Thursday, March 15, 2018

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 13 No. 10 (Issue #628)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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


Will Justify bring "curse of Apollo" to an end?

Is the "curse of Apollo" about to end?

No horse since 1882 has won Derby without racing at 2. But players say Justify will.

Is this the year a 136-year-old curse will be broken? Will a 3-year-old colt win the Kentucky Derby without having raced as a 2-year-old? That hasn’t happened since Apollo did it in 1882 so we’ve been living under the “curse of Apollo” ever since.

Justify impresses in allowance race

But race fans on the weekend voted with their money that Justify, mainly on the strength of an impressive performance in a five-horse optional claiming race at Santa Anita, will break that curse. THEY BET $31,671 ON HIM IN THE DERBY FUTURES POOL, installing him as the new favourite to win the Derby. Their second choice at 7-1 is Bolt d’Oro. Fickle or what?

Where do you stand? Is this $500,000 purchase out of Scat Daddy another Arrogate? Now Justify needs qualifying points to get into the Derby. It’s likely his trainer, Bob Baffert, will point him to the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 to attempt to do that. That will likely to be the most anticipated prep race of the year.

Here are the top seven Derby choices based on future pool wagering:

  • Justify 6-1
  • Bolt d’Oro 7-1 (won San Felipe prep race Saturday at Santa after McKinzie DQed)
  • McKinzie 9-1 (see above)
  • Good Magic 11-1 (won Breeders’Cup Juvenile but finished third in recent Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream)
  • Audible 13-1 (won Holy Bull at Gulfstream)
  • Solomini 17-1 (second in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, third in Los Alamitos Futurity; entered in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn this Saturday)
  • Catholic Boy 21-1 (two stakes wins; second in Sam F. Davis at Tampa; my Derby choice)


Bullet briefs . . .

  • Gulfstream's Rainbow 6 keeps growing. More than $3.2 million to pursue today
  • Wearing green on Saturday will double your winnings if you get drawn for free bets
  • What were top "better bettor" tracks in February? You may be surprised.
  • "Big" group held one of 27 live tickets in $3 million Rainbow. What happened?
  • How did ASD players do in Las Vegas tourney? See The Week That Was.
  • Flashback: What ASD horse set a track record after baby-making? See Bob's blog.

Wearing green could pay off

NEW GAME! ENTER “SELF-SERVE BETTING PRIDE” TO WIN WAGERS & VIP PERK! Want to earn a VIP invitation for you and a guest to ASD’s press conference and lavish brunch to kick off live racing? And free wagers? Then enter the new “Self-Serve Betting Pride” draw each Saturday. The person drawn will make $50 in specific wagers on a self-serve betting terminal—and keep the winnings. And the highest winner in eight contest weeks will be invited—with a guest--to one of the hottest media events in town. And note: IF YOU WEAR A GREEN PIECE OF CLOTHING this Saturday (because it’s St. Patrick’s Day), the Downs will DOUBLE your winnings—up to $100).

NOTE: THE WEEKLY 5-ALIVE CONTEST HAS ENDED. Now good luck in getting drawn in the “Self-Serve Betting Pride” contest to win free wagers and a possible VIP invitation to the hottest media event in town!  

$200 PREP RACE CONTEST CONTINUES ON TWO PREP RACES SATURDAY: Who’s going to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway and the Rebel at Oaklawn? Enter your choices Saturday to keep yourself in the running for a $200 Kentucky Derby bankroll. Winners of two Kentucky Derby souvenir mugs last Saturday were George Moehring, Wayne Haddad and Len Charney. Two more draws will take place Saturday. Leaderboard.
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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

FRIDAYS, SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS: 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: $10 buy-in poker. Registration 8 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m. The Royal Flush progressive jackpot for Friday, March 16 is $2,970.

Enjoy soft tacos, deep-fried potato chips and prime rib sliders during happy hours


  • Food specials: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and after 9 p.m. every day
  • Drink specials: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day; after 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday

Food specials:

  • Two prime rib sliders or two soft tacos: $7
  • Deep-fried potato chips sprinkled with garlic/parmesan $5
  • Three pizza choices (margarita, pepperoni/mushroom/vegetarian): $10

BOOK NOW FOR EASTER BRUNCH: Sunday, April 1. See menu here.


Click to enlarge
Morning racing: Racing from Europe. Betting available only on your HPI account.

Afternoon racing:
Racing in North America. Which tracks have carryovers? Click here.
Evening racing:
North America and Australia. Download a FREE Australia program here.

