Thursday, September 1, 2016

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 11 No. 31 (Issue #551)

By Ivan Bigg

Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Free pony rides Monday

Last chance matinee card

Family fun shares spotlight on Labour Day Monday

They won’t let YOU get on a pony but spread the word that kids can do so on Labour Day Monday during the final matinee card of the 50-day live race meet. There’s fun to be had on giant inflatables, too, and kids of all ages will enjoy the petting farm.

Parade to post is 1:15 p.m. on Labour Day preceded Saturday and Sunday with horses heading to the gate at 7:15 p.m. Note there is no live racing tomorrow, Friday.

After these three days, the live race season comes to a stirring close the following weekend with fan appreciation and high quality stakes action Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Sept. 9 to 11. The longest race of the year, a 1 ½-mile marathon, is a must-watch event, too.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • New head of racing commission--a champion speedskater--preaches harmony
  • Jockey race gets even tighter
  • Who has the best job in racing and why? Hint: It's a jockey
  • Remington now posts a horse's weight. Do you care?
  • So close yet so far: Racing club's horse loses by a head
  • Bob hits 100 (His blog does, anyway.) He chooses a touching topic

JUST SIX DAYS LEFT TO WIN THE MEXICAN TRIP  (and other prizes): It should come as no surprise, of course, that aircraft fuelling manager Al Ilott was the top Place in the Sun parlay player in August with $567.60 and therefore wins a buffet for two and one year of the Winnipeg Sun. He won with two longshots which means THREE longshots in your $5 three-race place parlay could still win the Mexican vacation (courtesy of Charleswood Travel and WestJet Vacations). Will you be the one to make it happen? Good luck!

Daily and monthly prizes are still available, too! The most recent winners ($20 in wagering vouchers and three months of the Sun): Aug. 24 – Bob King $22.20; Aug. 26 – Ken Johansson $70.40 and Aug. 27 – Dexter Starks $34.80.

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 September? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to know live race dates? Click here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Jays-Bombers

Next live race days:
Saturday, Sunday parade to post 7:15 p.m. and Holiday Monday parade to post 1:15 p.m.

After every live race card: Crazy Hour and free VLT tournaments. Beer, wine, shots $2.95 and half-price appetizers.

SOCIAL TOMORROW NIGHT: SPECTACULAR SUMMER SEND OFF, a fund-raising social for the HBPA will feature Nu Frequency light and sound – 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday (no racing)

New MHRC chief preaches harmony

"I don't like adversarial relationships," says Brett Arnason

Brett Arnason
Cavorts with great white sharks off Guadalupe Island

When Brett Arnason, 66, is not building waste-water treatment plants or competing in speedskating races or cavorting with great white sharks or riding Icelandic horses on his farm near Winnipeg, the newly-appointed chair of the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission will be taking a “common sense” approach to regulating racing in Manitoba.

“The horse racing industry provides many jobs, it needs to be taken care of, it needs to survive,”
he told The Insider shortly after returning from the Pacific Ocean where he was observing great white sharks up to 16 feet long from a cage lowered 35 feet into the ocean off Guadalupe Island 240 kilometres west of the Mexican coast.

What he won’t be doing as commission chair, he said, is telling ASD how to run its business, which is what led to acrimony between the previous racing commission and Downs management. Inflexibility in post times despite line-ups at the betting windows and despite another popular track such as Woodbine and Northlands going to post at the same time, had been one source of friction.

“We’ll let common sense prevail,”
Arnason said. “I have an open mind. I’m a big fan of symbiotic relationships, I don’t like adversarial ones.”

Wins speedskating world title for his age group

Arnason is president of Arnason Industries, established in 1976, which does $40 million a year in business, 70 per cent in Manitoba, 30 per cent in Ontario, he said, doing such things as installing culverts, building water treatment plants and cleaning contaminants from soil.

He leads a very active lifestyle outside his business. Speedskating and cycling are among his passions. He works out four times a week, he said, to pursue speedskating competitively. In 2011, he earned the title of fastest speedskater in the world at 500 and 1,000 metres in the 60-64 age category.

He also has coached hockey and raises and rides Icelandic horses at his 20-acre farm just north of Winnipeg. “I fell in love with the breed in 1988,” he said, and now has 30 of them. He likes their gait and their kind, non-aggressive temperament. You don’t have to worry about being kicked, he said.

