 24:
  • Escape Clause nominated to $100,000 race at Sunland Park, New Mexico
    Manitoba’s super mare, Escape Clause, is expected to take on other ladies in the one-mile $100,000 Harry W. Henson Stakes at Sunland Park in New Mexico
  • If she wins, Crazy Hour will ensue in the Clubhouse to celebrate her victory
  • The Kentucky Derby prep race, the $800,000 Sunland Derby, will be run on the same card.
  • Enter your pick to win the Sunland Derby to earn points toward winning a $200 Kentucky Derby bankroll; Triple Crown “Justify” glasses will be given away after the race
  • Get 5x the usual Player Rewards points on all bets you make at the track
  • Use $10 betting vouchers (won in 10 draws to be held Saturday)

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Weather gods smile upon ASD as training track opens
  • "Blood galore," read the note handed to me. What was that about?
  • Fingers crossed, racing to resume at Santa Anita in a week
  • Manitoba players did themselves really proud in February. At what tracks?
  • Why will March handicapping tournament be held early?
TWO CONTESTS TO ENTER IN THE RACE BOOK SATURDAY: “3 for the money” on the first three legs of the late pick-4 at Oaklawn Park could win you $150 in wagering vouchers; the Derby Countdown Contest on the two Rebel stakes races could earn you points toward a $200 Kentucky Derby bankroll and gives you two chances to win Triple Crown “Justify” collector glasses in draws after the two races. Congrats to last week’s glass-set winners: Roger Bamburak, Murray Chaban and Karen Bodnaryk. See the Countdown leaderboard here.

Get drawn to win $20 in wagering vouchers and a uniquely-designed ASD T-shirt. Locations.
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 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 $3,077.50.

GREEDY CORNER: ABOUT $1.4 MILLION carryover in today’s Rainbow pick-6 at Gulfstream. Will a 20-cent quick-pick scoop the pool? First post: 12:15 p.m. See other carryovers here.


"Santa Anita's loss is Oaklawn Park's gain."
--Santa Anita odds maker Jon White

Oaklawn's Rebel prep race split into two
Kentucky Derby favourite Game Winner finally gets to make 2019 debut

At long last, Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner makes his 2019 debut (AP/Darren Cummings photo)
The cancellation of racing at Santa Anita—where trainer Bob Baffert’s two highly-rated colts, Game Winner and Improbable, were scheduled to knock heads in the San Felipe prep race last Saturday—has turned into a bit of a blessing for the trainer.

That’s because each of those horses will race in separate races at Oaklawn Park because this Saturday's Rebel Stakes will be split into TWO divisions (Races 8 and 10) because of the large number of horses entered because of the Santa Anita shutdown.

That means Game Winner and Improbable can both win. The $1 million Rebel would become two races with a purse of $750,000 each. The winners will earn about 40 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby instead of 50.

Finally, we’ll find out whether Game Winner is really the horse to beat to win the Kentucky Derby. He’s been the number one choice of pundits and future pool bettors since winning all four starts last year including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.


Trainer Steven Gaskin jogs Zack Ridge Road on the training track Tuesday (Derek Corbel photo)

Weather gods cooperate

Training track opens with temperature on the plus side (same as Toronto)

Horsemen’s eyes turned to the heavens with thanks on Tuesday as Winterpeg was transformed to Winnerpeg for opening day for spring training on ASD’s half-mile training track. For the first time this winter, the temperature rose above zero (32 Fahrenheit). The morning temperature in Winnipeg was plus 1, the same temperature as Toronto. Can this be seen as a positive sign for a great Season 62 of live racing?

It came as no surprise that the first trainer to arrive at the track with his horses in late February, Steven Gaskin, was also the first to gallop on the training track Tuesday morning. He did it with Golden Boy stakes winner, Zack Ridge Road. Horse players, take note.

With a scarf covering her face—perhaps making it look colder than it really was--outrider Laura McIvor was back in her familiar position with her 15-year-old gelding, First Cavalry, supervising training from a shed next to the training track. First Cavalry won the Winnipeg Futurity in 2006.

Trainers on the grounds, besides Steven Gaskin, are Shelley Brown, Lise Pruitt, Larry Cizik, Fred Rawson and Tom Gardipy, with Lorna Gray and Elton Dickey expected in the next day or two, says ASD’s assistant director of racing Derek Corbel. There are 65 horses so far, he said.


Fab Feb

ASD players were spectacularly better bettors last month

You know who you are. Give yourself a round of applause if you were one of February’s ASD better bettors who not only padded your own wallet but helped the economy.

