Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 21 (Issue #589)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Here come the Belmont, ASD's birthday, the Mounties and Ray St. Germain!


  • Live racing at 7:15 with a pick-4 carryover of $6,567
  • Pick up entry form at Guest Services to qualify for a discount in Saturday’s horseplayer tournament. (You get a discount if you pick three winners in races 2 to 7.)

TOMORROW: Festival of racing at Belmont Park leading to Saturday’s Belmont Stakes


  • Live racing at 7:15 featuring fan favourite Dink of the Year making her 2017 debut and the Merry’s Jay Stakes on the road to the Manitoba Derby
  • Pick up entry form at Guest Services to qualify for tourney discount. (See above.)
  • Register for Saturday tournament by 9 p.m.

Join Saturday celebration!


  • Special “I won big” workshop at 10 a.m. on the Belmont Stakes and the pick-4
  • Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown. First post 10:30 a.m.
  • Happy birthday, ASD! Live racing at 7:15 with a horseplayer tournament prize of a trip for two to Las Vegas to participate in a $1 million event
  • Free historic poster giveaway as long as quantities last; draw for "ready-to-hang" history collage
  • Complementary cupcakes after races

SUNDAY (no live racing):

  • RCMP Musical Ride at 1 p.m.; Ray St. Germain in concert at 2:30 p.m.
  • Family fun (pony rides, petting farm, bouncy castle)
  • Meet and greet Mounties after the musical ride; ask Mounties questions!
  • Tickets: Grandstand rush seats $14.95 available at Guest Services and at
  • Info on box seats and brunch from Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Tonight's ASD pick-4 carryover is $6,567; will it grow to $20,000?
  • New feature: What are best bets tonight of Kirt, Rob and Marshall?
  • How did ASD player pick the longshot that won him the $17,000 pick-4?
  • What keeps jockey Jerry Pruitt going strong at 66--and is the envy of other jocks?
  • The best $10 you'll spend: The 250th anniversary magazine of racing in Canada
  • Morales on a tear: four wins on Saturday, 38 per cent win rate

THE “ALL” STRATEGY WORKS FOR SPREE PLAYER; HITS $512: Food company salesman Ed Stemkoski made the right choice in playing the 60-second betting spree Friday night. Initially, he told The Insider, he was going to make all his bets on a horse he liked a lot, #3 Jaya Ho, the 2-1 favourite in race 6 but thought “It’s still a game” so he made multiple win bets on every horse in the nine-horse field. And, as luck would have it, that gave him seven winning $2 tickets on the longest shot on the board, #9 True Attraction ($73.20) for total winnings of $512.40. He said he also practised before his cameo appearance before the camera: “$2 win 1, $2 win 1, $2 win 1, $2 win 2, $2 win 2, etc.” and rattled off an amazing $170 in $2 wagers. Now he’s hoping that amount will be the highest in June to send him to the $600 finals in September. (Wayne Misko was May’s highest with $92.)

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Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are running in June? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? NHL playoffs

AFTER LIVE RACING: Free VLT tournaments after live. 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. Plus Crazy Hour. Beer, shots and wine only $2.95 plus half-price appetizers (nachos, chicken fingers, chicken wings and gyoza.)

EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: $10 buy-in poker. Registration 10 p.m. Game starts at 10:30 p.m. New Royal Flush progressive jackpot is at $1,290! Entry fee to play the jackpot is an additional $5. Click here for exciting new features!

Stagette in the Clubhouse

IS THAT A GUY IN A DRESS IN THE RACE BOOK? Yup, and no one was paying a great amount of attention Saturday because the Downs is a popular location for stags and stagettes and grooms-to-be wearing dresses is just part of the scene. Not far away in the special VIP section, the bride-to-be was among gals wearing big floppy hats—photographed by food and beverage manager Manley Chan—cheering for their race picks. The Downs also happily opens the Winner’s Circle to marriage proposals and the exchange of wedding vows. After all, is there a more positive location anywhere for getting a marriage off on the right foot?

  • THE BIGGEST SHOUT-OUT, would you believe, goes to a magazine that every true racing fan MUST own. It’s the 250th anniversary of horse racing, a true masterpiece that brings together highlights of two-and-a--half centuries of racing in this country, both thoroughbred and standardbred, in a lively, compelling way with lots of historic pictures to linger over including, of course, some gathered by ASD’s track historian Bob Gates. Get it at Guest Services. It’s a real bargain at only $10.