Set one up by phoning 204-885-3330 ext. 225.

Your first $20 in bets are on the house!

*       *       *

Spread the word to newbies!

Glen & Marshall will hold a seminar at the Central Hotel Sunday, March 25, 1 p.m.

The place to be on Sunday, March 25 at 1 p.m. for race fans and potential race fans who want to find out more about “playing the horses for fun and profit” is the off-track Rookies Sports Bar at the Central Hotel in Transcona (note location above).

Fan education specialists Glen and Marshall will be there to introduce racing to newbies and answer questions from other players. There will be plenty of perks and refreshments including a free $5 share in a group ticket in a pick-4, pick-5 or pick-6 ticket on a track that is running that day.

Please spread the word to others. Those who plan to attend should call Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext.0 to register. If you’re a familiar face, it will be expected you will have a newbie or two in tow.


Spring training begins . . .
. . . under the watchful eye of veteran outrider Laura McIvor and retired race horse Southern Nights

100 horses on the grounds

"Interest in racing at ASD the highest it has been in some time"

With live racing eight weeks away and daytime temperatures close to zero, the backstretch is humming (whinnying?) with activity and a heightened sense of optimism.

There are already 100 horses and six trainers on the grounds: Lise Pruitt, Lorna Gray, Steven Gaskin, Marge Patterson, Shelley Brown and Elton Dickey, reports assistant director of racing Derek Corbel. Expected next week are Tom Gardipy, Jr. and Jamie Hartmann. Jockeys—who are working horses on the training track--include Jerry Pruitt, Kayla Pizarro and Shavon Belle .

Asked about his trip with race secretary Ray Miller to western Canada and the U.S. to promote racing at the Downs, Corbel said: “It’s too early to indicate specific commitments from our road trip.  The response we received, though, was very positive and the interest level in racing at ASD was the highest it has been in some time.” 


Here comes the (tasty?) Jeff Ruby Steaks

Other Kentucky Derby prep race this Saturday is Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park

Will Jeff Ruby Steaks get you thinking about ASD's open-faced steak sandwich?

If you have a hankering for a steak at the Downs Saturday afternoon (or maybe even today), it’s likely because you’ll be reading about, hearing about, wagering and perhaps entering the prep race contest on a race called the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park in Kentucky. A steakhouse is now sponsoring the former Spiral Stakes, the biggest race at Turfway.

And if the race has you salivating, I suggest you try the Downs open-faced steak sandwich. It’s very tasty. The kitchen staff season and grill it just right. Interestingly, the race attracted 158 nominations despite being held on the artificial Polytrack. Animal Kingdom showed in 2011 that this race could be used as a stepping stone to win the Kentucky Derby.

The other prep race is the Rebel at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Bob Baffert’s Solomini, the fifth choice in betting in the Kentucky Derby futures pool, is expected to be favoured. Baffert calls the son of Curlin “a lazy grinder kind of horse.”

*       *       *

Quip wins Tampa Bay Derby at 19-1

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE IN LAST SATURDAY’S TRIO OF PREP RACES: If you thought Bolt d’Oro was the best horse in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, you happily bet him to win the San Felipe prep race at Santa Anita and got your way when he was elevated to first ($4.40) after his bumping partner coming down the stretch, McKinzie (even money), was set down to second.

If you like longshots, Quip winning the Tampa Bay Derby at 19-1 turned your crank and congratulations if you picked him ahead of Vino Rosso, the race favourite. Quip’s victory just muddied the Derby field some more

And if you like just-about favourites, Enticed at 3-1, filled the bill in the Gotham Stakes in Gotham City. His was a bounce-back win after he finished fourth in the Holy Bull.


Only 27 tickets were live in all of North America

. . . and one belonged to ASD's "I won big" group. So what happened?

Group's #8 Morticia falls to #1 Blue Bahia

Saturday’s “I won big” betting group participants couldn’t have come closer to winning $52,454—without doing so—than they did in the Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream Park this past Saturday.

Heading into the sixth and final leg of the Rainbow 6, the group held one of only 27 live 20-cent tickets out of 3.27 million tickets sold across North America. Their ticket had singled #8 Morticia (9/5) in a 5f turf stakes dash for fillies and mares called the Captiva Island. Morticia was two-for-two at Gulfstream at the distance on the turf.

In the closing strides Morticia seemed to have the upper hand because she was on the outside of race leader Girls Know Best while her main rival, #1 Blue Bahia (2/1), six for 10 at the distance, was tight to the rail. But Blue Bahia found enough room in the late stages to charge through to catch Morticia and prevail by ¾ of a length at the wire. That 20-cent ticket paid $61,173. The group’s ticket would have paid $52,454 Cdn.

