Thursday, April 25, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14 No. 15 (Issue #685)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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


Escape Clause named top older female in Canada
Meanwhile, Horse of the Year goes to Wonder Gadot, a filly Escape Clause recently beat

Ironically, Manitoba’s Escape Clause was named 2018 Champion Older Female at the annual Jockey Club of Canada Sovereign Awards banquet in Woodbridge, Ont. last Thursday while Wonder Gadot, the horse she recently beat in a stakes race, was named 2018 Horse of the Year.

What? That’s because the award was for races run last year and Wonder Gadot won the Queen’s Plate and finished second in the Kentucky Oaks. Since then, however, Wonder Gadot has declined and she finished last two Sundays ago in the Grade 1 $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap while Escape Clause came close to winning that race, losing by a mere nose.

Harvey Warner
, president of the Manitoba Jockey Club who was invited by The Jockey Club of Canada to make a presentation to a Sovereign winner, said he was “quietly confident” he would be presenting the trophy to fellow Manitobans--which he did. “Easterners were aware and complimentary of Escape Clause’s accomplishments,” he told The insider.

The last time a Manitoba horse won a Sovereign was in 2006 when Kimchi won it for Champion Three-Year-Old Filly after winning the Woodbine Oaks.

See all Sovereign Award winners here.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Why do coffee mugs in the U.S. bear the name of Woodbine horsemen?
  • Racing at Canada's brand new Century Mile track in Edmonton begins Sunday 2:45 p.m.
  • Sign up for Saturday's Player's Choice tournament by 9 p.m. tomorrow
  • Kentucky Derby is two weeks away; want to share in group tickets? See Margaret.
  • Leading Trinidad rider joins ASD jockey colony. Will he be your "ally"?
  • What does it cost to nominate Escape Clause to run in Breeders' Cup? Higher.
FINAL “3 FOR THE MONEY” CONTEST GIVES YOU A BETTER CHANCE: You’ll have a better chance Saturday to nail three winners in the “3 for the money” contest because you can choose any three of the last five races at Tampa for your entry. (And why not play the 60-cent pick-5 on those races while you’re at it?) It’s the final contest for the season and you can win $100 in wagering vouchers and an invitation to the hottest media event in the city: the gourmet luncheon press conference to kick off the live race season.

Kentucky Derby Day a week from this Saturday will feature free giveaways and contest fun to add to the excitement. (Tell your friends.):
  • Free mint julep souvenir glass to the first 100 on-track plus giveaways at OTBs
  • Draws for KD merchandise including a hat, long-sleeved polo shirt, set of Triple Crown glasses and a tote bag at the track and at OTBs: at Pembina Hotel, Quest Inn, Canad Inns Windsor Park and Green Brier.
  • $100 first-and-worst contest on the Derby (Who will finish first and who will be last?)
QX104 � Today's Country

Official stations of horse racing.
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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 April? Find out here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? NHL playoffs.

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 $5,362.50.

GREEDY CORNER: $450,000, $300,000, $200,000 are the pick-6 jackpots available to be scooped for 20-cent tickets at Gulfstream, Golden Gate and Santa Anita respectively. Why not try to bag all three in one day? Maybe quick-picks will win you a life-changing fortune!


Former leading Trinidad rider joins ASD jockey colony

Among eight new faces among 20 who plan to ride

First in the ASD starting gate this season (on Easter Sunday) was Fonzerella with new exercise rider Ryan Constant (Derek Corbel photo)

Will Ali be your ally? There’s an easy way to remember the jockey, Ronald Ali, who’s bringing leading riding ability from Santa Rosa Park in Trinidad to ASD’s 2019 racing season that begins on Mother’s Day.

He is one of eight new riders who plan to be here for the season opener.

Ali had made a previous foray to Canada in 2012 at Northlands Park in Edmonton where he chalked up one win and two thirds from 13 starts. Is he seasoned enough now to step into the shoes of Prayven Badrie, a Trinidadian as well, who was co-leading jockey at ASD last year but is racing at the new Century Mile track in Edmonton this year instead?

