Thursday, April 13, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 14 (Issue #581)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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


Best commercial since Budweiser's Clydesdales?

Millions view Volkswagen's "laughing horses"

Not since a Clydesdale kicked a field goal in a Budweiser commercial has a TV spot featuring horses created the kind of buzz that this Volkswagen commercial for Trailer Assist has. Released last November by the advertising agency, Grabarz & Partner in Hamburg, Germany, it has been viewed several million times and is worth watching again and again, imagining how many cameramen waited patiently for days for horses to do something that fit this one-minute production.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Woodbine thoroughbred season kicks off at noon Saturday
  • Who's going to win $200 Kentucky Derby wager? Arkansas Derby will tell the tale
  • VLT hours remain unchanged through Good Friday and Easter (9 a.m. to 2 a.m.)
  • Look who's back to ride at the Downs!
  • What were the better bettor tracks for March?
  • Mother's Day brunch sold out but after-the-races buffet still available
Dave Champion

FOUR IN RUNNING TO WIN $200 DERBY WAGER: Who’s going to win the $100 win/place wager on the Kentucky Derby in the Derby Countdown contest? It will come down to the Arkansas Derby this Saturday. Four contestants are in the running. Each will receive up to five points for a correct prediction (except Jim Roberts who would win up to four points because he has one point already for his 10th correct contest selection and no others have points for a 10th correct selection yet). What horse will they select? They will receive 5 points for predicting the winner, 3 for second and 1 for third. (Everyone else should still enter the contest to get into the final draw for a Derby travel mug and pint glass.) Leaderboard.

Al “Mr. Parlay” Ilott
continues on his show parlay roll, parlaying $6 to show on five races at Woodbine Saturday to $46.20 which the Downs matched. Will you make your mark this Easter weekend? Any track, five races in a row, after 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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 April? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? NHL playoffs

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.

Brunch sold out, buffet still available

EASTER AND MOTHER’S DAY BRUNCH SOLD OUT; BOOK QUICKLY FOR DINNER: This Sunday’s Easter brunch and the Mother’s Day brunch on May 14, the first day of live racing, are sold out. But a delicious unwind-after-the-races buffet on Mother’s Day is still available. For tickets call Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0. Some other live race days are already also selling briskly. See race schedule here.

NO CHANGE IN VLTS OR POKER THIS WEEKEND: It’s Easter weekend but everything continues normally:

  • Regular VLT hours (9 a.m. to 2 a.m.) every day with free tournaments starting 8 p.m. Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday
  • $10 buy-in poker Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
  • And, of course, horse racing each day (see schedule here).


Look who's back!

2015 leading rider Chavion Chow is back to defend title

Chavion Chow
Leading rider in 2015

He’s back! Jockey Chavion Chow will be taking on the same jockeys he beat for the riding title in 2015: Christopher Husbands, Rohan Singh and Adolfo Morales.

You may recall Chow going on a tear at the end of the 2015 season, winning six races in the final two days of the meet including the Winnipeg Futurity with Heber and the Gold Cup with Magic D’ Oro.

It was by far his best year as a jockey. He notched 63 wins and $544,000 in purse money, more than double his 31 wins and $249,000 in purse money in 2014.

Last year, he only rode in Caymanas Park in Jamaica where he was a rather famous native son because of his riding title at the Downs. What a successful journey for a young man who had zero wins for 24 starts when he began his riding career at the Downs in 2008!

In Chow’s absence last year, Christopher Husbands won his second riding title since 2014 with 83 wins, 15 more than Antonio Whitehall.


Oaklawn was best track for players in March

But it was mostly a "hold your own" kind of month

So, Assiniboia Downs players were better bettors in March on Oaklawn Park races. Players showed success, too, betting Golden Gate, Parx and harness races at The Meadows, Freehold and Fraser Downs.

But, after February produced one of the best “better bettor” months since The Insider started tracking wagering by Manitoba bettors, March was mainly a “hold your own” kind of month.

It kind of reminded me of that old joke where a husband says to his spouse as he heads off to the races: “I hope I break even. We need the money.”

