Thursday, March 16, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 10 (Issue #577)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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


Tonight: St. Pat’s-themed prime rib buffet. Reserve at 204-885-3330 ext.0.

Spin to win up to $100


  • Irish Stew served all day ($7.95)
  • Win up to $100 between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. by entering the draw to spin the Lucky Shamrock wheel


  • Just Irish -- #5 in race 8 at Laurel
  • Irish Jig -- #4 in race 4 at Oaklawn
  • Limerick Lady -- #4 in race 5 at Turfway

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Assiniboia Racing Club gets lucky; wins four-way shake to claim horse
  • Better bettors have best month; thanks to shrewd Tampa play
  • Whipsawed Baffert: One horse has surgery while other flies to World Cup. That's racing!
  • Do you understand a horse's form cycle? Marshall gives you the goods
  • It was brother vs brother in the 1970s at ASD. What? Read the best of Bob
  • Just nine sleeps until the richest day in racing

SHOW SHY: No one “showed” themselves the money (doubled by the Downs) in the Friday and Saturday night 5-race $6 show parlay on the track or tracks of their choice. Now that would-be parlayers have had a breather, are they ready for serious bear this weekend? (Is there a horse with Irish name connections on St. Patrick’s night Friday?)

$200 COUNTDOWN CONTINUES WITH 10 PREPS; CHARNEY IN LEAD: With five of 15 Kentucky Derby prep races in the history books in ASD’s Countdown to the Derby contest, Len Charney is in the lead, having predicted the winners of four of those prep races. This Saturday’s race is the Rebel from Oaklawn. A draw after the race will give the winner a Derby travel mug and pint glass. Last week’s draw winners were Ron Zurba and Alan Hampton. See Derby Countdown leaderboard here. (Best of 10 scores wins $100 win/place bet on the Derby.)

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.
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.

Can you resist?

WHATCHA DOING EASTER SUNDAY? To me, just knowing that Eggs Benedict will be served is enough to know that Easter Brunch is a dining experience worth attending at the Downs Sunday, April 16. I mean, look at that picture (click to enlarge). Mmm. But, of course, there’s far more offered by Chef Michael and his crew. Such as carved cherry ham, roast strip loin au jus, maple Dijon salmon, chicken Marsala (lightly coated chicken cutlets braised with Marsala wine and mushrooms), Belgium waffles, mousses, trifles and so much more. See menu here then phone 204-885-3330 ext. 0 to reserve.


Better bettors strut their stuff

Led by play at Tampa Bay, ASD bettors had a great February

Thanks to shrewd play on Tampa Bay races – including big wins by the “I won big” betting group – wagering statistics for ASD in February showed ASD players brought more money into their pockets and into Manitoba’s economy than flowed out.

That makes them good citizens! Besides Tampa, ASD players were adept at betting Aqueduct, Santa Anita, Los Alamitos and Charles Town.

To a lesser extent ASD players were better bettors at these thoroughbred tracks, too: Golden Gate, Sam Houston and Fair Grounds. And at these harness tracks: Saratoga, Yonkers, The Meadows, Cal Expo, Pompano, Flamboro and Rideau.

Helping the cause was the “I won big” group that won a $4,800 pick-5 and an approximate $4,000 pick-4 at Tampa.

At the other end of the stats spectrum, these tracks that ASD players appeared to find tricky: Turf Paradise, Mahoning Valley and Gulfstream. It’s a reminder to play to your strengths for both your benefit and the economy’s.


Itching to hit it big in Vegas

Live-racing tourney winners get official send-off next week

Wayne Misko

Randy Premachuk

Bonnie Simmonds

David Blake

Two weeks from today, with visions of Big Bucks dancing in their heads, the four winners of live-racing tournaments last summer (at right) will be plunking down 15 fictional win/place wagers in the three-day Horse Player World Series at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

They will hope to do as well, if not better, than four ASD players last year who shared in $17,000 for finishing 10th and 14th in the tournament. Wayne Misko, last year’s Handicapper of the Year, was one of them; he returns again this year. Top prize will be more than $300,000.

Next Thursday, the Downs will give them a special send-off at Thursday night’s prime rib buffet. The track has covered air fare for each player and his/her guest, hotel expenses, $300 spending money and the $2,000 (U.S.) entry fee into the tournament. Does it get any better than that?

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"You belong"

Five tips for tourney players

Tournament players can always learn from one another. So The Insider solicited advice from Winnipeg Transit driver Roger Jones who not only played in the Horse Player World Series at the Orleans but also was invited to play in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association tournament in January where $2.5 million was at stake (he finished 35th in the consolation round). Here are five of his tips, with thanks:

  1. Preparation: Do as much as you can but still be fresh for the tourney.
  2. Relax: There are plenty of races. Try to get settled into a good path and don't panic. The Orleans tourney is a three-day event. Don't be afraid to pass some underlays.
  3. Play within yourself: Play to your strengths, play what you like, then adjust if necessary.
  4. Do something different after the day of playing is done then refocus and get the proper rest.
  5. Be positive: Remember, you won your way here. You belong.

