Thursday, April 4, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14 No. 12 (Issue #682)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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


"She's training super and deserves a shot to try the big one"
–owner/trainer Don Schnell

10 sleeps until the Big One
Manitoba's mighty mare on her way to Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park

The die is cast. Manitoba’s mighty mare, Escape Clause, will take on the toughest field of fillies and mares she’s ever faced in the Grade 1 $800,000 Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas with the hope of adding her name alongside Zenyatta, a two-time winner of that race.

Never have the stakes been so high for a modestly-bred Manitoba horse. “Her value as a brood mare will skyrocket even if she finishes third in that race,” Don Schnell told The Insider from Turf Paradise where Escape Clause is stabled.

“She’s got heart and always tries as hard as she can. She’s never let us down,”
he said. Her recent victory in the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap at Sunland Park in which she set a track record without trying, seems to indicate she belongs among the classiest females on the continent.

The trip to Oaklawn takes 22 hours, a journey Schnell said he will make in two days. That’s the biggest weekend of the meet for the Hot Springs track which will showcase the $1 million Arkansas Derby a week from this Saturday, the day before Escape Clause races.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Keeneland's spring meet opens today, a day earlier than usual. Post time: 2 p.m.
  • Whipping soon will be confined only to dessert toppings at Santa Anita
  • The contest to win a $200 bankroll on the Derby has become a real horse race
  • Fog blankets the road to the Kentucky Derby; will it clear this weekend?
  • Dubai World Cup mimics Breeders' Cup where favourites flourished
  • How much did the Upset of the Week pay? And why did it pay so much?
Jim Cretney slipped to second behind Anne Champion
CHAMPION PASSES CRETNEY ON ROAD TO DERBY BANKROLL: With three big prep races this Saturday, there’s a logjam at the top of the Derby Countdown Contest leaderboard to win a $200 bankroll to play the Kentucky Derby in four weeks. Jim Cretney, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, hit a rut on the Derby road in the Florida Derby, giving way to horse owner Anne Champion.

Close on their heels is Anne’s husband, David, and electrician Larry Liebrecht. But, with 15 points available for correct picks now, a dark horse could come charging past them all. Will it be you? A set of Triple Crown glasses will be given away after each of the three derby prep races Saturday, too. See leaderboard here.

Pick the winners of this Saturday’s three prep races at Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita, and $150 in wagering vouchers could be yours along with copious bragging rights. Look for program and entry forms in the Race Book.

(10,000) will be awarded in draws at the Pembina, Quest Inn, Canad Inns Windsor Park and Green Brier Inn this Saturday and every Saturday in April. Players at McPhillips Station Casino, Club Regent Casino and Rookies will be given 5X Player Rewards points for their wagers made on Saturdays in April.
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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 $4,467.50.

GREEDY CORNER: $745,000 is the carryover today in Santa Anita’s 20-cent Rainbow 6. See other carryovers here.


Who really wants it?

Confusion reigns on the road to the Derby as three big prep races go this Saturday

The winner of one of this Saturday’s three prep races will go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Then again, maybe he won’t.

The latest Derby flavour, Maximum Security, a colt you could have claimed for $16,000 five days before Christmas and, since then, has earned $638,000 and wired the Florida Derby field, may do what Triple Crown winner Justify did last year. Then again, maybe he won’t.

The only thing certain about this year’s Derby is its chronic uncertainty. Going into this weekend, a credible case could be made for a dozen or more horses. It may not be you or I but there will be those who will be able to boast that he or she knew exactly who will be draped with the garland of roses four weeks from this Saturday.

I hope it’s you. Enjoy the prep races Saturday from Aqueduct, Keeneland and Santa Anita and be sure to enter the “3 for the money” and Derby Countdown contests.

UPSET OF THE WEEK (that really shouldn't have been)


Note the "329" turf breeding figure in the Daily Racing Form, the second-best in the race
#1 Cambre, a 3-year-old colt, paid $179.80 to win when he won race 8 at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, a maiden special weight on the turf.

