Friday, August 20, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 22 (Issue #803)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

and, remember, if you don’t receive The Insider in the usual way,
you can always find it--and past columns--at


  • SHOWDOWN SATURDAY features Oakbank trainer Rob Atras trying to knock off the previously-unbeaten Malathaat for the second time in a row with his Maracuja in the $600K Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga in upstate New York. Note also the monster Jackpot pick-6 pool at Del Mar in California--more than $1.4 million
  • TRIPLE-FUN SUNDAY features (1) the Queen’s Plate from Woodbine, (2) the annual CTHS Manitoba yearling sale on the Red River Ex grounds behind the grandstand at 2:30 p.m. and (3) the Manitoba Night Market on the ASD grounds from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tell your friends!
  • STAKES-WATCH MONDAY headlines two important stakes races during live racing at 7:30 p.m. --the Distaff for the best Manitoba bred female horses and the Osiris Stakes for two year olds..
NOTE: 3% CASH BACK deposited into your HPIbet account with your wagering of more than $40 Monday, Tuesday and/or Wednesday. Opt-in at

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Sunday's yearling sale should have knowledgeable horsemen salivating
  • Queen's Plate appears to be wide open. Who do you like?
  • Can giant-killer Atras knock off the previously unbeaten filly Malathaat again?
  • Why did ASD tourney winner play the “impossible” longshot on Monday’s live card?
  • Shelley Brown's Real Grace had the perfect pace set up to win Monday stakes
JUST ONE MORE CHANCE TO EARN VEGAS TRIP: You have one more tourney chance to fly to Las Vegas on the Downs’ dime. The final Las Vegas Challenge handicapping tournament goes two weeks from Monday. After that, the final trip will be awarded to the Handicapper of the Year in December. See current HOTY standings here.
Click to enlarge.

Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are racing in August? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Download 2021 LIVE RACING SCHEDULE here.

Do you have your new HPIbet account card that replaces the previous HPI card and the ASD Player Rewards card? Assiniboia Downs has joined the HPI rewards and bonus program and the new program began Monday, Feb. 1. See details here. If you haven't received your new card in the mail call 204-885-3330 (ext. 225) to check on the status.

with daily specials. Fridays feature a Top Sirloin Steak dinner for $24.95 and Saturdays it’s Certified Angus Prime Rib dinner also for $24.95. Dinners are served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

GREEDY CORNER: Del Mar’s Jackpot pick-6 pool continues to climb, soon to reach $2 million. When will there be a mandatory payout? Stay tuned. Or, better still, why not win the whole thing yourself with a wily 20-cent wager. See all carryovers here.

Perfect pace set-up
Canadian Derby winner Real Grace holds off Plentiful to win Far Flung Stakes

Trainer Shelley Brown couldn’t have asked for a better pace set-up for her Real Grace to win his first stakes race since winning the Canadian Derby in Edmonton last fall.

Instead of sending Real Grace to the lead, as the horse often does, she had jockey Jorge Carreno sit behind other leaders who went “sluggishly slow” as track announcer Kirt Contois put it. That would compromise the late threat of Plentiful who likes to close from the clouds.

So when the real running started, Real Grace glided by the early pace-setters while Plentiful had just too much ground to make up to pass Real Grace. Still, he lost by only a head.

Brown will obviously be hoping for a similar pace set-up when the pair likely meet again in the penultimate race for top horses, the Gold Cup Stakes, on Labour Day Monday, Sept. 6. Plentiful will likely be the race favourite. His hoofs are in better condition this year compared to last year when he was dealing with quarter-cracks, his trainer, Murray Duncan, told The Insider.

The 8-year-old Langara had to beat the 4-year-old refuse-to-lose gelding McKague on Tuesday to end his career on a high note--but he did so, romping to the lead in the Phil Kives Stakes for Manitoba foals and refusing to relinquish it. What a brilliant career for the Langfuhr gelding bred by Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard: 18 wins from 47 starts and more than $260,000 U.S. in earnings. Will there be a Langara at Sunday’s yearling sale?

*       *       *
Hottest jockey: Sheldon Chickeness (6 wins)
Hottest trainer:
Shelley Brown, Jerry Gourneau (4 wins)
Biggest longshot: Just for Charlotte $52.70 (Race 3 Tuesday)
Stakes champions:
Real Grace (Far Flung), Langara (Phil Kives), Lucky Chuckee (CTHS Sales Stakes)
Upcoming stakes: Distaff, Osiris (Monday)
Carryovers: $111,311
in the Jackpot pick-5;  $120,801 in the Jackpot Hi-5
Guarantees: $250,000 Jackpot pick-5 single winner;  $25,000 Pick 4

*       *       *
$100K JACKPOT HI-5 POOL ALMOST GOES: When Warren’s Van Gogh at 31-1 finished second in last Wednesday’s Jackpot Hi-5 wager, the $106,000 pool was almost won. There were just two correct tickets, each of which paid $2,600 U.S. Interestingly both tickets were sold at the same U.S. tote hub. If the two players had joined in a single ticket, they would have been sharing the pot.