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Saluting ASD's top 10 players

With entries rising, these players have special reason to crow

With entries into the monthly handicapping tournaments rising, achieving a top 10 position is especially significant. Significant, too, is the fact that for the first time the top 10 players of the year will share $3,500 in prize money. After two months, congrats to:

  1. George Moehring 87 points
  2. Alan Hampton 81
  3. (tied for 2nd) Barry Mymko 81
  4. Ken Stewin 73
  5. John Urbanski 72
  6. Dave Blackmore 67
  7. (tied for 6th) Brian McKellar 67
  8. Greg Earl 60
  9. Harold Wiens 58
  10. Trevor Tilston-Jones 56

See full leaderboard here. The third Player’s Choice tournament of the year is next Saturday. At the end of the year the 10 players with the best scores in seven of the 12 tournaments will be rewarded. Will you be among them?


Can you say "emotional whipsaw?"

Arrogate gets on a plane while Mastery gets pins implanted into a fractured ankle

Bob Baffert
A bittersweet Monday

As Mastery crossed the finish line impressively in the San Felipe derby prep race at Santa Anita Saturday, players who had bet the unbeaten colt in the future pools to win the Kentucky Derby must have been feeling pretty good. A few steps later, however, their dreams evaporated as he was carted off in a van.

Did someone say “That’s racing?” And indeed it was, especially for trainer Bob Baffert.

While his great Arrogate was being loaded onto a plane Monday to be flown to the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 25, his Mastery—likely to have been favoured to win the Kentucky Derby—was undergoing surgery to implant two pins into a fractured ankle.

So where does that put us with seven weeks remaining until the 123rd running of the Kentucky Derby? I suggest you read the thoughtful piece “Who’s hot, who’s not” reprinted from Horse Racing Nation here. For what it’s worth, my triactor box at this point is Gunnevera/Girvis/McCraken. What’s yours?

*        *        *

NEXT IN VIEW: REBEL STAKES AT OAKLAWN THIS SATURDAY. Has the makings of a highly exciting, competitive race. Your top five horses are (20-cent superfecta box $24): American Anthem (Equibase speed 115), Petrov (111), Malagacy (111), Royal Mo (107) and Uncontested (106). For the winner, ask Len Charney: In the Derby Countdown contest he’s four for five and one second place finish.

SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER: How many times in ASD history has there been a dead heat for first in a stakes race? (a) once (b) 3 times (c) 5 times (d) None. See answer at bottom of column.


$30 million World Cup Day just nine days away

Insider Special will be sent out the day before; you may "invest" in advance

Meydan racecourse
Where Arrogate will be racing

The day many of us are looking forward to – because of great racing and the opportunity to win big – is just nine days away: the $30 million in races on Dubai World Cup Day.

(That day also features the Player’s Choice handicapping tournament at noon and two Kentucky Derby prep races: the UAE Derby from Dubai and the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.)

Arrogate, considered by many to be the best horse in the world, will be a big draw in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. But so will Rob MacLennan’s selections in the nine Dubai races, all of which you can bet at HPIbet but seven of which you may bet at the track starting at 7:50 a.m.

A year ago, I arrived at the track two minutes before the first Dubai race, wagered on MacLennan’s triactor picks from The Insider Special and, before even taking off my coat, was up more than $500. And I wasn’t the only one.

So many of you will be happy to hear Rob will be burning the midnight oil again to watch dozens of replays from around the world and The Insider will publish them in a World Cup Special a week from tomorrow.

WANT TO SHARE IN GROUP PLAY OF ROB’S PICKS? There will be a special Dubai “I won big” workshop at 8 a.m. with Rob and me hosting. Each $20 share will be generously topped up with $5 from the Downs. Or, if you are unable to attend the workshop, you may leave $20 for each share at the VLT cage, “Attention: Margaret.”

FREE BREAKFAST SANDWICH: The first 25 between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. will receive a delicious breakfast sandwich free.


Jared Brown
Claims horse for ASD club

RACING CLUB GETS LUCKY IN SHAKE TO CLAIM HORSE: The Assiniboia Racing Club got lucky and won a four-way shake Sunday to claim a gritty 6-year-old gelding, This Cat’s Awesome, out of race 2 at Turf Paradise for $3,200 (U.S.) where he finished second as the race favourite. Awesome’s record is rather awesome: 40-13-5-9 and his best Equibase speed figure of 97 fits right in with ASD’s top claimers (“most astute claim of the year” in 2015, Cat’s Classy Rider, has a 99; another top claimer, Barramoon has a 96). Trainer Jared Brown claimed the horse on behalf of the Assiniboia Racing Club which has 34 members with 41 shares at $500 apiece.

