Friday, September 10, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 29 (Issue #806)

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

20th ANNIVERSARY OF A PHONE CALL FROM STRETCH: It was exactly 20 years ago tomorrow morning that Stretch (from the ASD Live handicapping show) phoned me about 9 a.m. to say: “Turn on your TV. You won’t believe what’s happening.” Planes had just hit New York’s twin towers and our world was about to change forever. For Canada’s racing industry it meant the easy cross-border flow of horses and horse people would come to an end.


$1 million pool likely at ASD; Canadian Derby tomorrow

So live racing comes to an end Wednesday night with a likely pool of $1 million in the Jackpot Pick 5, with a $1 million guarantee to a single-ticket winner. The pick-4 pool guarantee Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is $50,000. But there’s plenty of action before then.

There’s a mandatory payout tomorrow of Gulfstream’s Rainbow pick-6 that should grow to $3 million since the carryover will be close to $600K.

The $125K Canadian Derby with Manitoba Derby winner  Uncharacteristic goes tomorrow at Century Mile in Edmonton and, at night, Canada’s richest harness race, the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup will be featured at Woodbine’s Mohawk Park along with a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Hi-5 in the last race. And get your entries in by 1 p.m. tomorrow to participate in the Las Vegas Challenge tournament on live racing Monday night for a final chance to earn a trip for two to the Horse Player World Series.

Take note, too, that the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the $400K Prince of Wales Stakes goes Tuesday afternoon on Fort Erie's dirt track but Queen’s Plate winner Safe Conduct wasn't nominated as he's regarded as a turf/synthetic specialist, having finished fourth in two dirt races. Nine other horses are nominated.


Get 3% cash back Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

Bet at least $40 on one or all of the ASD cards from Monday to Wednesday next week on your HPIbet account and you’ll get three per cent cash back (up to $100) deposited into your account. Note: You must opt in at


Bullet briefs . . .

  • Ready? Sing: "For he's a jolly good fellow" For whom?
  • Final three days of live racing are at hand--along with final tourney for Vegas trip
  • Mandatory payouts at Gulfstream tomorrow and ASD Wednesday
  • A well-deserved shout-out to ASD during this pandemic. Why? See below.
  • How to eat peppermints is Miss Imperial's new challenge
FINAL TOURNAMENT TO EARN A TRIP TO VEGAS GOES MONDAY: Sign up by 1 p.m. tomorrow for the Las Vegas Challenge tournament on Monday where you’ll have your final opportunity to earn a trip to the Horse Player World Series in Las Vegas in the spring. You know the drill: Bet $2 win/place/show on each of Monday’s races and if your bankroll is highest of about 75 players, you and a guest will be flying to Vegas on the Downs’ dime.
Click to enlarge.

Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are racing in September? 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.

. 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets at

FINAL MANITOBA NIGHT MARKET A WEEK FROM SUNDAY: The third and final night market of the summer goes a week from this Sunday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the ASD grounds featuring exhibitors and artisans galore, a couple dozen food trucks, 10 bands, a beer garden and more. Admission at the gate $7; parking $5. (Full immunization required.)

GREEDY CORNER: Mandatory payout of Gulfstream’s pick-6 tomorrow starting with a carryover of close to $600K. Also note that Hasting’s Jackpot pick-5 is about $500K. See list of carryovers here.

Plentiful wins Gold Cup after a spirited stretch duel with Tiger by His Tail (Jason Halstead photo)

All together now: "For he's a jolly good fellow"
Owner/trainer Murray Duncan caps his career (and Plentiful's) with Gold Cup

In the Winner’s Circle with Gold Cup trophies are Plentiful’s co-owner Audrey Farol (representing her late father), jockey Stanley Chadee, Jr., and co-owner/trainer Murray Duncan (Jason Halstead photo)
Imagine, for a moment, Murray Duncan standing in the ASD Winner’s Circle facing the grandstand as track announcer Kirt Contois leads everyone in a chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow.”

I mean, doesn’t he deserve it? That’s the melody that’s going through MY mind as I write this. No trainer has done what he has done: With Plentiful winning the Gold Cup Stakes on Monday, the owner/trainer is now at the top of the ASD world with both the best male and best female (Miss Imperial).

“Don’t lose,”
were the only instructions Duncan told The insider he gave to jockey Stanley Chadee, Jr. before the Gold Cup. (Plentiful had lost to Real Grace by a head in their last meeting. This time Real Grace--who got off to a stumbling start--finished fourth and Plentiful’s other nemesis, St. Louie Guy, finished third.)

