Thursday, April 1, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 12 (Issue #783)

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



Track plans off-the-wall novelty for Kentucky Derby;
quarter horses to race on adjacent track

Wow! This novel idea from Churchill Downs will certainly get everyone talking. But, then again, that’s what Churchill wants.

When the leading horse in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1 reaches the final quarter-mile of the 1 ¼-mile race, quarter horses will be released from a gate on the turf track adjacent to the main track so spectators can watch both at the same time. What?

A quarter horse is expected to outfinish the Derby winner--but by how much? A special wager at Churchill Downs will allow players to predict how much quicker the quarter horse will race the quarter mile than the Derby winner. Or will the Derby winner be quicker? The quarter horse race will also be a separate wagering interest.

“In these COVID times we wanted to throw something out there to really generate interest in Derby Day,”
said a statement from Churchill Downs. “We know it’s extreme--but that’s the intention.”

And, if you believe a word of this, you have forgotten that today is April Fool’s Day. April Fool!

This month is “I never play that track” discovery month
See WIN A TON IN ’21 below.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Greedy time at Santa Anita: Mandatory pick-6 payout Saturday
  • Tourney winner was hoping for 5-1 odds on his horse; he got 19-1 instead
  • Much too young: Top former ASD/Woodbine jockey dies at 55
  • For the second time, Stretch's "now" horse prevails in an ASD Live workshop
  • With just four weeks to Kentucky Derby, three major preps go Saturday
NEXT TOURNEY JUST THREE WEEKS AWAY: Want a quick chance to improve on your Saturday Player’s Choice standings? You got it. With just 30 days in April, the next Player’s choice handicapping tournament is just three weeks away, Saturday, April 24. Can you beat Stewart Hayek’s lofty $143? See below.
Click to enlarge.

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

for VLTs, simulcast racing and dining. Mask-wearing is required.

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. NOTE: Canad Inns Windsor Park and Green Brier are only open to purchase programs from the kiosks and to make HPI deposits on self-serve terminals. Both casinos and Quest Inn remain closed.

with daily specials. And Fridays feature a Top Sirloin Steak dinner for $24.95 and Saturdays it’s Certified Angus Prime Rib dinner also for $24.95. Dinners are served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Mandatory payout at Santa Anita Saturday of its jackpot pick-6 which is likely to reach $4 million to $5 million. The “I won bigger” betting group will be diving in, of course. The Santa Anita Derby will be of special interest. See other jackpot carryovers here.
Todd Kabel aboard 1989 Manitoba Derby winner Rough Catch

Way too young
Manitoba's Todd Kabel, leading jockey at ASD and Woodbine, dies at 55

Todd Kabel (1965-2021) aboard Winnipeg Futurity winner Canadian Fighter at ASD in 1986
After an amazing career that saw him win two Queen’s Plates, six Sovereign Awards for outstanding Canadian jockey, hundreds of stakes races and $106 million in purse money, Manitoba’s own Todd Kabel died way too young on Saturday, at age 55. He last rode in 2013. “Todd was a great rider and quite a character,” Hall-of-Fame rider Sandy Hawley said on Twitter. “Probably the biggest prankster in the jockeys’ room during his career.”

His first jockey’s room was at Assiniboia Downs in 1984 at the age of 19. Born in McCreary, Man., his talent in judging the pace of a race and “great hands” quickly made him the jockey to watch--and try to beat. He earned ASD leading rider titles in 1986, 1987 and 1989 when he topped off his ASD riding career--before heading to Toronto--by winning the Manitoba Derby on Rough Catch. The memorable Winner’s Circle photo above shows him cradling his baby daughter, Ashley, in his arms while the horse’s trainer and part owner, C.J.“Shorty” Gray, gleefully extends his arms into the air. Current MJC president, Harvey Warner, was also a co-owner of the horse.

Kabel’s achievements leave one breathless:
  • 3,309 wins INCLUDING 315 STAKES RACES
  • First Canadian jockey to amass $10 million in purse money in one year (2003)
  • Won the Queen’s Plate aboard Regal Discovery in 1995 and on maiden Scatter the Gold in 2000 and went on to win the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie on the same colt
  • Finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Hollywood Park in 1997 aboard 78-1 Dawson’sLegacy, losing to Horse of the Year Favorite Trick
  • Voted most outstanding rider (Sovereign Award) in 1992, 1995 and 2003-2006 (besides the three years of leading jockey at ASD).
A racing icon has left us. Sad. But at least we have terrific memories.

Tourney winner wasn't looking for a long shot . . .
. . . but he got one anyway, sending his bankroll soaring to $143

Stewart Hayek
Computer company partner Stewart Hayek admits to not normally being a longshot player but he got one anyway to send his Saturday’s Player’s Choice handicapping tournament bankroll soaring to $143.

“It has taken me a while to figure out this style of wagering, still not sure I have it right,”
he said in an email to The Insider. “(The 19-1 odds) actually shocked me as it is an outstanding lesson horse.”

His pick was Mr. Wireless in race 11 at Oaklawn Park with a morning line of 8-1. The horse was making his second lifetime start after finishing fifth in his first start. Stewart said he liked it for many reasons: The colt was 3-1 in his first start, the replay showed the jockey checking for a full furlong and then finishing strongly, he had come out of the problematic #1 post position, trainer was 20 per cent with second-out starters, horse was bred for the longer distance, turf Tomlinson breeding number was 344, etc.

