Thursday, May 4, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 17 (Issue #584)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Here's the horse Andy Beyer did NOT pick to win the 1973 Kentucky Derby (Secretariat)

Coming to tonight's Kentucky Derby launch?

Marshall and Glen will lead discussions at 7 p.m. in the Clubhouse

Are you finding the Kentucky Derby to be a coin-toss race? Join the club. But maybe you can get closer to developing an INFORMED opinion about the race by attending tonight’s workshop in the Clubhouse led by Marshall and Glen, the Fan Education specialists.

Phone Samantha 204-885-3330 (ext. 0) and tell her you’ll be coming. You’ll get 2,500 free Player Rewards points and $10 deposited into your HPI account when you’ve bet $50 within a week.


QUICKIE QUIZ ON THE KENTUCKY OAKS: The Kentucky Derby is also called the Run for the Roses. What is the Kentucky Oaks also known as? (a) Lilies for the Fillies (b) Garland for the Girls (c) Lavender for the Ladies (d) Dance for the Dandelions. Answer at bottom of column.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Whose Derby opinions should you trust most?
  • Don't dismiss the "x" factor in your Derby selections
  • Rob selects Derby horses by process of elimination. Is this the way to go?
  • Does a hamburger ever deserve a headline? Yes, the new Downs Double does
  • Tourney winner pads Vancouver brother's pockets, too
  • Remember, the Mounties will be at the Downs Sunday, June 11. Pass it on.

WHO WILL BE FIRST AND WORST IN THE KENTUCKY DERBY? Entering the First & Worst contest on the Kentucky Derby in the Race Book Saturday will also get you into the draw for six Derby souvenir packages which include a cap, T-shirt and souvenir glasses. Pick the WINNER and the LAST PLACE FINISHER. Prize $100 in wagering vouchers; a draw will break a tie. No winning entries will result in a draw for $25 in wagering vouchers. Okay, get started on WORST.

Congrats to Al “Mr. Parlay” Ilott for winning the opportunity to dig into another buffet with a guest because his $46.50 was the highest $6 five-race show parlay of April, the final contest month. Thanks to everyone who gave it a whirl. What about trying a $10 or $20 show parlay on five races on Oaks and Derby days at Churchill? Hmm, think I’ll give it a try! Take you on, Al!

To the first 200 at the Downs Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and at off-track betting locations (with the exception of the casinos)


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 May? 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.

Downs Double

NEW CONNOISSEUR BURGER! THE “DOWNS DOUBLE:” If you think the picture makes the new Downs Double burger look appetizing, wait ‘til you bite into it! You’ll never think of burgers in the same light again. Since sampling one, I’ve been yearning for another. It’s an exceptionally juicy half-pound burger topped with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and secret sauce on a toasted egg bun. Served with your choice of side (cup of soup, coleslaw, tossed salad, Caesar salad, fries or mashed potatoes) $16. You’ll call it your “Spoil Myself” Burger.

: Remember, the RCMP Musical Ride will be making just one stop in Winnipeg and area to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday and that will be at Assiniboia Downs on Sunday, June 11, a non-racing day featuring legendary country music star Ray St. Germain (plus family fun). Rush grandstand tickets just $14.95 for the entire program ($80 for a box of four seats). Rush tickets go on sale May 8 and box seats May 9. For more information go to the Downs website here.

The horsemen’s banquet for awarding trophies and plaques for top horses of 2016 is a week from tomorrow in the lower level Finish Line Banquet Hall. Tickets $45 available at the ASD general office and from the HBPA and CTHS. And live racing, of course, begins two days later on Mother's Day Sunday at 1:30 p.m.


POST TIMES: Racing begins at Churchill Downs tomorrow (Kentucky Oaks day) and Saturday (Kentucky Derby day) at 9:30 a.m. CDT.

Experts, shmexperts

Only two opinions really matter -- those of the clocker and trainers

Clocker Mike Welsch
Watching his videos are a must

Opinions. They fly fast and furiously around the Kentucky Derby, the most-discussed race of the year in North America.

Problem is, I have a problem with opinions. That’s because I’ve been on the front lines for years collecting opinions from some of the best handicapping minds at the track and have seen some of the most ferociously fought-for opinions slither into the night.

It’s not a criticism; it’s just the nature of opinions. Of course, some strong opinions have been dead on. But it seems the faulty ones outweigh the accurate. That’s why this column is so obsessed with “rules.” They’re far more reliable than opinions which, when you think about it, are mostly just guesses.

So what are the “rule” horses in the Derby? Horses with the highest speed numbers but, more importantly, horses that have high pace numbers as well. Irish War Cry comes to mind.

And on the “opinion” side? The most deserving are the opinions of those who have been closest to the horses: Churchill Downs clocker Mike Welsch and the horses’ trainers.

You can read what trainers say elsewhere and you’re urged to watch Welsch workout reports here. This is a must.

Welsch has said exceptionally good things about Practical Joke, State of Honor, Always Dreaming, Hence and McCraken but Tapwrit seems to resonate most in his reports with “sneaky good” works.