The new riders will include:
  • Ronald Ali – Former leading rider at Santa Rosa Park in Trinidad, currently 4th in the standings
  • Alex Cruz – Has 259 career wins and purse earnings of $2.6 million and will be looking to convert all those seconds at Turf Paradise this year (219-22-38-21) into wins at ASD. That would give him a 27 per cent win rate
  • Dane Dawkins – Cracked top 10 at Garrison Savannah in Barbados every season since starting in 2016.
  • Kerron Khelawan – Former leading apprentice at Santa Rosa Park (Trinidad)
  • Dillon Khelawan – Former leading apprentice at Santa Rosa Park
  • Jose Leon (apprentice) -- Won 19 of 172 starts at Turf Paradise this year
  • Nicolle Disdier (apprentice) - 32 career wins and purse earnings of $375,000. Currently galloping at Turf Paradise.
  • Nirone Austin (apprentice) – Cracked top 10 at Garrison Savannah in Barbados in 2018 and is currently 7th in standings
RETURNING RIDERS: Antonio Whitehall (last year’s leading rider), Kayla Pizarro, Tyrone Nelson, Renaldo Cumberbatch, Paul Francis, Richard Mairs, Chavion Chow, Stanley Chadee Jr., Sheldon Chickeness, Arthur Budhu, Dario Dalrymple and Shavon Belle (apprentice)

"She's earned it"

Must pay $100,000 to nominate Escape Clause to race in Breeders' Cup

Racing analysts say Escape Clause (right) is best mare on the continent despite losing by a nose to Midnight Bisou in Apple Blossom Handicap. (Coady photo)

“She’s earned it,” Don Schnell, the co-owner and trainer of Escape Clause, told The Insider in response to the $100,000 fee he’ll have to pay to nominate the Manitoba mare to race in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in early November. The fee is due by July 15. It doubles after that date.

In an interview from Turf Paradise which he is leaving this weekend, he also said that analysts from the Daily Racing Form and the horseracing television network, TVG, have told him Escape Clause is “the best mare in North America, UNDOUBTEDLY the best mare in North America.”

And when you consider Escape Clause spent 22 hours in a shipping van, raced on an unfamiliar rain-soaked track and lost ground after being slammed by Wonder Gadot, he said it was remarkable she lost the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap two Sundays ago by only a nose to Midnight Bisou, a horse that was racing on home grounds where she had already won a Grade 2 stakes race.

So where will Escape Clause now call home? Schnell said he will be shipping his 12 horses including Escape Clause to Canterbury Park in Minnesota this weekend. He’ll enter several Minnesota-bred horses in races there when the meet begins Friday, May 3. Non-Minnesota-breds except for Escape Clause will be shipped to Assiniboia Downs, he said.

The next race for Escape Clause is uncertain. She had initially been pointed to a $500,000 turf stakes at Santa Anita on May 27 which is a “win and you’re in” race for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (which means the pre-entry and entry fees of $40,000 plus $10,000 shipping costs would be paid for).

But Schnell doesn’t think Escape Clause has the patience to spend hours at an airport to be flown to Los Angeles and it’s too long a drive from Canterbury. So he’s also considering entering races in northeastern U.S. closer to Canterbury.

“I’m going to back-date from the Breeders’ Cup to space races properly (leading up to the Breeders’ Cup),”
he said.


WHY DO COFFEE MUGS BEAR THE NAME OF WOODBINE HORSEMEN? Paul Buttigieg has been a mainstay at Woodbine for years--in racing, breeding and operating a training centre on his 100-acre farm in Egbert, Ont.--but now his last name has gone viral and phonetic spelling of his name, BOOT-EDGE-EDGE, has appeared on coffee mugs throughout the U.S. What’s with that? That’s because his namesake, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is running to become the Democratic president of the U.S. and few know how to pronounce his name. (He’s polling third in Iowa and New Hampshire.)

So now when you see Paul’s name--or that of another Woodbine horse owner/trainer Kevin Buttigieg (no connection to the other Buttigieg) in race programs--there should be no confusion on how you pronounce their names. Kevin, in fact, was in the limelight Saturday on Woodbine’s thoroughbred opening day when he won both halves of a $96 daily double with Undercover Cat ($7.30) in race 3 and Adelle’s Princess ($19.20) in race 4. The word “buttigieg,” by the way, is Maltese for “owner of chickens.” Now don’t you feel so much wiser?