The Arnason name is well-known, of course, because brother Barry, who works in construction with Brett, is a major horse owner at the Downs and other tracks. Brett’s last visit to the track was on Derby Day. He had served on the commission about 20 years ago before the NDP was voted into office and chose lawyers to chair the regulatory body.

*       *       *


  • Peter Fuchs (vice-chairman) – represented the federal regulator of racing, the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency, in Manitoba and had been a sales tax auditor
  • Darrell Stephansson – at one time had worked at the Downs as director of racing, race secretary and director of corporate sales; now is regional vice-president of Primerica Financial Services
  • Bob King – had served on the commission before and has lots of ideas and strong views on many racing fronts; his son, Wayne, serves on the executive of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association
  • Marg Homenuik – a horse owner and also a former commission member, has knowledge of thoroughbreds and standardbreds. She was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Manitoba Golf Hall of Fame.

Appointments were made by provincial Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler.

He's got the best job in racing

Ten trips aboard Songbird earns Mike Smith $252,000

Mike Smith on Songbird

If there’s one person in all of racing that we envy, it has to be Mike Smith and his partnership with Songbird.

He gets on the 3-year-old filly, she takes him for a ride around the track and he collects a handsome cheque. Ten handsome cheques, in fact, totalling $252,200 (his agent would get 25 per cent of that).

If the 51-year-old Hall of Famer wanted to do nothing else during the year but ride her about once a month, that would be pretty nice pickings for less than two minutes of work. Some of the happiest days of his life has to be getting up in the morning knowing he’ll be riding Songbird that day.

Those happy days:

  • Saratoga, Aug. 20 – The Alabama ($2.40)—Mike gets $36,000
  • Saratoga, July 24 – Coaching Club American Oaks ($2.60)—Mike gets $30,000
  • Santa Anita, June 18 – Summertime Oaks ($2.10)—Mike gets $12,000
  • Santa Anita, Apr. 9 – Santa Anita Oaks ($2.20)—Mike gets $24,000
  • Santa Anita, Mar. 5 – Santa Ysabel ($2.10)—Mike gets $6,000
  • Santa Anita, Feb. 6 – Las Virgenes ($2.10)—Mike gets $18,000
  • Keeneland, Oct. 31, 2015 – BC Juvenile Fillies ($3.20)—Mike gets $110,000
  • Santa Anita, Sept. 26, 2015 – Chandelier ($2.40)—Mike gets $18,000
  • Del Mar, Sept. 5, 2015 – Del Mar Debutante ($4.20)—Mike gets $18,000
  • Del Mar, July 26, 2015 – Maiden ($6.40)—Mike gets $4,200

Should we care?

Remington Park now posts weight of horses

Horses are weighed here before races

Does a horse’s weight matter to you? Should it matter? Remington Park in Oklahoma thinks it should. Starting yesterday, it began weighing horses and posting weights for horseplayers to consider in their handicapping. This is commonplace at tracks in Asia and South America.

Too much information? Or is there some relevance?

Derek Corbel
, ASD’s assistant director of racing, sees it as a waste of time but noted there could be some relevance when a horse is claimed or purchased by a new trainer. If a horse gains weight under the new trainer, that’s a good thing, he said.

I already have a “speed off a claim” rule (horses in general seem to carry their speed further after being claimed) and now maybe “weight off a claim” will figure into my handicapping as well.

Will other North American tracks go that route? It will depend, I guess, on whether Remington players have found it useful.


First post tonight (CDT) is 7 p.m.

Hottest jock:
Antonio Whitehall (5 wins)
Hottest trainer: Shelley Brown (5 wins)
Biggest longshot: Budlitelarry $22.90 (7th Fri)
Biggest 20-cent superfecta: $471 (6th Wed)

STRETCH DRIVE OF THE WEEK: Watch video here. (Aug. 27 Race 4)


UH-OH! JUST TWO WINS SEPARATE HUSBANDS AND WHITEHALL: Can you feel the intensity? Newcomer jockey Antonio Whitehall has narrowed the gap even more with leading jockey Christopher Husbands. With just six days of riding remaining, Husbands has 65 wins, Whitehall has 63. The drive to the wire should be more frenetic than ever. On the trainer side, Tom Gardipy, Jr., has four wins more than Don Schnell and five more than Shelley Brown.

