Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14  No 32 (Issue #702)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

H-U-R-R-Y-! Tonight at 7:15 is the FINAL Wednesday night of live racing and only EIGHT MORE DAYS of live racing remain after tonight! The final card of the 50-day live season is Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1:15. (See DATES TO CIRCLE at the bottom of this column.)

Will you win tonight?

A $5 ticket gives you a chance to take down the jackpot--and help Final Furlong find good homes for retired race horses.

THE BIG REVEAL: Did you win the trip?
Click here to see if CEO Darren Dunn draws your name to win a trip for two to Woodbine’s Canadian International Stakes on Oct. 12. (Entries were based on betting during Super Bonus Week from Aug. 1 to 7.)

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Can Alex Cruz catch Richard Mairs in jockey race?
  • What's the mood in the Escape Clause camp after super-mare finishes third?
  • It was the slowest stakes race in memory--and the winner almost got dumped!
  • Alberta judge overturns 2017 Canadian Derby result; could that happen in Manitoba?
  • Hunky Bill leaves a legacy of perogies, horses and poker fights

Enter your name with mutuel sellers at these OTB locations (Pembina, Windsor, Quest & Green Brier) to be drawn on Saturday to win 10,000 Player Rewards points. And, at Club Regent, McPhillips & Rookies, get 5x the usual Player Rewards points when you bet ASD races.

Don’t forget the end-of-season quiz on Bob Gates’ blogs to win betting vouchers, ASD merchandise, artifacts from your birth year and bragging rights forever.
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 August? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Bombers

FREE VLT TOURNAMENTS AFTER LIVE RACING: Enter in the Club West Gaming lounge following live racing. Get into the draw for 10 chances to win $20 in free VLT spins tonight and 10 chances to win $20 in free VLT spins on Friday and Saturday. Top winner from each night participates in a month-end finale for more spins and $250 in prize money.

POKER FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: $10 buy-in poker is now on summer break. Poker will resume on Friday, Sept. 13 with a royal flush progressive jackpot of $5,111.25.


  • Tonight: $240K in Woodbine's Super Hi-5 (first post 5:45 p.m.)
  • Tomorrow afternoon: $750K in Gulfstream's Rainbow 6 (first post 12:15 p.m.). Others.

"She'll bounce back"
Trainer is upbeat despite mare's third-place finish in Lady Jacqueline stakes

Escape Clause’s trainer, Don Schnell, is remarkably upbeat despite Manitoba’s millionaire mare finishing third in the $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes Saturday at Thistledown race track in Ohio. The race was won by Mylady Curlin who had won four races in a row.

“She’ll bounce back,”
he said from a Keeneland training centre in Kentucky where the mare is now stabled. “We need to try to get another win at Churchill or Keeneland before November (when she’s due to go on the auction block).” he said. There’s “pressure” on him to do so, he said, considering the fact that her auction value is dependent on her record.

“That wasn’t her running style,”
he said of jockey Tyler Baze taking Escape Clause to the front from post #1 in the 1 1/8-mile test and getting into a duel. “She prefers being taken back,” Schnell said. “She couldn’t relax, she was pressured the whole way.”

He doesn’t blame Baze, though. “Tyler thought he had enough horse and could do it,” he said. The mare who ran second Gotham Gal, ran the biggest race of all, dueling with Escape Clause, then pulling back and then coming on again to almost beat Mylady Curlin who had the best trip of all.

The Keeneland training centre is about 20 minutes from Keeneland race track and one hour away from Churchill Downs. That will be their headquarters until the Nov. 4 auction, he said. Besides readying Escape Clause for her next start, Schnell said he also will be looking at buying a couple 2-year-olds to race at Turf Paradise during the winter.

"Absolute snoozer" pace almost leads to DQ

Stewards take 10 minutes deciding not to disqualify 7-for-7 Hidden Grace in Distaff

#1 Queen Jean checks as Hidden Grace pulls in front of her
Jockeys on front-running horses like to set slow early fractions to save something for the stretch drive. But that strategy nearly cost Manitoba’s unbeaten 7-for-7 filly, Hidden Grace, her seventh win in Saturday’s Distaff Stakes for Manitoba-bred 3-year-olds & up.

Racing past the grandstand the first time, Renaldo Cumberbatch aboard Hidden Grace, in an effort to set--in the words of track announcer Kirt Contois--“absolute snoozer” fractions, pulled in front of the rail horse, Queen Jean ridden by Antonio Whitehall, causing that filly to bobble and check (see photo). That resulted in a 10-minute inquiry on whether Hidden Grace should be set down from her first-place finish. The stewards didn’t change the order--but there was obviously a lot of discussion about doing so.

The post-race buzz centred around the slow pace. The 6-furlong time of 1:18.40 wouldn’t even have qualified as a timed workout under racing commission guidelines. The mile time of 1:44.60 was nine seconds--or about 45 lengths--slower than the track record.