  • A HUGE SHOUT-OUT, TOO to bettor extraordinaire, Martin Yeroschak, an electrician who won tens of thousands of dollars—including the only winner of a $17,000 pick-4 at the Downs—that began, he said, with putting $100 across the board on Inside Straight at odds of almost 20-1 in the Oaklawn Park Handicap (grade 2) in mid-April after talking to the horse’s assistant trainer, Rob Atras, who had been his trainer for five years before leaving the Downs in 2015. “Rob told me the horse (who won last year’s Manitoba Derby) was never better.”

    Martin Yeroschak
    On a huge roll

    He parlayed that success, he said, into the Kentucky Derby and Preakness where he won both superfectas (worth a total of $77,000), then being the only player to catch a recent pick-4 at the Downs that paid more than $17,000. He was the only player who took #1 Magic In Overtime in the last leg. Not because he thought the horse would win, he said, but simply because the horse’s name reminded him of Magic D’ Oro, a horse he had owned until the horse’s untimely death last year. What’s next? Inside Straight in the Metropolitan Stakes (grade 1) at Belmont Saturday?

  • A BIG SHOUT-OUT to Manitoba-bred Paint My Ride and the 3-year-old’s owners, trainer Don Schnell, True North and Barry Arnason who says they plan to continue to race the thrilling winner of the Frank Arnason Sire Stakes at the Downs and not look for races elsewhere. Is it too early to start thinking Manitoba Derby for this horse and the fact only two Manitoba-breds have been able to win it?

  • John Ganas hugs Media Melee's rider, Tyrone Nelson

    A BIG SHOUT-OUT to Nick’s Inn owner John Ganas who had a sly grin—and no wonder--as he posed in the Winner’s Circle with his Media Melee who had been overlooked in the betting and went off at juicy odds of 8-1 in the Major Enterprise Stakes last Wednesday. Were bettors scared off by the fact the horse was #11 and no one could remember the last time #11 won a race at ASD? (Media Melee actually started from post #7 because of four scratches so it shouldn’t have mattered—but maybe it did.)

  • A BIG SHOUT-OUT TO SEVERAL JOCKEYS starting with Adolfo Morales who won more than half of the races Saturday (4) and to new Barbadian jockey, Dario Dalrymple, who has three wins from nine starts in his first foray to North America since starting to ride in 2011 and to Valentino McBean for breaking his “maiden” at the Downs by winning the sixth race Saturday on True Attractions ($73.20) that set up a carryover pick-4 to tonight. He did it on his 47th try.

  • A BIG SHOUT OUT to the 500 motorcyclists who raised $70,000 in the 16th annual Breast Cancer Pledge Ride Sunday which has been based at the Downs. That brings to about $1 million the amount riders have raised in their 16 rides. CJOB’s Richard Cloutier emceed events at the track.



NEW FEATURE: K-R-M pick their best

Kirt, Rob and Marshall put their handicapping smarts on the line every Wednesday

Track announcer Kirt Contois, paddock host Rob MacLennan and Fan Education specialist Marshall Posner will put their handicapping skills to the test in every Wednesday’s Insider with their best bets on the live card. Additionally, each will add a longshot with a chance if they have one. Here’s what they like tonight (interestingly, each has a different best bet!).

  • Kirt’s best bet: Race 8 -- #8 War Hero
  • Rob’s best bet: Race 2 – #1 Papa Smitty
  • Marshall’s best bet: Race 3 -- #5 Desert Summer (dropping speed with hot-jock Adolfo Morales). Longshot with a chance: Race 7 -- #6 Back Away (long layoff but runs well fresh).

*        *        *

Canada's oldest jock celebrates birthday with ASD

Jerry Pruitt marks his 66th Saturday

(Reprinted from my At the Races column in the Canstar papers)

Oldest jockey in Canada has no intention of retiring soon

Jerry Pruitt shows how close he came to beating Bill Shoemaker

If he were a professional football player or hockey player or a pro in most other sports, Jerry Pruitt would long ago have hung up his gear. But as a senior citizen jockey at Assiniboia Downs and the oldest rider in Canada (and the U.S.?), Pruitt is still going strong and has no intention of abandoning the saddle anytime soon. He has ridden in 19,560 races, has 2,553 wins and his horses have earned more than $9 million.

“My body will tell me when,” he says, and adds that’s not even close. He turns 66 on June 10 which also happens to be Assiniboia Downs’ birthday.