Arrogate wins Travers in record time

IS THIS THE COLT EVERYONE WAS WAITING FOR? All through the spring, race players were waiting for the “world beater” 3-year-old colt who would suddenly show up to dominate the 3-year-old ranks and win the Triple Crown. No such animal emerged—until now. A lanky horse who needed more time to develop, Arrogate simply demolished the field at 11/1 in the most important race since the Triple Crown, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Saturday, and did it in the track-record, Travers-record time of 1:59.36 under jockey Mike Smith, eclipsing General Assembly’s 2:00 set in 1979. “Looks like a superstar in the making,” said his trainer, Bob Baffert. Indeed. Smith can now say he’s ridden the very best 3-year-old filly this year, Songbird, and now apparently the best colt, Arrogate.

BUFF OFF TO A DECENT DEBUT: Two-year-old Buff raced “evenly” while finishing fourth in a nine-horse maiden field last Friday, a rather decent start for the Manitoba-bred colt named for the Winnipeg Jets defenseman. “Evenly” to me means a bigger effort next time.

Emily Thordarson receives $250 from VLT hostess Aurissa

CONGRATS TO VLT TOURNEY WINNER: The Downs has given away more than $100,000 in free VLT spins and monthly prize money and the latest winner of the $250 monthly prize is Emily Thordarson. Note that new games continue to be added to the140 VLTs. Check ‘em out! Add your name to the draw after the races for 10 chances to win $20 in free spins.

CLUB'S SPANISH FOWL SITTING ON A WIN: It was so close they could taste it. How close? The Assiniboia Racing Club’s Spanish Fowl failed to break her maiden last Wednesday by a mere head at odds of 8/5. Getaway Alley nipped her at odds of 5/1. That meant no crowded Winner’s Circle—yet-- for the 39 members who bought shares for $500 each. After her two second-place finishes will her next race be the charm? A Winner’s Circle picture would be a nice way to wrap up their first season of horse ownership and add warmth to their winter. Let’s see what happens this weekend or next.

June Sifton (inset) with Liz's Pride and Irwin Driedger, 1978

PASSING OF A RACING ICON: A name synonymous with racing in Manitoba, June Sifton, has died at 82. Her husband, a horse breeder and powerful newspaper magnate (Winnipeg Free Press, The Globe and Mail) before his untimely death in 1969, is still remembered with the J.W. Sifton Stakes for 3-year-old Manitoba-breds (to be run next weekend). June, an acknowledged “tomboy” who excelled at skiing, equestrian and golf continued the racing operation at the family’s Stoneacres Farm in Oakbank then later in Caledon, ON although she had homes as far afield as Toronto, Florida and Colorado.

Liz’s Pride
who won a Sovereign Award as a 2-year-old in 1978 was among her best-known. Her remains will be interred next to those of her husband at Chapel Lawn Cemetery across the highway from Assiniboia Downs. Visitation will take place at Chapel Lawn tomorrow (Friday) from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and a private burial will be held later. Her death brings a lump to the throat as it ends an era in which the Sifton name was as common as the wind.

HPIBET Marshall Posner

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q. How do I add horse notes in the updated HPIbet system?
HPI recently changed the way you can add horse notes. You used to be able to click on the horse’s name and a small pop-up window would open that included a link to the Horse Notes section. Now, you have to still click on the Horse’s name in the RACE ENTRIES tab but a much larger pop-up window opens that provides a complete Horse Profile for the name you’ve selected. This extended profile includes access to race replays, lifetime earnings info and the horse notes section (view image here).

To make a note for a horse, simply click on Note icon along the right hand side of the Horse Profile page (view image here). This will open another pop-up window that will allow you to enter your notes. Make sure to click the SAVE button in the top right corner of the window because your notes will not auto-save. If you have multiple notes for any horse, they will all show up on this page and you can use the video button next to each note to go directly to that race replay.

HPIbet is still working on a notifications system to alert bettors about when their watch horses will be racing next. Stay tuned for an announcement in the hopefully not so distant future about when this is up and running. For the time being, the only notification is an on-screen yellow sticky icon that is next to the horse names in the race entries (view image here).

Got a question for Marshall? Email

HISTORY ON THE HOOF: Bob's blog #100

Today is track historian Bob Gates’ 100th blog. Have you read ‘em all? His 100th is a touching one: “Bob says farewell to a friend.” Read it here.

NEXT INSIDER: Thursday. That will become the regular Insider publication day as the live race meet winds downs and we head into simulcast season.

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