Friday, August 27, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 27 (Issue #804)

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


Ontario bettor takes down $137,000 jackpot in dramatic fashion

A player at an Ontario hub on Tuesday took down ASD’s entire Jackpot Hi-5 pool of $136,934 that had been building since Day 1 of the meet. And the player did it in dramatic fashion -- by spending $3,024 to bet a ticket that took all horses in all five legs of the wager in the last race. So the winner’s ticket of 20-cent wagers was all/all/all/all/all.

The play could have been a big money-loser if favourites had been among the top horses but the two favourites finished second-last and third-last in the nine-horse field, leaving horses with odds of 7-1, 11-1, 6-1, 6-1 and 4-1 for the top five finishers. The player likely foresaw a chaotic result and, hence, the courage to risk $3,024 for the bet.


As live racing winds down, so does Bigg's tenure

Call me a lame duck columnist. My final column will appear on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11 with a Breeders’ Cup wrap-up. It’s about time, isn’t it? That will mark exactly 815 columns where my mission in life has been to keep you from unsubscribing and it will be nice to breathe again. My first column appeared in January of 2006. Whew!

It’s been a very positive experience for me--and I hope, for you--with lots of good luck involved in finding out stuff and having Hollywood-style things happen. One such example was having a colt, Jon’s Golden Run, being named for 2010 Olympic skeleton-racing champion Jon Montgomery who was born in the same town as Jon’s Golden Run--Russell, Man.--and the colt winning the Buffalo Stakes for Manitoba-bred 2-year-olds after trainer Emile Corbel GUARANTEED he would. (It was the horse’s only winning race.)

And, more recently, what great fortune to be writing about the travels and travails of Manitoba’s greatest horse ever, Escape Clause, whose van was shot at with paintballs along a California freeway and whose truck hauling her to a big stakes race at Belmont Park in New York lost two wheel covers because the roads were so bumpy. It’s been fun -- and a few other memorable flashbacks will be mentioned in an upcoming column -- but now you’re on notice that time is running out for you to take a final dig at Bigg.

(Don’t worry, Assiniboia Downs plans to continue producing an e-newsletter.)


Record $52,000 sales topper
Barry Arnason bid the full sister of Melisandre and Hidden Grace up to a whopping $52,000 at Sunday’s auction (George Williams photo)

Bullet briefs . . .

  • It was the best yearling sale in years
  • Giant-killer Maracuja falters in a bid to do it again. What were the reasons?
  • Surface change no problem for Queen's Plate winner
  • Monday was cakewalk day. Why?
  • When is a chaos race not a chaos race?
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: Hastings has a Jackpot pick-5 pool approaching $400K and Gulfstream’s Rainbow pick-6 is at about $300K. See list of carryovers here.

Barry Arnason (left) talks with trainer Jared Brown at Sunday’s sale while buying $90,000 in yearlings
(Ivan Bigg photo)

Yearling sale best in years, hits $209,800
"Nicest set of yearlings" says Arnason who spends $90,000

Bidding on the full sister of Melisandre and Hidden Grace reaches $50,000. It ended at $52,000.
(George Williams photo)
Citing the high quality of horses in Sunday’s CTHS Manitoba yearling sale, horse owner/construction company owner Barry Arnason blasted away with bids, looking to replenish his stable with potential stars.

“It was the nicest set of yearlings we’ve seen at a sale,”
he told The Insider, explaining why he paid a record $52,000 for the full sister of Melisandre and Hidden Grace. (Melisandre is unbeaten in eight starts and Hidden Grace is 15 for 21 with earnings of $250,000 U.S.)

He also added yearlings for $16,000, $13,000, $5,750 and $3,700, giving him more than $90,000 in new horse stock. The sale total for 22 horses was $209,800, the highest amount seen in years. It was more than triple last year’s total of $62,000 when 14 yearlings were sold. The per-horse average also soared to $9,536, more than double last year’s average of $4,428.

Arnason cited a need to “reload” his stable after previous stars have left racing, the latest being Langara who recently retired at 8 after earning more than $209,000 U.S. for Arnason Farms and True North Thoroughbreds.

Will this be money well-spent? Will one or more of this year’s yearlings match or exceed the exploits of Escape Clause who earned more than $1 million before being sold to Japanese breeders?

Arnason recalled spending $60,000 for a yearling “15 or 20 years ago”--which would have been higher than Sunday’s purchase--but records show the deal for filly Overtime Bid in 2001 (with breeder Phil Kives) was concluded AFTER the sale itself (look at the filly’s name). “It was a learning experience,” Arnason recalls, as the horse went on to win just one race, a $5,000 maiden claimer, and total career earnings of just $8,000 U.S.


on Queen’s Plate Sunday

How do you quieten a Queen’s Plate crowd? You win a race at odds of 79-1. Which is what Mambointheforest did in race 8 at Woodbine on Sunday. It’s always fun, after the fact, to see whether you might have played the horse if your head was in the right space that day. See program page here.

It was a cakewalk Monday
Bargain basement Diamond Digger coasts to another stakes win as does Hidden Grace

Trainer Michael Nault (right) and Stanley Chadee, Jr. with Diamond Digger after easy Osiris win (Jason Halstead photo)
Purchased at a yearling sale in Kentucky last fall for $2,000 U.S., Diamond Digger proved again on Monday that he was one of the best buys of the year by coasting to victory in the $35,000 Osiris Stakes for 2-year-olds. Trained by Michael Nault, ridden by Stanley Chadee, Jr., that win gave the gelding almost $42,000 U.S. in earnings or 21 times his purchase price.

And he’s just a baby! How far will his talent take him? What a ride his owners, The Young and the Rest of Us, are on!