*       *       *

HERE’S MY $24 TICKET FOR TONIGHT’S $10,000 GUARANTEED PICK-4: I don’t even want to talk about last week’s suggested $36 pick-4 ticket. “You missed a horse that fits your rule (for 7-furlong races),” a group player said after he cashed his ticket that paid $1,049 for $1. Yes, I did. I was reading but not seeing. I need new glasses. Sorry for the oversight. Today’s pick-4 is very, very tricky but below is my $24 dabble, leaving me with a concluding bankroll of $36.

Race 4: 3, 4, 5. (#3 is 10-1)
Race 5:
 3, 6, 7, 8. (longshot #7 is cutting back to a sprint after showing speed at a mile)
Race 6:
 3, 8.  (I like the jockey change on #8)  
Race 7:
 1.  (#1 should win on the class drop; otherwise, wide open)

NOTE: A final “I won bigger” Wednesday group discussion will take place at 6 p.m. tonight in the Boots N Saddles lounge on the main level with plays on tonight’s live pick-4 that should pay big -- and Woodbine’s pick-4. Everyone is welcome.

WILL MR. MATLOCK MAKE IT SEVEN SECONDS IN A ROW? The trainer, Bill Mooney, and the owner, Jim England, of Mr. Matlock are probably wishing there were a bonus for consecutive 2nd-place finishes. Their horse is a lock. The 6-year-old gelding finished second six times in a row and he could make it seven in a row in Friday’s fourth race. That would likely be an all-time record at the Downs. Maybe six seconds in a row already is a record.

*       *       *

Hottest jockeys: Richard Mairs
(6 wins)
Hottest trainers:
Michael Nault (3 wins)
Biggest longshot: Dreamoncharlie $30.80 (Wed race 1) 
Stakes champion(s): Tadaa (Saratoga Sis), Langara (Phil Kives Stakes), Hidden Grace (Distaff)
Stakes this week:
Osiris (today--sprint for babies), CTHS Sales Stake (Saturday--for 2-year-olds who went through last year's yearling auction)

Pick-4: none
Jackpot Pick-5 (starts race 3): $2,090
Jackpot Hi 5 (last race): $1,888

THE BIGGEST SHOUT-OUT goes to Manitoba-bred 2-year-old filly Kayla’s Thunder for showing her heels to three Kentucky-breds and a California-bred in her debut race, a $15,000 maiden claimer Saturday at the Downs. Take that, blue bloods! Manitoba horses aren’t to be taken lightly! She went off as the longest shot in the five-horse field ($21.90), with players thinking all they needed to do was box the other four horses for their triactor and superfecta. Wrong! With her on top, the $1 tri paid $55 and a $1 super paid $159.75. Congrats to all her connections: To her breeders, Larry Falloon and Vailla Kay Butler (sired by Quest out of Mikayla Rae), to her trainer Juan Pablo Silva and her rider, Arthur Budhu. That’s showing ‘em!

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to newbie trainer and super nice guy Devon Gittens for breaking into the trainer ranks with two wins this past week: on Kinahora last Wednesday ($11.20) and Sweet Cinnamon Bun in a maiden claimer Saturday ($6.50). That gave the Barbadian two wins in eight races. After exercising horses for 13 years and working on the gate crew for four years, he told The Insider: “My friends told me I knew the ropes and that I should start training.” Good advice! Great start!

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to Richard Mairs for becoming the first jockey this season to bag five winners on one card. His wins Friday were:

  • Race 1 -- Tigger the Tiger -- $3.80
  • Race 3 -- Candy Con -- $5.00
  • Race 4 -- Maxi’s Taxi -- $4.40
  • Race 6 -- Walking Solo -- $9.00
  • Race 7 -- Too Much Gone -- $13.40
The other two races were won by Antonio Whitehall and Paul Francis.

ALEX CRUZ RETURNS TO RIDING DESPITE SOME PAIN: ASD’s former leading rider at the current meet, Alex Cruz, is back in the saddle despite earlier predictions he wouldn’t be able to return following injuries suffered when his horse fell during a morning workout. “My ribs are a bit sore and I had a crack in my shoulder,” he told The Insider, but he has fought through it. He had four mounts Friday but took Saturday off “so I can rest and be ready for Wednesday (today),” he said. He now has to get past a red-hot Richard Mairs for the jockey title. Mairs won five races Friday and has 42 wins to Cruz’s 34. Just nine days of live racing remain.

DIODORO VOWS TO APPEAL JUDGE’S 2017 CANADIAN DERBY RULING: When will the winner of the 2017 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park in Edmonton be settled? Trainer Robertino Diodoro has vowed to appeal last week’s ruling by an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judge that his horse, Chief Know It All, had interfered with Double Bear in that race and therefore should be disqualified to second despite the stewards ruling that the original result should stand.