Players avoided him because he had lost his first two lifetime races on the dirt by many lengths. But Saturday’s race was on the turf and his turf breeding was second-best in the race! His turf “Tomlinson” figure (listed in the Daily Racing Form) was 329, second only to the 4-5 favourite, #10 Crypto Gold, who had 333. So should he have gone off at 88-1? You tell me. See the program page here.


The "chalkiest" ever

Favourites dominate Dubai World Cup as they did in Breeders' Cup

Just like the Breeders’ Cup last fall, it was chalk, chalk, chalk in Saturday’s races from Dubai on World Cup Day—a great day for favourites players, not so good for those who went “deep” in pick-3s and the pick-4 expecting the usual complement of longshots.

Not adding UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait to tickets dealt "Bigger" betting group its most devastating blow (Katsumi Saito photo)
Most winners paid between $3.30 and $7.80; two paid in the $10 range and one horse, the winner of the UAE Derby, Plus Que Parfait, paid $19.60. Half the pick-3s paid under $26 for a $1 ticket.

The big money was available in superfectas (which had a $1 minimum). A $1 superfecta on the UAE Derby paid $64,762. In hindsight, that’s where the “I won bigger” betting group should have concentrated their play instead of on pick-3s and the pick-4 where the group suffered an 80 per cent loss in its investment.

And how did Rob MacLennan’s selections fare? He picked the winners of four of the nine races with $10.30 on World Cup winner Thunder Snow paying the most. He picked the winners of the last three races cold for a pick-3 payoff of $25.50. With his second-choice winning the first leg of the pick-4, the pick-4 on the last four races on the card paid $113.75. That’s where money could have been made had multiple tickets been purchased on the favourites instead of looking for upset possibilities.

The pivotal race on the whole card, though, was the UAE Derby which both Rob and group members had trouble with. The winning horse, Plus Que Parfait, turned out to be a horse who simply had not liked the previous track he had raced at, Fair Grounds--although he had finished second in a Grade 2 stakes at Churchill Downs before that.

Putting a line through those two Fair Grounds races would have resulted in the group adding that horse to its pick-6 ticket that paid $1,869. Still it was a fun morning watching an international contingent of quality horses racing in very classy surroundings.

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to Dan Debreuil who runs a marketing agency for picking up $2,458 with his playing partner, Aime, in the mandatory-payoff Jackpot Hi-5 pool at Woodbine Mohawk Park Saturday night with a $48 ticket. “We included horses in the outside positions on our ticket (posts 11 and 12) because those posts have come in in the past on days when the whole jackpot is paid out,” he said. (Regular races don’t have horses beyond post position 10.) So their ticket was 1, 3 wheeled to 1, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12 in the bottom four positions. The pool, with a carryover of $525,000, grew to $2.8 million. The Jackpot Hi-5 is the last race on the card.


ASD PLAYERS COME UP EMPTY IN VEGAS: Unusually so, the three players representing ASD at the annual Horse Player World Series in Las Vegas last weekend pretty much spun their wheels with Jim Roberts, a retired college math prof, having the best finish, 151st, among 478 players. Handicapper of the Year Brian McKellar and another top ASD handicapper, John Whitehill, also represented the Downs. Roberts told The Insider the tournament winner was a first-time player who lives in Las Vegas. He connected on all horses that paid 10-1 or higher, Roberts said, including the 88-1 horse at Tampa on Saturday that The Insider writes about above (Upset of the Week).
Racing ends at Portland Meadows

Portland Meadows race track in Portland, Oregon, which opened in 1946, has run its last race and is being turned into a real estate development. The track is owned by The Stronach Group.