BETTING GROUP LAMENTS A SPEEDBALL NOT SHOWING SPEED: For the second week in a row, a horse that should have been on the lead to give Saturday’s “I won bigger” group a payoff of $14,000 in pick-4 and pick-5 tickets was well back in the pack when the gate opened--perhaps because she had broken through the gate prior to the race. Maddening, to be sure. The filly, Claire Is Danger, who had even shown early pace at the maiden allowance level and was now racing in a claiming race, simply dawdled near the back of the 12-horse field.

So the group ended up cashing a mere $184 in pick-4 tickets when the second choice, Juanandora, won the race. There’s hope that bad news won’t come in 3s this Saturday as the group once again tackles the last five races at Tampa, a week before attention turns--ta-daa!--to Kentucky Derby Day and dreams of a big score thanks to the massive pools. NOTE: Those who longed for crispy, crunchy bacon last week should get their fill this Saturday. Join us on the Clubhouse plaza at 10:30 a.m. Want to share in group tickets on Kentucky Derby Day? See Margaret at the VLT cage to sign up! She emails group picks to all shareholders.

My support for Catholic Boy last year (saying he would have beaten Justify if he had remained healthy) has players asking about his return to racing and one player betting me he’ll never win another race. (Aren’t naysayers fun?) So here’s an update: He’s had four moderate workouts since March 22, the most recent being on Belmont Park’s training track last Friday where he breezed 4-furlongs in :50 seconds.

Reader's write . . .
Does Escape Clause have brothers or sisters?

Dear Ivan: Could you find out why there are no full brothers or sisters of Escape Clause running at the Downs or elsewhere or, if they are, how they did?” -- Jim Roberts

Hi Jim:
I put that question to Sherisse Ziprick at the farm in Russell, Man. where Escape Clause was bred (by Going Commando from Danger Pay) and this was her reply: “Danger Pay has had only five foals, with two foals, other than Escape Clause, to race at ASD. The first was a full brother, Danger Rules. He was a stakes winner with a total of $127,000 in earnings. Half brother, Wage War (by Battle Cat) won a couple of races. We currently have a yearling full-sister here at home."

*       *       *
BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT FROM A PROUD “DAD:” “Another brand new Manitoba baby boy! Born about 9 a.m. this morning (last Thursday) in Foxwarren, this guy is enjoying mom's milk (she’s Hey Let's Salsa by Two Step Salsa, a $1.1 million graded stakes winner, third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile) and is now running around kicking and playing. He's going to be grey by all looks at this point. Daddy is the newer stallion, Conquest Curlinate. Mom is going to be bred to Manitoba stallion Nonios. What a super mom, too! Cleaned the little guy right up and a wonderful milker!” -- Andrew Clarke (who owns mom and baby with Larry Falloon and Dennis Huberdeau)

THE BEST OF BOB: Horses made this jockey whole. Guess who?

Bob’s blog story this week is about a jockey from days gone by and not just any jock. This rider was at one time the Downs’ all-time leading rider with more career wins at the track than any other rider. This was quite an accomplishment given that he never ever won a seasonal riding title. Guesses anyone?  Give it your best shot before clicking on this link. (First published in August 2017)


  • This Saturday, April 27: Player's Choice Handicapper of the Month tourney at noon. Churchill’s Kentucky Derby meet begins.
  • This Sunday, April 28: Century Mile’s inaugural thoroughbred meet in Edmonton begins at 2:45 p.m. Racing on Saturdays and Sundays, adding Thursdays in late May
  • Thursday, May 2: Final prime rib buffet of the season from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Reserve with Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.
  • Friday, May 3: Kentucky Oaks at Churchill. First post 9:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, May 4: Kentucky Derby at Churchill (first post 9:30 a.m.) with giveaways and contest fun (see Fun & Games)
  • Thursday, May 9: Press conference to kick off live racing with gourmet luncheon.
  • Sunday, May 12: Happy Mother’s Day! 50-day live racing season begins at ASD 1:15 p.m. Dinner tickets now available from Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.

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