It’s not easy predicting the performance of 2-year-olds but oddsmaker Dustin Davis who is also the race secretary predicted at the bottom of race 2 in Tuesday’s ASD program that the finish of the six-horse field would be 1-2-5-3 -- which turned out to be dead-on. Spending $1 on a superfecta ticket with that order of finish would have won you $30.

TOMORROW: Showdown at Saratoga

Maracuja (left) will be taking on Malathaat again tomorrow

Can Atras' Maracuja slay the giant again?

Faces Malathaat in the Grade 1 $600,000 Alabama Stakes for fillies

By beating the previously-unbeaten Malathaat in a stakes race at Saratoga a month ago, trainer Rob Atras and his Maracuja guaranteed themselves a berth in the Breeders’ Cup in November. But can Maracuja do it again in a re-match tomorrow?

All eyes--especially those of Manitoba supporters--will be on the race, the $600,000 Grade 1 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Atras has a big cheering section at the Downs, of course, because he was raised in Oakbank, Man. and started his training career at the Downs in 2009. Earning a berth in the Breeders’ Cup where travel and entry bills are paid by the organizers is a huge achievement.
SUNDAY SIZZLE: Manitoba Night Market 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.

"Importantly supporting local business"
At last, Manitoba Night Markets return; first one is this Sunday

At last, the Manitoba Night Market on the ASD grounds this Sunday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. will give you a chance to shake off months of pandemic containment.

With a theme of “importantly supporting local business,” organizer Cory O’Grodnik said there will be more than 100 exhibitors and artisans, more than 20 food trucks,10 live bands, a beer garden and much more.

“Assiniboia Downs is a venue featuring both indoor and outdoor space which has proved to be a popular choice for this kind of market,”
O’Grodnik noted, “and we want to bring that vibe back to a community that has been patiently waiting for great food, great entertainment and a chance to see the latest innovations in the exhibitor world.”  

Admission is $7, parking is $5. Tickets are available at the door. Children 5 and under get in free. There will also be night markets on Sept. 5 and 19. Full immunization is not a requirement to attend the night markets
SUNDAY SIZZLE: The CTHS Manitoba Yearling Sale

Bidding expected to be brisk
High-quality yearlings on offer including Escape Clause's full sis

As the sales catalogue says, “it starts with a dream”
Great potential will hit the auction ring Sunday at the annual CTHS Manitoba yearling sale on the Red River Ex grounds behind the ASD grandstand at 2:30 p.m. Knowledgeable horse people must be salivating over these hips:

Hip 7: Full sister to Escape Clause.
Escape Clause, of course, earned more than $1 million and, even as a brood mare, she and her foal sold for $946,000 U.S. at a recent sale in Japan
Hip 10: Full sister to Melisandre and Hidden Grace.
Melisandre at 3 is unbeaten in eight starts and has earned $112,000 U.S. Hidden Grace at 5 is 14 for 20 and earned more than $233,000 U.S.
Hip 21: Full brother to Bankin On Betty.
Bankin On Betty is two-for-two as a 2-year-old including the Debutante Stakes and has earned more than $26,000 U.S.
Hip 2: Full sister to Call the Cops
. Call the Cops at 3 has finished in the money seven of eight starts and came second in last year’s Winnipeg Futurity.
Hip 4: Full brother to Purrsistent.
Purrsistent at 5 has finished in the money nine of 10 races including an overnight stakes win and second-place in the Distaff.

See the yearlings in the stables on the Ex grounds Saturday starting at 10 a.m. There are 34 in the sale.
SUNDAY SIZZLE: The Queen's Plate

Flashback: ASD player won $54K for 20-cents
Oldest continuously-run race on the continent appears wide open

For at least one ASD player, the Queen’s Plate--which goes Sunday at Woodbine--evokes very pleasant memories. A number of years ago, that player won the entire superfecta pool of about $54,000 on one of the Queen’s Plate Day races for a 20-cent ticket. Will you (or I) make it happen again? First race post on Sunday is 11:30 a.m. CDT.

The Queen’s Plate itself appears to be wide, wide open with these three horses being the early contenders:
  • Keep Grinding trained by Tino Attard. 7-2. One for five (maiden race) and a second-place finish in a Grade 2 stakes. E speed: 92.
  • Haddassah trained by Kevin Attard. 4-1. One for three (maiden race) and a third-place finish in a Grade 3 stakes. Best E speed: 92.
  • Munnyfor Ro trained by Kevin Attard. 6-1. Filly -- two for nine including the Woodbine Oaks. E speed: 100.

Former HOTY nails "impossible" longshot . . .
. . . to earn trip to the Horse Player World Series in Las Vegas

Various players told me the horse that won the sixth race at the Downs on Monday was an “impossible” longshot to have played in the Las Vegas Challenge handicapping tournament. But not to retired city employee Jeff Rozmus and that’s why he won the fourth of six trips the Downs’ is awarding top ASD handicappers this year.