Within months, jockeys at Santa Anita and Golden Gate will carry a whip only for safety purposes. This was the decision by the California Horse Racing Board last Thursday following a rash of breakdowns at Santa Anita. Those two Stronach-operated tracks are also banning the use of Lasix starting next year with 2-year-olds. There isn’t an immediate ban on whipping because the board is required to get public comment before voting on the measure again. Will other tracks follow suit? It seems inevitable. Will the Breeders’ Cup in the fall at Santa Anita be the first BC where whipping is disallowed?

People buy a quick-pick ticket and watch the race
KENTUCKY LAUNCHES WIN-PLACE-SHOW LOTTERY: People in Kentucky can now buy lottery tickets at many food marts, gas bars and other retailers based on upcoming horse races and watch those races on their phones to see how their lottery numbers are doing. It’s called Win-Place-Show. A person buys a $2 quick-pick ticket listing the names and numbers of three horses in a future race.

A ticket-holder wins the top prize if the horses finish first, second and third in the exact order on the ticket; second prize if they finish in any order. A person wins a free ticket if two horses finish in the exact order. It’s more exciting than mere lottery tickets because players can watch and cheer for their numbers on their phones. The actual odds on their horses is irrelevant.

What can one say? The “I won bigger" betting group took a hit at all three tracks last Saturday. What happened?
  • In the Dubai races, the group missed collecting $1,869 in the pick-6 by not adding Plus Que Parfait, the winner of the UAE Derby, to its ticket. The group failed to consider the fact the horse didn’t like his previous track, Fair Grounds, but had finished second in a Grade 2 stakes at Churchill Downs before that. His recent works were good, too. Sigh.
  • In the Tampa Bay pick-5—which no one anywhere correctly picked—the group came up short in a couple races but the $179 horse in one leg was gettable on the strength of having the second-best Tomlinson turf-breeding figure in the race (see Upset of the Week above).
  • In the Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream, the group loaded up too much in the first few legs that seemed tricky—but were won by favourites—and were thin in later legs. Gulfstream has never been a strong track for the group.
So the group is back to its comfort zone, Tampa Bay’s last five races, this Saturday, loaded up with all kinds of angles it has picked up the last couple weeks. That’s 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza. Surely a winner will emerge.

The late Bert Gray (left) with son Glen in ASD Race Book
ASD LOSES OLDEST FAN: Of youthful mind and spirit, having remarried just eight years ago, ASD’s oldest fan, Bert Gray died on Tuesday at 97. ”He was looking forward to the beginning of live racing next month,” his son, retired construction worker and astute handicapper, Glen Gray, told The Insider. Because his mind was so active and sharp, one quickly forgot his age when talking to him.

He worked in Canada as a furniture refinisher after serving as a morse code operator in the Royal Air Force in England during World War II. His spunk and recollections will be missed. Son Glen won last October’s Player’s Choice handicapping tournament with a huge bankroll of $161 and Glen’s wife, Janet, won more than $500 in February’s “Unleash Your Luck” VLT tournaments. Bert loved to play both and is surely with them in spirit.

THE BEST OF BOB: The forgotten years of the Manitoba Derby

Who won the first Manitoba Derby?  How many Manitoba-breds have won the race, and how many fillies have found their way to the winner’s circle?  The answers to these questions may not be as easy as they appear.  Historian Bob explains here. (First published in August 2017)


  • Today: Keeneland’s boutique stakes-rich spring meet begins a day earlier than usual
  • Tomorrow through Sunday: Last chance to make a future wager on the Kentucky Derby
  • This Saturday: Big three Kentucky Derby prep races at Aqueduct (Wood Memorial), Keeneland (Blue Grass) and at Santa Anita (Santa Anita Derby)
  • This Sunday and every Sunday this month: 5X the usual Player Rewards points on all bets you make at the track
  • Saturday, April 13: Kentucky Derby prep race at Oaklawn Park (Arkansas Derby)
  • Sunday, April 14: Escape Clause in the $800,000 Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn; 5X Player Rewards points for bets made at the track
  • Sunday, April 21: Easter Brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. $26.95 (kids 12 & under $13.50). Tickets available from Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.  Menu  

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