Whew! Love the analysis. No wonder he thought Mr. Wireless would go off at 5-1 rather than 19-1. Saturday’s victory was Stewart’s first on simulcast racing. Back in 2008 he won a live race contest that sent him to Las Vegas for the Horse Player World Series.

The top five players who shared $1,750 in prize money were:
1. Stewart Hayek
-- bankroll $143 -- Receives $1,000 and a trophy
2. Murray Chaban
-- $98.90 -- $400 prize money
3. George Williams
-- $91.50 -- $200
4. Geoffrey Gard
-- $87.20 -- $100
5. Stan Stewin
-- $82.00 -- $50

Nine tournaments remain in 2021. The player who accumulates the most points in seven tournaments will be named Handicapper of the Year and will be awarded a trip to the Horse Player World Series in Las Vegas next March.


Essential Quality is the new Kentucky Derby favourite
Can anyone beat Essential Quality?
He's now the Derby favourite--and you can watch him in the Blue Grass

With Life Is Good off the Derby trail, healing from minor surgery, Essential Quality inherits the mantle of Kentucky Derby favourite--and will likely be the 1-2 choice to win the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday.

The Brad Cox trainee has done everything asked of him--including winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn. His 105 Equibase speed in the Southwest was a tad light, compared to the 112 put out by Life Is Good, but he won convincingly by four lengths. It seems he won’t have to work much harder to beat his Blue Grass field either.

*       *       *
Medina Spirit leads Santa Anita Derby line-up
Only Life is Good has been able to beat him--and Life Is Good is out

Players who got 39-1 odds on Medina Spirit to win the Kentucky Derby will be watching the colt closely in the Santa Anita Derby where he’s expected to be favoured. Players got those odds in a future-wager pool because Life Is Good was beating him. But now, with Life Is Good off the Derby trail, the horse who beat him twice is now in the cat bird seat.

Note that the Derby is one of six races in the mandatory payout jackpot pick-6.

*       *       *
The Wood Memorial appears to be most contentious
Aqueduct prep race features five horses who have won Derby trail races

The Wood Memorial should be the most contentious of the three Derby preps on Saturday because five of the horses have won a race on the Derby trail. And a 2-for-2 horse, Prevalence, is entering a prep race for the first time.


Another "now" horse comes through for Stretch . . .

Isn't that why we watch these handicapping shows?

Those watching the online ASD Live show in which Kirt, Marshall and Stretch gave their predictions for the last six races at Gulfstream Saturday may have been struck by Stretch’s words before race 12: “She’s the now horse” he said about #3 Crazy Beautiful in the Gulfstream Park Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

Viewers might have recalled he used those exact words to describe a horse in the trio’s Breeders’ Cup workshop last fall and that horse won. So why shouldn’t his “now” horse win race 12? And she did--impressively--at odds of 2-1, beating the 6-5 favourite Con Lima who finished fourth. “This is almost my prime horse (of the day),” he added and keyed her in his pick-4 although the ticket missed the last leg.

But that is why we watch these shows, isn’t it? To get nuggets of insight, regardless how well the analyst’s actual betting suggestions play out. Stretch didn’t complete the exactors with his “now” horse but his $3 triactor pick in the following race paid just over $200, which was the trio’s main payoff of the afternoon.
WIN A TON IN '21: It's "I never play that track" discovery month

Make April your “I never play that track” discovery month. Play a track or tracks you’ve never or hardly played before. Give them a serious look. Maybe try a new one each week--even a harness track if you’re strictly a thoroughbred player. And what about quarter horses? You may make a pleasant discovery and thank this column for making the suggestion.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR: It’s always fun to see baby horse pictures so thanks to Leona Stahl, former stable manager for the late Phil Kives, who snapped the attached picture of Nonios foal born on March 22 to True Attraction. “A beautiful filly,” she said. And we agree.

Leona said the foal’s owner is Marion Johnston. Marion had her best year in a decade of racing at ASD last year with a record of 22-4-3-3.
THE BEST OF BOB by Bob Gates: Recalling Queen's visit and a newspaper's demise

Did you know that July 15 marked the 50th anniversary of the day the Queen visited the 1970 Manitoba Centennial Derby and that August 27 was the 40th anniversary of the day the Tribune newspaper died? Click here for Bob's story that links these two iconic Manitoba happenings. (First published in July 2020.)
Keeneland boutique meet with lots of stakes races begins tomorrow
  • Tomorrow: Good Friday. Keeneland begins at 12:05 p.m.
  • This Saturday: Three Kentucky Derby prep races: the Santa Anita Derby, the Wood Memorial from Aqueduct and the Blue Grass from Keeneland.
  • This Sunday: Happy Easter! Fewer tracks are racing. See schedule here.
  • Saturday, April 10: Final major Kentucky Derby prep race from Oaklawn Park, the Arkansas Derby
  • Friday, April 30 : Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs
  • Saturday, May 1: Kentucky Derby at Churchill
  • Monday, May 17: ASD live racing begins


Happy Easter!

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