Interestingly, it was Brown’s horse, Joint Tenant, who won Awesome’s race at 12/1. What is the Club’s first move with their just-claimed horse? “At this point we have no idea,” said Club organizer John Field. “My guess is that it will take a few weeks to figure out what is best for the horse.”

HOW A "SHAKE" WORKS: When more than one trainer wants to claim the same horse (there were four for This Cat’s Awesome above),the paddock judge reaches into a container of numbered peas he has just shaken and takes one. The trainer with that number in a sealed envelope gets the horse.

WITT SIX FINALLY WINS STAKES RACE OUTSIDE OF ASD: Witt Six, winner of six stakes races at the Downs including the Manitoba Derby and the Gold Cup, has finally won a stakes race outside of the province. The 5-year-old won the $50,000 Star of Texas by six lengths ridden by Sasha Risenhoover at Sam Houston Tuesday with owner Henry Witt Jr. and his ASD trainer, Jerry Gourneau, in the Winner’s Circle. He paid $6.20. ASD fans will recognize the third-place finisher in the race, too: Spider’s Alibi, trained by Charlie Smith and owned by Terry Propps. Rohan Singh was in the saddle of the 14/1 longshot.

Ardell Sayler (left) and Jerry Gourneau
Winning at Fonner before coming up to ASD

SAYLER, GOURNEAU SHOW GOOD STUFF AT FONNER: Prior to their coming up to the Downs for Season 60, ASD veteran trainers Ardell Sayler and Jerry Gourneau are putting up good numbers at Season 64 at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Nebraska. Sayler is winning at a rate of 27 per cent (11-3-4-2) while Gourneau by 17 per cent (24-4-1-2). Watch Fonner Friday at 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Fonner’s 31-day meet ends Saturday, May 6, a week before ASD’s begins on Sunday, May 14.

FAVOURITES COMPROMISE "I WON BIG" TICKETS: The favourite (Tapwrit) winning the Tampa Bay Derby and favourites or near-favourites winning five other races played by the “I won big” group last Saturday meant the group got back about $500 or about two-thirds of its investment. Anyone who plays Tampa knows this isn’t the normal state of things – so we’ll be looking again for sneaky longshot plays in the last five races this Saturday with a view to enjoying a bacon treat the following week. See you 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza.

Gary Stevens
New hip

NEW HIP, NO PROBLEM: How about that? He underwent hip replacement surgery in December and was back in the Winner’s Circle in March. A horse owner? No, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. He guided Shehastheritestuff ($16.40) to the Winner’s Circle in the sixth race on Santa Anita’s Big ‘Cap Saturday. It was also a day in which Ontario-bred Queen’s Plate winner Shaman Ghost dug in to put away Midnight Storm in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap ($4.60) with no Arrogate to worry about. (Arrogate is readying for the $10 million Dubai World Cup next week.)

HPIBET Marshall Posner

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q. How do I understand a horse's form cycle after a layoff?

A. Analyzing a horse’s form cycle can help you predict how well that horse is likely to perform in his next out race. Typically, it’s widely regarded that most horses improve in their second start off a layoff and then run a peak performance in their third start in the cycle as they round back into good form. Obviously there are exceptions to this as some trainers prefer to have their horses cranked coming off a layoff and then possibly regress after a first start with a bounce effort in their third start. However, most horses require a start or two, especially after a lengthy layoff, to produce an optimal performance.


  1. The trainer’s ability (situational win percentages found in the DRF and racing programs and by using Equibase StatsMaster),
  2. The length of the layoff
  3. Recency including performance in last race and/or interim workouts
  4. A horse’s class level – before and after the layoff
  5. Running style and preferred distance

Ed Olczyk
Horses similar to hockey players

All of these factors can provide insight into how your horse is likely to run next out. For example, a good trainer with high win percentages second off the layoff with a horse that finished a fast-closing third last out merits extra consideration.

The same goes for a trainer moving his/her horse from 6 furlongs to a mile in the second start knowing that the sprint was just a prep race for the route race.

(Bigg note: Former hockey great Ed Olczyk told an ASD audience some years ago that he won a $500,000 Hollywood pick-6 using this angle which he likened to a hockey player’s improved performance in his second game after a layoff.)

Keeping track of various types of trainer preferences or tendencies can lead to some big payoffs and some strong shorter priced singles in both horizontal and vertical wagers.

Got a question for Marshall? Email

HISTORY ON THE HOOF: The best of Bob

Two brothers monopolized the trainer standings in the 1970s - together they won nine of the ten titles. Both were great horsemen but different as night and day. Bert Blake said it best "Those two boys came from different mares." Who were they? Go here.

SEASON 60 TRIVIA ANSWER: The answer is (a), one dead heat. That occurred August 14,1963 when Double Dove and Canadian Zenith deadheated for win in the 34th running of the Winnipeg Futurity. There will be a test.


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