So what accounts for his longevity? Besides his enjoyment of the game (“I LOVE winning,” he says), he is in the enviable position of not having to fight to retain riding weight (it’s a consistent 108-110 pounds, he says). “I love my candy,” he admits, and, unlike most other jockeys, says he is able to indulge frequently and digs into steak dinners—with baked potato, of course—without worrying about having to hit the sweat box the next day.

It helps, too, to have a wife, Lise, who loves the game as much as he does. They own five horses—three that race and two weanlings—and she does the training. His son, Brady, 22, has worked as a groom and he has two daughters: Lexie, 16, and Sierra, 14, who does a bit of riding.

Pruitt doesn’t get as many mounts as he used to or win as often (he was leading jockey at various meets at now-defunct tracks in western U.S.) but he does knock off a stakes race or two that has him grinning broadly in the Winner’s Circle.

He and horse owner Robert Nokes, in fact, teamed up to win the Frank Arnason Sire Stakes the past two years. Last year, Pruitt had a total of eight wins from 97 starts at the Downs plus 11 seconds and 13 thirds.

One of the more memorable highlights in his life, he says, was his third race ever at 19 at Del Mar race track in southern California when he came within a whisker of beating racing legend and hall of fame jockey Bill Shoemaker. “I came THAT close,” he still recalls, making a pinching motion with a thumb and finger.

Not bad for a kid who started out as a reluctant 12-year-old who tearfully would fall off a horse, only to have his father —an exercise rider at a Mexican track near the U.S. border—“throw me back on.”

Watch out if you see Pruitt riding a horse that has a good chance of getting the lead. You’ll get a relentless ride – and maybe a big payoff to boot. Which could have you uttering: “Thanks, gramps!”

SEASON 60 TRIVIA TEASER: What was the first year in the history of Assiniboia Downs that racing was cancelled due to unsafe track conditions? (a) 1959 (b) 1964 (c) 1972 (d) 1977. See answer at bottom of column.

Hottest jockey(s): Adolfo Morales (5 wins)
Hottest trainer(s): Don Schnell (3 wins)
Biggest longshot: True Attraction $73.20 (race 6 Saturday)
Biggest 20-cent superfecta: $271 (race 3 Wednesday)
Stakes champion(s): Paint My Ride
(Frank Arnason Sire Stakes)



The famed Merry's Jay to be honoured Friday

Merry's Jay
The look of a champion

ON THE ROAD TO THE MANITOBA DERBY -- The Merry’s Jay for top 3-year-old colts and geldings will be run at 5 1/2f this Friday. It’s a prep race for the $25,000 Golden Boy on June 28 and the second race of the year on the Road to the Manitoba Derby. Owned by Ruth and Hugh Jackson and conditioned by Clayton Gray, Merry’s Jay burst onto the racing scene as a 2-year-old in 1975 by winning the Fleur de Lis and finishing second in the Buffalo Stakes.

His main claim to fame came the following year when he won the Manitoba Derby, the first Manitoba-bred to do so at the Downs. He finished no worse than second in seven out of 10 races. In subsequent years he captured the Canada Day Handicap and the prestigious Gold Cup in 1978. In 49 career starts at ASD, Merry’s Jay won 10 races and finished in the top three a remarkable 74 per cent of the time.

HPIBET Marshall Posner

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

How much should you factor into your handicapping all the hype surrounding a horse?

A. The answer is simple. Ignore the hype. Always handicap every race by applying your usual critical analysis. Multiple winners and unbeaten horses--especially at the start of their careers--always get talked up. With social media, it’s amazing how many superstars are created every weekend of racing. Sometimes it’s on a horse that hasn’t even raced but has been working “amazingly” in the mornings. You’ll often find tremendous hype in the biggest races, too, where the media basically anoints this hyped horse as the guaranteed winner.

What I’ve finally learned after playing the races for 30 years, play against these underpriced and overbet hyped horses. You’ll often find great value if you do.

Got a question for Marshall? Email


Bob’s blog this week?  Let’s try a game of “Who Am I?”  The late Bert Blake described this man as ‘one of the greatest horsemen to ever walk the prairies.’ Hint: He discovered and developed Sandy Hawley into a world class jockey. Find out his identity here.  

ANSWER TO TRIVIA TEASER: (d) July 6, 1977.

Good luck in winning the first Vegas trip Saturday night!

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