But in Monday’s race, Plentiful faced a different challenger: 6-1 Tiger by His Tail, trained by Michael Nault, who took the early lead in the 1 1/8-mile contest. That prompted Plentiful to engage him in the turn for home rather than waiting for his usual late-stretch bid. That resulted in a heated stretch duel with Plentiful emerging the victor by a mere half-length.

You could almost hear the “whew” emanating from the big Plentiful camp that included co-owner Audrey Farol who, with her husband Brian, had received their COVID-19 negative results just in time in North Dakota to cross the border into Manitoba to watch the race--and receive the trophy. Audrey is co-owner of Plentiful on behalf of her late father, lawyer Garylle B. Stewart.

So was there a big party after the victory? “A get together,” Duncan said modestly. He noted that Plentiful (purchased for $15,000 U.S.) and Miss Imperial ($25,000 U.S.) accounted for 18 stakes wins but he remembers C J’s Flair, another Oaklawn purchase in 2017, as giving him equally great thrills in 2017 when, in combination with Plentiful’s Derby victory, she won three stakes races and finished second in two others.

So, having reached the top of the mountain, is the 80-year-old going to be content to just sit back and polish his trophies? Hardly. He says he will be back at Oaklawn again when border restrictions are lifted “looking for a nice 3-year-old filly and a colt or gelding” which, of course, will give him Manitoba Derby potential -- again. Does that thought give other horsemen the chills?

MISS IMPERIAL’S NEW CHALLENGE: How to eat peppermints. Plentiful
has a talent his stable mate Miss Imperial hasn’t yet mastered: How to eat peppermints. “She swirls them in her mouth and they drop out,” said trainer Murray Duncan. “She’s learning how to eat them. Plentiful knows how.” Peppermints, of course, are a popular horse treat.

*       *       *
Hottest jockey: Jorge Carreno (4 wins)
Hottest trainer:
Jerry Gourneau (5 wins)
Biggest longshot: Gold Buyer $26.80 (Race 5 Monday)
Stakes champions:
Plentiful (Gold Cup), Lucky Chuckee (Buffalo), Call the Cops (J.W. Sifton) and Diamond Digger (Winnipeg Futurity)
Upcoming stakes: Nil
$236,987 in the Jackpot pick-5;  $23,931 in the Jackpot Hi-5
$1 million on Wednesday for a single ticket Jackpot pick-5; $50,000 pick-4 on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday
*       *       *
DIAMOND DIGGER SHINES: The $2,000 U.S. yearling purchase, Diamond Digger, increased his earnings to $58,835 U.S. Wednesday in winning the Winnipeg Futurity under wraps ($2.30) for his The Young and the Rest of Us owners.

Favourites scored easily in the two stakes for Manitoba-breds as well. The Larry Falloon-bred Lucky Chuckee won the Buffalo Stakes for 2-year-olds on Monday ($2.20) and the Dr. Betty Hughes-bred Call the Cops won the J. W. Sifton Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings Tuesday wire to wire ($5.20).

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to Assiniboia Downs, yes Assiniboia Downs, because not one single case of COVID-19 was diagnosed among racing staff, riders, horsemen and other racing personnel in two years of racing as the pandemic exploded everywhere else. Said CEO Darren Dunn: “All of our protocols have worked. It was a true team effort to accomplish this and we’re very proud of that.” As he and the Downs should be.

Jorge Carreno: a natural hat-trick
A BIG SHOUT-OUT to the ASD player who turned $12 into $14,400 playing the place pick-all at Del Mar. The $1 wager requires a player to select horses to finish first or second on the entire card.

to jockey Jorge Carreno who scored a natural hat trick on the first three races on Tuesday’s live race card. The all-Jorge Carreno pick-3 paid $48.20 for $1.

$1 million race goes tomorrow night at Woodbine’s Mohawk Park

Three-year-old pacers will line up behind the starting gate at Woodbine’s Mohawk Park tomorrow night for the richest harness race in Canada -- the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup. There will also be a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Hi-5 in the last race.

Will a world record be set? Already large betting pools are expected to grow even more as the track showcases a great undercard as well. First race post time is 5:30 p.m. Note the 20-cent pick-5 on the first five races.