According to ASD betting stats, local players were especially successful betting Laurel, Fair Grounds, Oaklawn, Saratoga harness, Los Alamitos, Mahoning Valley, Golden Gate, Aqueduct and Santa Anita. Even Woodbine standardbreds were on the plus side which is a rarity.

So, nice going, to the astute handicappers out there. By playing to your strengths, you’re being good citizens, too! And the tracks that players found most challenging? Penn National, Charles Town, Delta and Turfway. Hmm. I can attest to that.

*       *       *

"Blood galore"
Handicapper of the Year saves betting group

“Blood galore,” read the note that Handicapper of the Year Brian McKellar slipped into my hand as I walked to my carrel in the Race Book early Saturday afternoon to construct Tampa pick-5 and pick-4 tickets for the weekly “I won bigger” betting group.

If McKellar were still a cop, his note would have likely alluded to a messy crime scene. But in his incarnation as a savvy handicapper, McKellar was alluding to the bloodlines of Tacitus, the 8-1 colt running in the Tampa Bay Derby which was the final leg of the group’s pick-5 ticket and the third leg of the pick-4. Tacitus’s sire, Tapit, had won the Wood Memorial but more significantly, as McKellar’s note pointed out, his mother, Close Hatches, was a $2.7 million purse earner (including five grade 1 stakes).

I assured McKellar Tacitus would be added to group tickets. Then I was happy to be giving him a high-five when Tacitus flew up the rail to capture the Derby. That put more than $1,300 into the pockets of “Bigger” group shareholders. Not huge, because no other longshots won a leg or two, but it was certainly better than ripping up tickets. Nice to have a “blood” expert aboard.

The group can make it three wins in a row this Saturday and then go for the quad in a special “Bigger” session on St. Patrick’s Day Sunday: 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza for both. As usual, the group will tackle the last five races at Tampa both days but also take a peek at the late pick-4 at Oaklawn Saturday when the Rebel prep races will be run.

*       *       *

Earlier tournament this month
Next Handicapper of the Month tourney is next Saturday

Note that this month’s Player’s Choice Handicapper of the Month tournament is a week from this Saturday instead of the last Saturday of the month. That’s because a bunch of ASD players will be in Las Vegas on the final weekend participating in the annual Horse Player World Series.

Among the Vegas players will be winners of last summer’s handicapping tournaments during live racing. The top prize at the Orleans Hotel Casino tournament will be about $350,000.


SANTA ANITA RACING SET TO RESUME A WEEK FROM TOMORROW: Has the breakdown problem at Santa Anita been solved so racing can resume? Apparently so because racing at the southern California track is set to start up again a week from tomorrow, Friday, March 22. Rumours have been rife on what caused track superintendent Dennis Moore to “retire” from Santa Anita at the beginning of the 2018-2019 meet on Dec. 26 but his return to a consulting role has inspired confidence in the track being made safer.

The track also has hired more veterinarians to keep an eye on horses and has implemented a “house rule” that requires medical records of horses to be transparent and available to authorities.

Notable was the fact that 12 of the 21 breakdowns that occurred over a three-month period happened to horses who had raced on a track “sealed” from the rain. Did the hard, packed surface cause micro-fractures in those horses’ legs, precipitating a breakdown in a subsequent race? Everyone will be holding their breath when the track re-opens.

THE BEST OF BOB: Gone but not forgotten

Vernon Sayler, the older brother of 12-time Downs' leading trainer, Ardell Sayler, won the leading apprentice jockey title in 1967, edging out Bobby Dimma. Tragically, Vernon died in a plane crash four years later while en route to Cincinnati to ride in a stakes race. And after a long career in the saddle, Bobby passed in April 2014. Track historian Bob Gates recounts the bittersweet saga in "Gone but not forgotten" here. (First published in August 2014.)


  • This Saturday, March 16: Kentucky Derby prep races –two divisions of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn featuring the 2019 debut of Derby favourites Game Winner and Improbable
  • This Sunday: Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 5x Player Rewards (on-track only), special “I won bigger” workshop, free VLT plays and more. (See top of column.)
  • Saturday, March 23: Handicapper of the Month tournament, Kentucky Derby prep race —Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds
  • Super Sunday, March 24: Kentucky Derby prep race --$800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland. Escape Clause nominated to $100,000 stakes at Sunland, 5x Player Rewards points (on-track only).
  • Saturday, March 30: Dubai World Cup, Kentucky Derby prep races —UAE Derby, Florida Derby

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