I was seeing that finish over and over again in my dreams as I’ll bet other “Big” players were as well. That would have been the group’s biggest win ever. The ticket cost $1,209. The group DID have a back-up ticket to the winner of the last leg but it didn’t contain a couple earlier longshot winners. The winners in the first five legs of the group’s pick-6 paid $5.20, $25, $25.20, $6.80 and $14.40.

Unfortunately, the group also saw its pick-5 at Tampa disappear in a puff of smoke when Quip won the Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 19-1.

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE: The group has been deadly in picking turf winners and that confidence should prompt singled horses in the future, allowing the group to spread more in other legs of pick-5 and pick-6 tickets.

If, for example, the group had singled #7 Determinant, in the fifth leg of the Rainbow—instead of taking two other horses—because the horse had an outstanding closing fraction in his last turf route race despite being checked and steadied-- the group ticket could have included TWO horses in the last leg. It’s worth remembering that turf race accuracy is what won the group $23,000 in January.

Group play continues this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza—the last five races at Tampa and the last six races, the multi-million dollar Rainbow 6, at Gulfstream. Can you say “ready for bear?”


ASD PLAYERS “BOUNCE” IN LAS VEGAS TOURNAMENT: After collecting $28,000 in prize money at last year’s Horse Player World Series tournament in Las Vegas, this year’s group of ASD players came up empty in weekend play. Call it a “bounce” year. Hey, the way most good tournament players play, it’s often feast or famine. Maybe you can provide the bounce back impetus in next year’s tournament by earning the chance to go to Vegas by playing in tournaments during live racing.

Wow! According to ASD better bettor statistics, ASD players produced some of their most sizable profits last month at three harness tracks, with Meadowlands leading the trio. Next were Hawthorne and Pompano. Well done, standardbred players! The Manitoba economy loves you! In fact, a dozen tracks were profitable for players. Thoroughbred tracks included Charles Town, Fair Grounds, Aqueduct, Sunland and Parx. The most challenging? Inexplicably, two harness tracks: Cal-Expo and Yonkers were at the bottom. On the thoroughbred side, the trickiest appeared to be Turfway Park, Los Alamitos and Turf Paradise. Are you playing to your strengths to be good to yourself and to the economy?

Will Forever Unbridled make history in the desert?

WILL A FEMALE RULE THE WORLD? It’s the year of the female on many fronts—so why not at the Dubai World Cup? Forever Unbridled is being prepped to become the first female to win the $10 million race in the 21-year history of the World Cup at Meydan race course on March 31. The 6-year-old mare, trained by Dallas Stewart and ridden to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last fall by John Velasquez, Forever Unbridled was named Champion Older Dirt Female at the Eclipse Awards banquet in January. With no Arrogate, California Chrome or Gun Runner in the field, this just may be the perfect time for a courageous mare to win the Big One. And, hey, she’s Arrogate’s sister; they have the same father: Unbridled’s Song.


Did you know . . . that former trainer Bill Grohn had a unique method of conditioning his horses? With no-one available to exercise horses on his farm the former standardbred owner conditioned ASD speedball Astral Moon attached to a sulky. Bob’s blog is a great read here.


  • Tonight: Tuscan chicken, Swedish meatballs, tortilla tilapia and beef barley soup are among the delicious dishes at tonight’s certified Angus prime rib buffet. All you can eat $27.95. Reserve at 204-885-3330.
  • This Saturday: St. Patrick’s Day.  Wear a piece of green clothing so if you get drawn to make $50 in free bets on a self-serve terminal, you’ll have your winnings doubled (up to $100). Derby prep races: Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway, Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. Also, enter $200 prep race contest
  • Saturday, March 24: Player's Choice handicapping tournament starts at noon.
  • Saturday, March 24: Kentucky Derby prep races: Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds
  • Sunday, March 25: Kentucky Derby prep race: Sunland St at Sunland Park
  • Sunday, March 25: Seminar by Glen and Marshall at Rookies Sports Bar at The Central Hotel in Transcona: “Betting horses for fun and profit.” Perks and refreshments.
  • Saturday, March 31: $10 million Dubai World Cup, Player’s Choice handicapping tournament, Derby prep races: Florida Derby, UAE Derby
  • Easter Sunday, April 1: April Fool’s Day but Easter Brunch will be for real. See menu here.


"Is St. Patrick's Day my favourite day? No, Halloween is. Yeah, sure."

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