“The way the whole thing has been handled, it’s been a complete farce,”
Diodoro was quoted as saying. “Of course, we’ll take the next step in the legal process. It’s a long way from being over.” Could this happen in Manitoba? “Yes,” said Manitoba Horse Racing Commission chair, Brett Arnason. “The final appeal if one were needed would be the courts. This did happen when I was on the commission 20 years ago. Usually, they don’t overturn decisions. They just tell us to reconsider our position and why.”

, in promoting Australian racing, notes that field sizes in Australia are 10.6 horses compared to 7.6 in the U.S., exactor payouts average $121.20 compared to $70.60 in the U.S. and the average win price is $16.60 compared to $10.80 in the U.S. Want an edge in handicapping Australian races? Read my suggestions here.

HUNKY BILL LEAVES LEGACY OF PEROGIES, HORSES AND POKER FIGHTS: “The yelling, screaming and fights that took place during card games were unreal,” Manitoba Jockey Club vice-president Sharon Gulyas recalls in describing to The Insider one of her most vivid memories of the legendary perogy king and horse owner, Hunky Bill (Bill Konyk) who died of cancer at 88 last week in Vancouver. The man who sold an estimated seven million perogies during his 52-year career that started at a booth at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver in 1967 was good friends with her late father, Paul Bayda, in north-end Winnipeg, Sharon said, and in her youth she worked with her sisters (she has four of them) at his PNE booth.

Sharon said Bill gave the “toast to the bride” at her wedding and joked that her husband, Jeff, stopped playing cards with Hunky Bill and friends at her father’s house to "referee" the games. “He was very much into horse racing – owning horses – and an active member on the B.C. HBPA.  He was very proud of my accomplishments in the racing business,” she said. Bill’s son, Bill Konyk, Jr. trained horses at Hastings and Assiniboia Downs and his Torque Converter holds the track record for 6 ½ furlongs at Hastings. Hunky Bill was a frequent visitor at Assiniboia Downs when he returned to Winnipeg to visit. Memories of colourful Hunky Bill are sure to last a lifetime.

It wasn’t the $1.1 million that Northlands Park produced in wagering at last year’s Canadian Derby Day, but Century Mile, Edmonton’s replacement track for Northlands, still chalked up a decent $838,482 in wagering on the 90th Canadian Derby Day card of 10 races on Sunday. Per-race wagering of $83,848 was close to ASD’s $85,537 per race on Manitoba Derby Day’s seven-race card.

The $250,000 Derby was won by Mark Cloutier-trained Explode through a disqualification at odds of 7-2. Last year’s co-leading jockey at ASD, Prayven Badrie, won two races at odds of 16-1 and 5-1. He is winning at a 19 per cent clip and is fourth in the jockey standings. Trainer Robertino Diodoro’s best hope in the Derby, Miltontown, finished last at odds of 9-1 in the 12-horse field.
Reader's write . . .
Biggest handle?

“Dear Ivan:
Was the betting total on Wednesday the largest for a non-special night?” -- Jim Roberts

Hi Jim:
Apparently so, on a per-race basis. The seven-race card last Wednesday produced wagering totalling $468,680. Pick-4 wagering really turned heads. With a carryover of $6,511, betting swelled to $73,169.
HISTORY ON THE HOOF with Bob: She rode in Canadian Triple Crown and Manitoba Derby

Did you know that the first woman jock to ride in a Canadian Triple Crown race in 1973 was also the first female rider to race in the Manitoba Derby in 1977? Bob has the story of this young Saskatoon lass here.

READ BOB AND WIN (see Fun & Games above).
REFRESHER COLUMN: Read his seventh column of the race season here.
  • Tonight: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. Final Wednesday “I won bigger” group betting workshop 6 p.m. in Boots N Saddles lounge main level (all welcome). Osiris Stakes sprint for 2-year-olds
  • This Friday: Live racing/ace chase 7:15
  • This Saturday: Biggest day of racing at Saratoga featuring the Travers Stakes. First post: 10:30 a.m. Live racing/ace chase 7:15. $30K CTHS Sales Stakes for horses who went through last year’s yearling auction
  • Friday, Aug. 30: Live racing/ace chase 7:15.
  • Saturday, Aug. 31: Live racing/ace chase. 7:15.
  • Holiday Monday, Sept. 2: Live racing, ace chase 1:15. Family fun. Gold Cup Stakes
  • Friday, Sept. 6: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. Manitoba Matron Stakes
  • Saturday, Sept. 7: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. J. W. Sifton Stakes for Manitobe-bred 3-year-olds
  • Sunday, Sept. 8: Final live race day 1:15. Buffalo Stakes for Manitoba-bred 2-year-olds. Family fun.
  • Saturday, Sept. 14: Third and final Manitoba Night Market. 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
NEXT INSIDER: With the conclusion of Wednesday live racing today, The Insider will now be published regularly on Thursdays

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