And that’s pretty much what was happening with play at Aqueduct, Laurel, Penn National, Delta, Fonner, Louisiana, Mahoning Valley and most harness tracks: Meadowlands, Cal Expo, Rosecroft, Pocono and Rideau.

The trickiest tracks? Turfway, Sam Houston and Remington. Remember, betting to your strengths keeps money flowing into the provincial economy. Which, of course, makes you a good citizen.


Road to the 143rd Kentucky Derby


Surprises continue

31-1 maiden wins Blue Grass, Gormley is slowest in 60 years. Wither Arkansas?

The weirdest countdown to the Kentucky Derby in memory continued last Saturday with a maiden, Irap, winning the Blue Grass at Keeneland—while favourite McCraken struggled to retain third--and Gormley set the slowest time in 60 years in the Santa Anita Derby.

Then we had Irish War Cry going first-seventh-first in his last three starts, with his last being a win in the Wood Memorial.

“Might be one of those years just to pick a number from a hat,”
says two-time ASD Handicapper of the Year Ron Phelps. “With how the prep races have gone the Derby is anyone's race.”

“It will likely be about who gets the best trip because half the field likely has a shot,”
adds ASD handicapping educator Marshall Posner. “Should be some great prices if you get lucky."

So given this topsy-turvy season, what should we expect in the final prep race, the $1 million Arkansas Derby this Saturday at Oaklawn? Will the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Classic Empire, show that he HAS progressed at 3 and that his first start this year, getting a dismal 96 Equibase speed figure for his third-place finish in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, was an anomaly?

The Arkansas Derby will be your final chance to enter the DERBY COUNTDOWN contest, at least to get into the draw for the last giveaway of a Kentucky Derby travel mug and pint glass.

My Kentucky Derby prediction at this point? Girvin and Gunnevera will be part of the superfecta. And it will continue to be the most exciting two minutes in sports.

SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER: Which of these significant things happened in 1975? (a) there were two dead-heats for first on the same day that a track record was set (b) it was the first year for colour photos of race finishes and saddle cloth colours representing horse numbers (c) it was the year the Clubhouse was closed-in with glass and lighting was installed for night racing (d) the triactor was introduced as was “eye in the sky” photo finishes. See answer at bottom of column.


WATCH OUT! MANITOBA-BRED SIZZLES AT SUNLAND; HEADS TO ASD: A Manitoba-bred 3-year-old filly by the name of Berazzle fittingly rhymes with “dazzle” because that’s exactly what she did in her first lifetime start, a $21,500 maiden allowance race at Sunland Park in New Mexico Tuesday, posting a time of :57.68 for the 5f sprint. Her 34.1 workout had tipped off the betting public and she paid $8.60 as the second choice in the eight-horse field. Owned and trained by Don Schnell, she is sired by True Sense, out of Emkel. Cam Ziprick of Russell, MB bred her. The win was worth $12,900 (U.S.) to Schnell and you’d have to say already that she will be a threatening presence in ASD stakes races for the ladies.

Witt Six winninig Gold Cup last September

SAD NEWS ON WITT SIX: Witt Six, winner of the Gold Cup, R.J. Speers and Manitoba Mile at the Downs last year and second in the Manitoba Derby the year before, had to be euthanized after an operation in Nebraska last week to remove a bone chip from a leg. The operation was a success, explained track announcer Kirt Contois, but Witt Six thrashed about as the anaesthetic wore off and he broke a leg. This is the second Gold Cup winner in a row to meet an untimely demise. Magic D’ Oro, winner of the Gold Cup in 2015, collapsed of a suspected ruptured aortic valve during a stakes race at the Downs last year. Witt Six, 5, trained by Jerry Gourneau and owned by Henry Witt, Jr., apparently chipped a knee bone during the running of a stakes race at Fonner Park on March 25 in which he finished third. His lifetime record was 37-9-4-10 with earnings of $216,431 (U.S.)

Winx makes it 17 in a row
(AAP: Craig Golding photo)

UP OVER DOWN UNDER: The best mare in the world, Winx, made it 17 wins in a row at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, Australia last weekend, winning the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

STRONACH SWEETENS PEGASUS POT: Now the Pegasus World Cup race will carry a $16 million purse, up from $12 million from this past January. Gulfstream owner Frank Stronach has sweetened the pot with the track’s own $4 million as an enticement just in case there is less interest in the race following the dream match up of California Chrome and Arrogate. The entrants will still be required to pony up $1 million for each of the 12 available post positions in the race.

