Thursday, May 11, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 18 (Issue #585)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Release the hounds, uh, horses!
That's apprentice jockey Jennifer Fielding schooling Buff in the starting gate that will launch Season 60 on Sunday (Derek Corbel photo)

Season 60 blasts out of the gate Sunday

Moms get gifts, everyone gets chance at exciting new betting spree

Horses fire out of the red starting gate at 1:30 p.m. Sunday but it’s not “just” another race meet. This is Season 60. It’s also the 250th anniversary of horse racing in Canada and this country’s 150th birthday.

Put all of this together and the next five months should be full of dazzle and fun. For one there will be a giant fireworks display after the evening racing card on Saturday, July 1 – celebrating both Canada’s birthday and the 250th anniversary of Canada’s first race being run on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City on July 1, 1767.

On a non-race day, Sunday, June 11, the RCMP Musical Ride will be strutting their stuff at the Downs, their only Winnipeg-area appearance in a salute to Canada. The Downs has added country legend Ray St. Germain and family fun to the afternoon to round out the day (tickets are $14.95 and available at

But first things first. In the season opener this Sunday:

  • Moms receive free celebration flower seeds courtesy of T & T Seeds

    The Kalfaari Stakes sprint at 5f will kick off one of 10 overnight stakes races celebrating past ASD greats
  • Moms will get free easy-to-grow red and white phlox flower seeds courtesy of T & T Seeds and have a chance at winning a gift basket
  • Season 60 fridge magnets will be given away while quantities last
  • Everyone can enter a betting spree that could lead to a $600 grand prize
  • It's family fun day with pony rides, bouncy castle, glitter tattoos and petting farm

It all begins with track announcer Kirt Contois hollering a phrase heard through the decades: “And they’re off!” Live racing – there’s nothing like it! Just three sleeps away.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • What's this? Fresh spring grass bad for horses? (See The Week That Was)
  • Best thing about Kentucky Derby? It's over
  • You won't believe how the $100 First & Worst contest was won
  • Do gray horses run faster? See Marshall's Q & A below
  • What mysterious person has been hanging around the track? See Bob's blog

WONG GETS “FIRST & WORST” RIGHT—BUT YOU WON’T BELIEVE HOW! How did Chita Wong, a 75-year-old retired health care aid who comes to Assiniboia Downs only on the “big celebration” days, correctly pick the first and worst horses in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field to win $100 in wagering vouchers?

Simple. May 5, the day before the Kentucky Derby was her sister Mila’s birthday. And May 6, Derby Day, was her nephew John’s birthday. So her “First & Worst” contest entry had to be #5 (Always Dreaming) to come first, #6 (State of Honor) to come last. Frankly, I couldn’t stop laughing when she told me and perhaps you’re chuckling yourself. What can be said but happy belated birthdays to sister Mila, 74, and to nephew John, 45!

NEW! 60-SECOND BETTING SPREES: How many $2 wagers can you make in 60 seconds?  And how much can you win with those wagers? Enter the free betting spree draw every day during live racing and find out! You not only keep what you win, if you're highest of the month you also win a race night buffet for two and $60 in betting vouchers and a seat in the September finale where you'll compete with other monthly finalists for an extra $600!  Also, everyone who gets into the spree receives a handsome limited edition frosted Season 60 souvenir glass!

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: $10 buy-in poker. Registration 8 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m. Next week's poker changes to registration at 10:00 p.m. and game starts at 10:30 p.m. Watch for details on an exicting new twist!

The horsemen’s banquet for awarding trophies and plaques for top horses of 2016 is tomorrow in the lower level Finish Line Banquet Hall. Tickets are $45 and available at the ASD general office and from the HBPA and CTHS.


Always Dreaming romps in the slop
(#breederscup photo)


Best thing about the Kentucky Derby?

It's over

The best thing about the Kentucky Derby is that it’s over. I don’t know about you but the amount of time and effort I put into analyzing this Derby – because there were so many truly worthy competitors – towered over all derbies in memory.