Hidden Grace
, meanwhile, jogged to a nine-length victory under the reins of Jorge Carreno “under wraps with lots left” in the other Monday stakes race, the $35,000 Distaff for Manitoba-bred fillies and mares. That gave the Lise Pruitt trainee 15 wins from 21 starts.

*       *       *
Hottest jockey: Jorge Carreno (6 wins)
Hottest trainer:
Michael Nault (4 wins)
Biggest longshot: Storybook Farm $38.70 (Race 6 Tuesday)
Stakes champions:
Hidden Grace (Distaff), Diamond Digger (Osiris)
Upcoming stakes: Manitoba Matron (Wednesday)
$156,476 in the Jackpot pick-5;  $2,071 in the Jackpot Hi-5
Guarantees: $250,000 Jackpot pick-5 single winner;  $25,000 Pick 4

*       *       *
WILL MISS IMPERIAL AND HIDDEN GRACE CLASH IN MATRON? Two female titans, Miss Imperial and Hidden Grace are among seven female horses nominated for the $35,000 Matron Stakes next Wednesday. Both horses have looked unbeatable in their respective races but something has to give if both are entered. Who’s your money on?
WIN A TON IN '21: When is a chaos race not a chaos race?

You’ve read here that “non-winners of two races” is a chaos condition where just about anything can happen. But it’s less of a chaotic race if (1) you can identify a horse that will have a clear lead in the race and if (2) there is a class-dropper in the race.

If neither of those elements are evident, you may be wise to take “all” in your horizontal exotic wagers because favourites rarely win. Here are the payoffs in this race condition at ASD in the previous two weeks: $51.30, $12.70, $7.80, $10.50, $18.90 and $14.50.

Here are two examples of races in which horses got the lead and won:
  • Jeff Rozmus won last week’s Las Vegas Challenge handicapping tournament by determining--in his mind, at least--that #5 Witt’s Coco with odds of 24-1 would get a clear lead. The horse did and didn’t look back.
  • Two weeks ago (Aug. 10 race 4) I keyed Pucker in pick-3s, pick-4, pick-5 and superfectas because it appeared his 90 pace figure would result in a gate to wire victory--which it did. See the race page here.

RACE HORSE BARRELS DOWN KENTUCKY HIGHWAY: Watch what startled motorists saw on the interstate highway near Ellis Park in Kentucky on the weekend here.

Hemmed in on the rail, Maracuja, who knocked off the previously unbeaten Malathaat in an earlier race, couldn’t duplicate the feat last Saturday in the Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. “ She got pinned down on the inside, taking dirt. It was kind of a rough trip,” trainer Rob Atras, a native of Oakbank, Man. was quoted as saying after the $600,000 race. “Ricardo tried to get her outside a couple times and wasn't able to.” Malathaat dominated the race at odds of 1-2 while Maracuja--who is guaranteed a berth in the Breeders’ Cup by virtue of her previous victory over Malathaat-- finished seventh and last at odds of 6-1.

Safe Conduct ships in from Belmont turf to win Queen’s Plate on synthetic (Michael Burns photo)
SURFACE CHANGE NO BIG DEAL FOR QUEEN’S PLATE WINNER: Horses in Australia and Europe race interchangeably on turf and synthetic surfaces and the winner of the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine Sunday showed why: Shipping in from turf racing at Belmont Park, Safe Conduct won the Queen’s Plate on a Tapeta synthetic surface without having raced on it before. Bettors got it right: they bet the 3-year-old colt down to 3-1 favouritism. But they better think twice about favouring him to win the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales, because that race is on Fort Erie dirt, which has been the graveyard of Queen’s Plate winners.

The Insider reported in error that Escape Clause and her foal were sold together at an auction in Japan. In fact, only the foal was sold for $946,000 U.S. to a Japanese businessman. Mom was in the sales ring simply to keep her foal company.

Vern Bigham was born on a Manitoba farm before heading to B.C. where he worked in logging before gravitating into horse training in B.C. and Manitoba. Fans may remember such horses as the mare Erna’s Eagle (six wins in 26 starts), bred in B.C. by his wife Erna, the gelding Buffalo Boy (eight for 64) Vern bred in B.C. and the gelding Vancouver Vice (14 for 105) who raced at the Downs in the early 2000s. He was remembered in a race Tuesday at the Downs after his death at 90 last Thursday in a Kelowna, B.C. hospital. Besides some horsepeople at ASD and at Hastings, he has lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren to honour his memory, too.

Mr. Question, Mrs. Question, Question Me Not, Never A Question, No Questions Asked, Skip The Question and What A Question. This week the history blog looks at the Question Mark Farm Stable and the man who built it from the ground up.  Who is? Click  here to learn the identity of this owner, trainer, breeder and self-made man who dreamt of winning the Queen’s Plate while working on the Maryland Street Bridge. 
That’s yours if your Jackpot Pick 5 is the only correct one
  • Tomorrow: Travers Stakes at Saratoga for 3-year-olds. HBPA awards presentations at noon in the ASD Winner’s Circle (for photo purposes). Who will be named 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
  • Sunday, Sept. 5: Manitoba Night Market 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. $7 admission, $5 parking
  • Labour Day Monday, Sept. 6: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. Gold Cup Stakes, Buffalo Stakes
  • Tuesday, Sept. 7: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. J.W. Sifton Stakes
  • Wednesday, Sept. 8: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Futurity
  • Saturday, Sept. 11: Canadian Derby at Century Mile
  • Monday, Sept. 13: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. Las Vegas Challenge handicapping tournament.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 14: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 15: FINAL NIGHT OF LIVE RACING 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, Sept. 19: Manitoba Night Market 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. $7 admission, $5 parking
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 Proof of full immunization is required to watch the races from the main floor or outside tarmac. Full immunization is not required to watch live racing from the dining room, however, reservations are a must. 204-885-3330.


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