“It was all about speed,”
Rozmus, the former 2014 Handicapper of the Year, told The Insider about 24-1 Witt’s Coco who helped produce a winning bankroll of $135.70. “It was his third race off a layoff and he didn’t have too many works at Lone Star before being shipped up to the Downs. He was a 4-year-old taking on younger horses who had many chances to win their second race.

“It played out as I thought with his getting a comfortable lead and when Major Shepard tried to get after him on the turn, Coco just kept ahead of him without the jockey asking so I knew he had enough.”

Well thought out, Jeff -- the kind of analysis worthy of a top 10 finish in the World Series in Vegas? Three other players also took Coco: Darcy Penner, Ken Stewin and Doug Wedgewood. It shouldn’t be lost on sharp players, either, that races for non-winners of two races produce chaotic results more frequently than other race conditions.

Congrats, too, to runners-up Camille Metcalfe (bankroll $102) and Steve Holborn ($87).

See full tourney results here. See HOTY standings here.
OTBs: Welcome back! Quest to re-open Monday.

Shannon Davis
, ASD’s off-track betting director, is itching to welcome back all the players who were forced to remain house-bound because of pandemic restrictions. “The latest government changes mean everyone, vaccinated or non-vaccinated, can sit together at the OTBs," she notes. “Time to get social and patronize our partner locations!”

She says the remaining OTB to re-open, the Quest Inn, will open this coming Monday. Hours: Monday and Tuesday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Wednesday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. It’s closed on Sunday. See all OTB locations and hours here.
WIN A TON IN '21: Key race produces Woodbine riches; did you have it?

If you were paying attention to the “key race” rule at Woodbine Sunday, you were a very happy player, as Longshot Les and I certainly were.

In race 5, #5 Send the Word, had come out of a race in which the first two horses came back to win. That’s what a “key race” looks like.

The horse went off at 28-1 in the maiden race, the longest odds in the field of nine. He took over the lead and didn’t look back, giving Les a big win and me the superfecta and pick-5. And it was just a matter of being observant. See the program page here.

In the past performance line for #5, note the first two finishers in his first lifetime race are written in italics: that means they came back to win -- and when you have two or more winners from a race, it’s a key race. Adding to the “key race” luster is the fact Send the Word experienced a troubled first start.

Watch the race here and imagine the cheering in the Race Book.

OAKLAWN RACING BEGINS SIX WEEKS EARLIER: Mistletoe, poinsettia and tinsel are all part of December holiday season -- but this year they also will be the names of NEW stakes races being held--where?--at Oaklawn Park. That’s because the Arkansas track has dramatically expanded its race schedule. It now will begin Dec. 3 instead of the third week of January. This year the Smarty Jones Kentucky Derby prep race was held on Jan. 22; in 2022 it will be run on New Year’s Day!

I wonder if this happens to other horseplayers. Watching sports competitions, especially the Olympics, makes me a super-aggressive race player--betting larger multiples, taking more chances and even playing tracks I don’t normally play. Grr. I gotta say, though, that aggressive play is tons of fun, especially since the racing gods have seemed to be on my side. For instance, three superfectas in which I picked a horse for fourth last Sunday ran exactly the way I predicted and I collected up to $1,600 for each bet.

We lost this week’s honoree this past April. This man trained horses at Assiniboia Downs for 35 years, retiring from training in 2009 and leaving the business altogether in 2012. He had some really nice runners! Who remembers Frieda’s Blazer, Lord Little Rock and Cache Lake? Click here to learn the identity of the “little guy” who had pluck, a kind soul and a good heart.
That’s yours if your Jackpot Pick 5 is the only correct one
  • Tomorrow: $1 million Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar, $600K Alabama Stakes at Saratoga which should see a rematch between Malathaat and Rob Atras’ Maracuja.
  • This Sunday: Manitoba CTHS Yearling Sale on the Red River Ex grounds behind the ASD grandstand, Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, Manitoba Night Market on the ASD grounds
  • Monday, Aug. 23: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. Distaff Stakes, Osiris Stakes
  • Tuesday, Aug. 24: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 25: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 28: Travers Stakes at Saratoga. HBPA awards presentations in the Winner’s Circle (for photo purposes). Who was voted the 2020 Horse of the Year?
  • Monday, Aug. 30: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 31: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 1: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. Manitoba Matron Stakes
RACE NIGHT AT THE DOWNS includes $250,000 guarantee: Race night at 7:30 p.m. includes a $250,000 guarantee to the first person who nails the Jackpot Pick 5 with the only correct ticket. To be ready for the races, watch the “ASD Live” handicapping show online at 6:45 p.m. with racing analysts Kirt and Stretch. (To watch “ASD Live,” go to and click on the ASD Live icon at the top of the home page; tune into MTS channels 179 & 180 or watch on YouTube at Masks are now optional to watch races from the Clubhouse, main floor or outdoor tarmac but you must prove full immunity to watch races on the main level.

Have you tried a margarita slushie at the Downs?
So refreshing! Peach (my favourite), lime and strawberry flavours

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