Always Dreaming has been described as being a big striding horse who should love the distance but is erratic. And Classic Empire’s moodiness is always an issue.

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The "x" factor

Luck, karma, hunches and psychic sensibilites

Before the 2006 Preakness Stakes I was a cold, calculating analytical kind of player. So what happened to change that? I predicted the breakdown of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. A foreboding chill went up my spine the night before the race when I opened the Daily Racing Form. I was shaken. I had never experienced anything like that before or since that race.

I was so sure something terrible would happen, in fact, I kept saying to a friend throughout the next afternoon: “Everybody in the Race Book is going to gasp except me.”

The unfortunate fact that I was right opened my mind to what I call the “x” factor in determining the outcome of a race. It brings into play such unquantifiable elements such as luck, karma and hunches. All I can say is: “Don’t ignore.” If you are infused with good karma, good things will flow your way. I’m a big believer in that. Are you worthy?

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How to be practical and dream at the same time

You can throw a fortune at the Derby playing exotics – and be dead wrong. If that’s your style, be my guest. Of course, you may be right and have others drooling over your mega-cheque. Andy Beyer wrote about spending $1,000 on an exactor that won him $100,000.

But for us plebes, the practical way to play is to take a stand with a moderate sum of money but allow for the possibility of nailing a big score. To that end, I’m aiming (and the “I won big” group on Saturday will likely be aiming) at the Super Hi 5 which could pay in the tens of thousands of dollars. Basically, this will be my ticket:

  • Tapwrit for first or second (based primarily on clocker reports)
  • Gunnevera for third or fourth
  • Girvin and an undecided horse for fifth
  • Irish War Cry, McCraken, Practical Joke, State of Honor, Always Dreaming, Hence and Classic Empire will be placed around those basic horses.

This gives me a stab at big money without spending a fortune. If I’m wrong—most of you will say “WHEN I’m wrong”—I’m quite prepared to say it was worth the fun. An alternative, less costly ticket, and for my superfectas I’ll be using Tapwrit, Gunnevera and Irish War Cry to finish among the top four. If Always Dreaming gets his act together, he could be the ultimate winner.

$1 SUPERFECTA MINIMUM: Note minimum $1 superfectas on Oaks and Derby Days (May 5 and 6). Otherwise, the superfecta wagering minimum on Churchill cards (in Canada) is 20-cents.

Proven Reserve with owner Phil Kives, 1986

SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER: What unusual special honour did Proven Reserve, the 1985 Manitoba Horse of the Year, get the following year? (1) His successes were celebrated on a TV show called “Animal Pride.” (2) The city proclaimed a “Proven Reserve Day” (3) The national Sovereign Awards banquet marked his accomplishments (4) Owner Phil Kives persuaded a local liquor distillery to change the wording on its label from Special Reserve to Proven Reserve. See answer at bottom of column.


"I love the Oaks but Derby is an elimination game"
By Rob MacLennan, ASD handicapper

Rob MacLennan
Will play "all" in Oaks/Derby Pick 3

I really don’t have a strong opinion on the Derby (but I do on the Oaks) so I ended up going backwards, eliminating horses I don’t like, leaving eight. I give preference to (1) horses who finished well in their preps, (2) who have reasons to get a good trip, (3) will stay the distance and (4) have had their Derby preparations go as planned.

My top four horses for the Derby are

  1. Practical Joke – Trained by Chad Brown he comes off a good second behind a lose leader in the Blue Grass. He should move forward, adds blinkers for the Derby and in his third start of the campaign should be set up for a big effort from just off the pace.
  2. Gunnevera – I think this late runner used the Florida Derby as a prep, especially since he was post and pace compromised. He will come with a deep run, I think he will stay the 10 furlongs and was one of the few horses to finish visibly well in their most recent prep.
  3. Always Dreaming – This Todd Pletcher trainee was a dominating winner in the Florida Derby. I downgraded him from the top slot, which he held in my mind last week because of some issues with him in the morning and the fact Pletcher does not have a great Derby record. He certainly has the talent if he can transfer his form from Gulfstream.
  4. Tapwrit – An impressive winner of the Tampa Bay Derby was moved too soon in the Blue Grass into a slow pace. He had a wide trip and if he can sit back and make one run, he is a forgotten horse whose best races are competitive.

My other four contenders are McCraken, Irish War Cry, State of Honor and Hence.

My “worst” horse is Fast and Accurate.

THE OAKS HAS A STANDOUT: The Kentucky Oaks for me is all about the standout filly Paradise Woods. She ran them off their feet in a very fast Santa Anita Oaks. She has been ultra impressive, she rated off the pace in her second lifetime win and I think this is her race to lose.

  1. Paradise Woods – the cream of the crop. Tactical, improving and an absolute monster of a filly.
  2. Abel Tasman – adds blinkers in the second start for Bob Baffert, she’s chased Paradise Woods and Unique Bella all spring. Will look to be closer to pace in Oaks.
  3. Miss Sky Warrior – she’s dominated her preps at Aqueduct and Gulfstream. Obviously, a super talented filly, but this will be a much tougher test for her.