The sloppy track put the kibosh on it all. How different might the result have been had the race been run on a fast track?

For starters, would Thunder Snow, the horse from the Dubai desert that some of you really loved (he was Marshall’s third choice in last week’s Insider) have bucked (gleefully?) in the slop just after leaving the starting gate -- like a kid rolling around in the snow when experiencing it for the first time?

Note his head being drawn downward

Congrats if you played Derby winner Always Dreaming!  We knew – DRF clocker Mike Welsch knew – he was one of the top contenders because of his long stride and the perception he would like the distance. Problem was, no one knew whether he might get rank and throw his head around after a week in which he required "draw reins" to keep his head down.

Last week’s Insider acknowledged his prowess. (“ He certainly has the talent if he can transfer his form from Gulfstream,” said Rob MacLennan who had picked him for third. And my comment was: “ If Always Dreaming gets his act together, he could be the ultimate winner.” ) But his inconsistencies niggled.

The off track certainly gave exotics players a logical excuse for not cashing (the triactor paid $4,531 for 60-cents, the superfecta paid $69,156 for $1 and the super high 5 $449,000 for $1).

One only has to recall a film crew following Andy Beyer around at a New York track during a similarly sloppy day. The giant in the industry didn't cash a ticket. Notta. 

WAGERING GOES UP: Not that the off-going kept people away from the windows or their accounts. Churchill Downs reports setting a Derby Day wagering record and the television audience for Derby Day racing was the strongest since 1992. Assiniboia Downs wagering was up about four per cent, too, with 4.4 per cent more bet on Churchill Downs on Saturday compared to last year. Who knew that  Derby confusion on an off track is still a good draw?

The good thing is, since nothing was really settled in the wet going, anticipation should be rife for the Preakness Stakes in Maryland in 10 days with Classic Empire and Gunnevera likely to challenge Always Dreaming in about a 10-horse field. Let’s pray for dry weather.

SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER: What anniversary is this of the Downs getting government permission to run its races on cable TV? (a) 20th anniversary (b) 30th anniversary (c) 40th anniversary. See answer at bottom of column.

Here's a mini-version of the Path of Champions board


De-complicating ASD stakes

New "Path of Champions" board makes it a breeze; Kalfaari Stakes is first

How does each ASD stakes race figure into future championship races such as the Manitoba Derby and Gold Cup? Now you’ll know immediately just by glancing at the redesigned Path of Champions board erected on an easel on the main level and in the Clubhouse. You’ll also see photos of each winning horse similar to the Countdown to the Kentucky Derby board.

And what’s the first stakes? It’s the Kalfaari, a 5f sprint on Mother’s Day. The board shows you this race is a prep race for the Winnipeg Free Press stakes on June 18 leading ultimately to the Gold Cup in September. It’s one of 10 overnight stakes races designated by the HBPA to celebrate past champions.

THE PEOPLE’S HORSE: Kalfaari, known as “the people’s horse,” raced at the Downs from 2000 to 2003. Owned and trained by the shrewd Clint Willson, he didn’t let his legion of followers down. He won 10 of 14 races at the Downs including all these stakes races twice: the Winnipeg Free Press, the G. Sydney Halter and Wheat City (now the Manitoba Mile). He also finished second in the Gold Cup and R. J. Speers.

Kalfaari winning 2001 Wheat City Stakes

His winning ways continued at Northlands Park in Alberta where he won the Spangled Jimmy and Klondike handicaps and, at Hastings Park in B.C., the Hastings Speed Handicap. His lifetime record was 24-15-3-2 and earnings of $233,000. (Thanks to Wayne King, vice-president of the Manitoba division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, for providing background on the overnight stakes honorees!

*       *       *

"Lives up to the hype"

Verdict is in on Downs Double hamburger

Downs Double
Hype proves true

After hosting last Thursday’s Kentucky Derby workshop with Glen Sirkis at the Downs, Fan Education specialist Marshall Posner told me he had his heart (mouth?) set on digging into the new Downs Double hamburger after seeing the picture in last week’s Insider.