It was mega-bucks at Saratoga, mini-bucks at Del Mar

Mandatory payoff Monday was a study in contrasts at the two tracks that ended their meets on Labour Day--Saratoga and Del Mar.
  • Saratoga’s $1 pick-6 pool paid a gigantic $213,528 when horses with these payoffs won the six races: $4, $5.30, $11.80, $25.20, $15.80 and $35.40. A likely key on many tickets, 3-5 Wit in the Hopeful Stakes, went down to defeat when he had a terrible start in the third leg of the pick-6 and $11.80 Gunite won.
  • Del Mar’s 20-cent Jackpot pick-6 paid a tepid $561 when horses with these payoffs won the last six races: $3.20, $9.20, $3.40, $5.20, $10 and $16.
Racing now returns to Belmont Park in New York and to Los Alamitos in California. Races will return to Del Mar in mid-fall, of course, for the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
YOU NAMED ME WHAT? Saskatchewan, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding racing at Woodbine. The name immediately commands attention, of course, because it’s a Canadian province. But then enquiring minds want to know: why would a horse be named that? Which has me thinking--again--that The Jockey Club in Kentucky where names are registered ought to have a full-time person calling horse registrants to find out why a horse was given a particular name. It would add another interesting element to the racing game.

Remember Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another? Weren’t we fascinated by the fact that the name referred to the horse owner asking his wife for another of her delicious freshly-baked cookies?
WIN A TON IN '21: Did I deserve to get hollered at?

I got hollered at in the Race Book Monday when I said I liked longshot Simply Fablus at 6-1 to win the sixth races. But, when I turned out be right, the critic offered no contrition.

Why is it some players vehemently attack your character when you make a selection instead of just saying “I don’t think she has a chance.” Oh well.

Actually, I consider it a good teaching race. Look at the program page here. You’ll note the mare is the only horse who’s been racing in OPEN conditions (since there’s nothing written beside the claiming prices), the horse has a 97 pace number--indicating early speed--and the horse won two similar-distance races back-to-back last year. Yes, she’s a female facing males but don’t the other factors outweigh that possible drawback? Did I really deserve to get hollered at?

RESULTS IN A FLASH: The instant horses cross the finish line in races in Australia, the order of finish is posted, even when a photo finish seems to be required. Quite incredible. And if the stewards don’t know the first couple finishers, they will post third and fourth. Aussie races are well worth playing; bets cost the same as bets at Woodbine. Giant fields mean giant payoffs in 20-cent superfectas.

Native Manitoban Rob Atras was one point shy of tying for the leading percentage trainer at the just-concluded Saratoga meet. His 13 wins from 47 starts resulted in a 28 per cent win rate.

“I won bigger” group play resumed on the ASD plaza at 10:30 a.m. Monday with a win in the Woodbine pick-5 but a loss in the mandatory pick-6 payout at Del Mar, resulting in group shares almost breaking even. Next session will be Saturday, Sept. 18, Ricoh Mile day at Woodbine, where the group will play Woodbine’s pick-5 on races 2 to 6. “It was good to be back,” enthused one player after Monday’s discussion. Everyone is welcome. Larry and I are hosting; Assiniboia Downs is not involved.

This is the history guy’s final blog for the 2021 season as “live” racing winds down with only a handful of race cards to go. Our subject is about giving thanks to all the people who made the last two seasons possible – the men and women of Assiniboia Downs.  Click here to learn a little more about the challenges they faced as the racing gods threw everything at the Downs but the kitchen sink. Duck! I think I just saw a sink overhead! 
$1 million single winner guarantee for Jackpot Pick 5 on final race night
  • Tomorrow: Canadian Derby at Century Mile; North America Cup (harness racing) at Mohawk
  • Sunday, Sept. 12: Together Again concert at ASD. 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Monday, Sept. 13: Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m. Final Las Vegas Challenge handicapping tournament
  • Tuesday, Sept. 14: $400K Prince of Wales Stakes, second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, at Fort Erie. Race night at the Downs 7:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 15: FINAL NIGHT OF LIVE RACING 7:30 p.m. Million dollar single winner guarantee in the Jackpot Pick 5 (if not won by this date)
  • Thursday, Sept. 16: Race meets begin at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park
  • Saturday, Sept. 18: $1 million Ricoh Mile at Woodbine, “I won bigger” betting group meets at 10:30 a.m. to play Woodbine pick-5, Belmont Park features the $1 million Jockey Club Derby and the $750K Jockey Club Oaks Sunday,
  • Sept. 19: Final Manitoba Night Market on ASD grounds from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Admission $7, parking $5. Full immunization and photo ID required.

 Just three more days to get your fix of live racing this year!

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