MY WAGERS: I’m most likely to play the pick 4s encompassing the Derby. Plus the Oaks/Woodford/Derby pick 3. (My pick 3 will be Paradise Woods in the Oaks to World Approval and Bal A Bali in the Woodford turf classic to ALL in the Derby.)

*       *       *

"I won't go crazy because anything can happen"

By Marshall Posner, Fan Education specialist

Marshall Posner
Will play win, place, exactors

The Derby is a great betting race because of the money being wagered but I won’t go crazy because a huge field means anything can happen.

I’m watching as many replays as possible and reading as many articles as possible. Are trainers confident? Indifferent? How have horses been training?

I always make a win/place bet on one horse (or more if the odds are right) and play an exactor wheel with my top choices; I play superfectas only as a part of a group to take a shot at big money. I also like to play the Oaks/Derby double with one or two horses in each race.

My best four:

-- Practical Joke – Came up just short in the Blue Grass; should move forward for Chad Brown in the third start of his current form cycle. Never runs a bad race.
-- McCraken – Race sets up nicely if he can work out a trip. Training great.

-- Thunder Snow – UAE Derby win was very impressive. He’s being reported as the best Derby contender ever for Sheik Mohammed.
-- Irish War Cry – Has run some of the best races in the field and he’ll be forwardly placed so he should get first run on the others.


TOURNEY TIGERS (from left): Wayne Misko (4th), Brett Perrault (3rd), Kevin Palmer (1st), Roger Jones (2nd) and Alan Hampton (5th)

PALMER WINS TOURNEY; HELPS VANCOUVER BRO' WIN EVEN MORE: Picking two 8-1 longshots in Saturday’s Player’s Choice handicapping tournament gave longtime player Kevin Palmer his second tourney win in just over a year and $1,000. But he said he helped his Vancouver brother capitalize even more: his brother, who runs a car lot, bet $100 win/place on his 8-1 pick in Woodbine’s seventh race, Timingiseverything, collecting $1,270. Great sharing!

Kevin said the 4-year-old gelding was a standout because he was the only horse who had winter raced (at Gulfstream). Great observation! His other 8-1 pick came in Belmont’s third race. Kevin said he bet the 8-year-old gelding, I Know You Know, because he showed a preference for Belmont “regular” dirt over Aqueduct inner dirt. So the closing bankrolls were:

1st: Kevin Palmer – bankroll $68.20 – prize money $1,000 and a trophy
2nd: Roger Jones – bankroll $62.10 – prize money $400
3rd: Brett Perrault – bankroll $59.90 – prize money $200
4th: Wayne Misko – bankroll $58.80 – prize money $100
5th: Alan Hampton – bankroll $52.50 – prize money $50

A special shout-out to Alan Hampton who finished in the top five for the third time out of four 2017 tournaments and to new player Brett Perrault who finished in the top five twice. See full results here. See Handicapper of the Year leaderboard here. The next tournament (on live races) to win a seat in the $1 million Horse Player World Series is: Saturday, June 10.

"I WON BIG" GROUP GOES FOR DERBY GUSTO IN 9:30 AM WORKSHOP: Last Saturday’s “I won big” betting group collected only peanuts (and hence no bacon) when the big favourite won the last leg of the pick-4. But this Saturday is what everyone is looking forward to: lots of dumb money at stake in the Kentucky Derby pool and hopefully the group will have the smarts to scoop a healthy chunk of it by winning the superfecta or Super Hi 5 or whatever. We’ll look at the last five races at Tampa, too. See you at 9:30 a.m. (And we’ll be wishing good luck to Margaret, the group’s money gal. She put a $5 Derby future wager on Always Dreaming at 42-1 in the February future pool and will collect about $210 if Always Dreaming wins!)


HISTORY ON THE HOOF: The best of Bob

In the final instalment of this year’s "Best of" series, Bob looks at the seven jockeys who won more than 1,000 races at Assiniboia Downs. How many can you remember? See the list here.

NEXT WEEK: The launch of Bob’s brand new Season 60 blogs to coincide with the live racing season.

Lillies for Fillies


SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER: (c) For the first and last time in April, 1986, the annual Sovereign Awards banquet was held outside Toronto, at the Fort Garry Hotel, so the organizers decided to recognize the host province, Manitoba, by honouring the province’s 1985 Horse of the Year, Proven Reserve. Also acknowledged was Manitoba Breeder of the Year Gertrude McKenzie.

KENTUCKY OAKS QUICKIE QUIZ: (a) Lilies for the Fillies. That’s Rachel Alexandra with delightfully-scented Stargazer lilies draped over her neck after she won the 2008 Kentucky Oaks.

Well, best wishes for an Oaksabulous, Derbyific weekend!
Remember the “I won big” workshop Saturday 9:30 a.m.

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