Would the burger live up to the hype? It did. “Very tasty!” Marshall said.

So, as last week’s Insider asked: Is a hamburger worthy of a headline? Yes, the Downs Double surely does. One problem though – it will spoil you. You’ll be content with no other.


Not always good?

EATING FRESH SPRING GRASS CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO A HORSE: What, you ask? I thought I’d never see a story with that warning but there it was this week in The Horse magazine. Apparently horses who consume a lot of cool weather grasses in the spring can be more susceptible to developing laminitis (a painful hoof condition) because of accumulating too much grass sugars – and can also suffer digestive disorders. Horse owners are being urged to restrict the time a horse is allowed to forage on fresh grass after the horse has spent the winter munching on dry hay.

DINK AND STEVIE FASTEST IN YESTERDAY'S WORKS: Two 4-year-old fillies impressed in ASD morning workouts yesterday: fan favourite Dink of the Year, owned by trainer Elton Dickey and Lori Mann, posted the fastest time of six horses at 3f, posting :37 with last year's leading rider, Christopher Husbands, in the saddle. And Shelley Brown's Stevie Mac who finished second at Gulfstream Park in her last race, carved a hole in the wind at 4f, posting :48, the fastest of 16 horses who worked out at that distance.  

COURAGE NOT ENOUGH FOR "I WON BIG" GROUP: Saturday’s “I won big” betting group dived courageously into the 20-horse Kentucky Derby superfectas but courage wasn’t enough in the face of a sloppy track and a horse hardly anybody liked #11 Battle of Midway for third in the tricky sequence. The group’s Tampa Bay pick-5 ticket ended with a $23 horse the group didn’t have but it turned into a learning experience: The winner was the only horse that had shown gameness by winning his previous start at a lower class level and the race was filled with decidedly “ungame” horses that had no late kick. Two more “I won big” sessions remain: This Saturday playing the early pick-5 and pick-4 at Woodbine (races 1 to 7) and adding the Preakness Stakes the following Saturday. See you at 10:30 a.m.! C’mon, time for another bacon feast!

HPIBET Marshall Posner

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Are gray horses faster?

"Bet the gray"

A. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions Glen and I fielded last year at the Fan Education Centre (which you’re invited to visit on the main level during live racing). As I’ve said many times and will say again: Gray horses are no faster than the brown, bay or black ones. (Who knew?) In fact, they are often underlays and pay less than they should because of their popularity with the betting public. If you’re betting on a horse simply because it’s gray, definitely stop by the booth and we’ll set you straight. Or maybe you prefer to live with the illusion. Your choice.

Q. How do I read a program?

A. This was the other common question. Most of you know the basics but, hey, visit us and maybe you’ll find out about other useful content hidden in past performance lines. Do you have a Virtual Stable to track “your” horses and email you when they’re entered to race? Come by and we’ll show you how.

$100 FREE: Don’t forget, too, that if you’re interested in betting on your computer or smartphone, stop by the Fan Education booth to open an HPIbet account. There’s an incredible promotion on right now for a free $100 with every new signup. Ask for details.

Got a question for Marshall? Email

HISTORY ON THE HOOF: Who's the mysterious stranger?

After seven months of encore presentations of the “Best of Bob” blogs (some of the 101 he has written!), track historian Bob Gates kicks off Season 60 with highlights of Opening Days from yesteryear and tells of a dark, mysterious stranger who has been lurking around the grounds for the last few months. Mysterious stranger? Check out who it is here.  

SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER ANSWER: (b) 30th anniversary. Trail-blazing ASD track owner Jim Wright secured a license from the CRTC to run races on cable TV in 1987, opening the way for other Canadian tracks to do the same.

"Do, do, do, do -- the Downs!"
Manitoba Opera's Howard Rempel sings those words in ASD radio commercials. Heard it yet?

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