IGNORING RIDICULE, WATCHING PROBABLES WINS "I WON BIG" $4,500: Whatever it takes! And what it took last Saturday for the “I won big” betting group to win $4,532 in the pick-4 and pick-5 at Tampa Bay Downs ($116 per $20 share) was (1) to ignore ridicule from a player who pooh-poohed my “awful” suggested horse in the last leg and (2) to take note of the probable double payouts to the first leg of our pick-5 (which showed there was improbable action on horses other than the two horses the group had keyed on its major ticket).

So what happened was that the group’s big pick-5 ticket was dead in the first leg but an 8-1 horse on the backup ticket won and my “awful” horse in the last leg, #7 Spoonjar Jarspoon, wired the $10,000 maiden-claiming field. I had suggested this horse—even though he hadn’t raced since last year—because he had a high pace number two years ago in a maiden allowance race (See program page here.) So it’s a bacon treat for all this Saturday -- and a raspberry blown in the direction of my last-race detractor. Clubhouse plaza at 10:30 a.m. for the usual last five races at Tampa.

Jennifer Fielding
Buff gave her first win

ONE BUFF GOES FISHING WHILE ANOTHER READIES FOR 2017 DEBUT: As the hockey Buff (Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets) heads off for a summer of fishing, that other Buff, the colt who made his seasonal debut as a 2-year-old last year, is readying to take to the track for his 3-year-old debut, reports owner Barry Anderson. Buff was a surprise winner in his second lifetime start last September, winning at odds of 14-1 under the handling of apprentice jockey Jennifer Fielding, her first win ever. Jennifer is likely to be at the reins again this spring as “Go, Buff, go” echoes through the grandstand.

JETS HOCKEY SEASON LIKE A 3-YEAR-OLD'S YEAR? To ease the disappointment of the Winnipeg Jets not making the playoffs, I’m likening the team’s performance over this past season to that of a 3-year-old horse. With a clutch of rookies, the team had the ups and downs of a 3-year-old at the beginning of the season but, by the end of the season the team won seven games in a row which I liken to a 3-year-old having matured enough in the fall to beat 4-year-olds. So what to expect next season? A seasoned 4-year-old (read: team) ready to take on the big boys on the road to the playoffs! Let’s see if this analogy bears out and hope that it does.

HPIBET Marshall Posner

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

It’s that time of year when several tracks are starting their 2017 live season with Woodbine opening day scheduled for this Saturday and Assiniboia Downs beginning on Mother’s Day, May 14. Here are some things to keep in mind when handicapping the races at the start of a new season.

  • They're off at Woodbine Saturday at noon

    Many first starts are intended as preps only although some horses run well fresh. Review the past performances from the bottom up to determine previous layoff success, check workout times and analyze trainer stats with horses off a layoff.
  • Pay extra attention to speed horses; most meets start with short sprints.
  • Watch for horses that have been winter racing; they will have a conditioning edge.
  • For horses coming from other tracks, consider the level of competition they’ve been racing against. Is it an open claiming race or a condition race?  Also, what is the lowest maiden race and claiming level for that track? How does it compare with the overall quality of the track you’re betting? Horses coming from “A” tracks can show less form than horses coming from “B” or “C” tracks.
  • Make small wagers to start and let the horses round into form during the first month. It’s a long season with plenty of betting opportunities.

Got a question for Marshall? Email

HISTORY ON THE HOOF: The best of Bob

Sadly, June Sifton passed in 2016. In this week's blog, Bob remembers her husband, John, his love for horses and wonders what might have been had he not been taken from us at the youthful age of 43. Read it here.

(With thanks to track historian Bob Gates)

SEASON 60 TRIVIA ANSWER: (b) In 1975, black and white photos were replaced with colour and saddle cloth colours were matched with specific program numbers (#1 = red saddle cloth, etc.)

Happy Easter from bunny horse!

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