Thursday, October 26, 2017

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 12 No. 40 (Issue #609)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

Bridgejumpers get a scare

Whitehall stands up before wire on Escape Clause, almost losing third; trainer angry

Whitehall (arrow) stands well before the wire, almost costing Escape Clause third

Jockey Antonio Whitehall’s name was almost mud Sunday afternoon at Century Downs when he stood up before the wire on Escape Clause in a $50,000 stakes race, almost losing third.

A fourth-place finish would have cost bridgejumpers $55,000 in show bet losses and would have cost the horse’s connections the difference between third-place ($5,000) and fourth-place ($3,000) purse money. Only a head separated her from fourth.

“If he does that again, he’s off all my horses,”
trainer Don Schnell told The Insider in a telephone interview the day after the super filly, at 1-9 odds, went down to defeat. “Everybody was commenting about (Whitehall) standing,” Schnell said.

A fourth-place finish would have cost Whitehall $200, too, because he gets 10 per cent of the purse. His total earnings from 10 per cent of the three horses he rode Sunday was $2,300. (In addition to Escape Clause’s third, he rode Langara to victory in a $20,000 allowance race and Coolidge to fourth in a $100,000 stakes.) What accounted for Escape Clause’s subpar performance? See below.

WATCH THAT RACE HERE. (Click on “replays” Oct. 22, race 7)

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Bad news: Escape Clause loses. Good news. There is a good reason.
  • Here's a dress rehearsal" package for the Breeders' Cup! (Find it useful?)
  • The Breeders Crown of harness racing goes tomorrow & Saturday at Hoosier 5:30 p.m.
  • Player's Choice tourney goes Saturday at noon; sign up by 9 p.m. tomorrow
  • A shocker? Study shows graded stakes horses are getting slower
  • "Bet Like a Chicken, Eat Like a Chicken." What? (The title of Century announcer's book)
BLACK BECOMES SECOND $100 WINNER IN 5-ALIVE CONTEST: Dan Black, a retired antique book seller, played three entries to get to the fifth leg in the 5-Alive contest Saturday and picked up $100 in wagering vouchers when he had the winner. It was the second week in a row the maximum was won. Black also won $96 for his bets in the five races. Last week’s winner, Shawn Gorrie, made it to the fourth leg but missed the winner in the fifth – but he did win a $30 consolation prize playing 5-Alive on Friday. The contest—bet show, show, show, place, win--continues Friday and Saturday 7:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
QX104 � Today's Country

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94.3 The Drive

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Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are running in October? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Jets - Bombers

FRIDAYS, SATURDAYS & SUNDAYS : Free VLT tournaments starting at 8 p.m. Get into the draw for 10 chances to win $20 in free VLT spins. Top winner from each night participates in a month-end finale for more spins and $250 in prize money.

EVERY FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: $10 buy-in poker. Registration 8 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m. Royal Flush progressive jackpot is at $2,105!

All meal deals now available Friday to Sunday

NEW! FOOD SPECIALS NOW AVAILABLE ALL THREE NIGHTS: If you feel like perogies and kielbasa on Friday instead of Sunday, or pizza on Saturday instead of Friday, or fried chicken dinner on Sunday instead of Saturday, you’ve now got your wish. All three meal deals will be available on all three nights—Friday to Sunday starting at 5 p.m.: $10 pizza, $11 perogies and kielbasa, $12 chicken dinner. Bon appétit.


What happened to Escape Clause?

Filly falters for the first time; virus detected after the race

Escape Clause is pointed to $300,000 Zia Park Oaks in Hobbs, NM; Phoenix turn out follows

Escape Clause is on antibiotics. The bad news on Sunday was that the super filly (8 for 9 on the year) wasn’t her usual dominating self in the $50,000 Founders Distaff at Century Downs. The Manitoba-bred 3-year-old finished third after dueling with ultimate race winner Tara’s Way ($17.10), a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred. The good news, according to trainer Don Schnell, was that there was a reason. She had a virus that’s been going around the barns. So she’s undergoing a five-day antibiotics regimen.

Schnell said he had been warned about the difficult-to-detect low-grade virus. “A horse could train fine, eat good but when asked for extra during a race, it just wouldn’t be there.” When she returned to the barn after the race, he said, she hung her head down and coughed up mucous, indicating a problem.

Schnell will now point her to one more race this year: the $300,000 Zia Park Oaks in Hobbs, New Mexico, to be held on Wednesday, Nov. 22. After that race, Schnell said, she will be turned out for much-deserved R & R for the balance of the year and into the new year in Phoenix where Schnell will be based for the winter.

*        *        *

Langara (rail) digs in to win by a nose

Gutsy win by Langara

Manitoba-bred gelding digs in in allowance race; Schnell's horses earn $23,000

Though the star of his barn, Escape Clause, faltered, trainer Don Schnell still accumulated $23,000 in purse money on the day from his Manitoba-bred horses, thanks to a nose allowance win by Langara and a fourth place finish by Coolidge in the biggest race of the Century Downs meet, the $100,000 Harvest Plate Stakes.

And Schnell isn’t done yet.
He’s entered Dreaming Ez in the $60,000 The Freedom of the City stakes for 2-year-old fillies this Saturday. The California-bred lost her first lifetime race two weeks ago, a maiden allowance, by a neck.

BREEDERS' CUP: NOV. 3 & 4 at Del Mar


My hero (and yours?)
Graham Stone of South Dakota who won $2.7 million for a mere $8 pick-6 ticket on 2003 Breeders' Cup


An Insider exclusive

Do a "dress rehearsal" by clicking here for last year's races inserted into this year's order

Why is this useful?

  • It will make this year’s program—when it comes out next Wednesday—look familiar
  • Seeing last year’s horses will refresh what you did last year so you can make improvements this year
  • You’ll see what races will be part of the pick-4 and pick-6. Do you like the new order better?
  • Seeing the results from last year will help you plan your betting strategy

Here’s the NEW ORDER of the last six races;

  • Filly & Mare Turf
  • Juvenile
  • Mile
  • Sprint
  • Turf
  • Classic


*        *        *

The clocker is your best friend

Clocker reports last year helped an ASD player get 5 of 6 in pick-6 for $12

Quite simply, not tuning into Mike Welsch’s clocker reports is like turning down a chance to win what’s behind Door #2. Do you want to take advantage of all that dumb money in the giant Breeders’ Cup pools or do you want to BE the dumb money? Hmm.

Mike Welsch trains a very experienced eye on all the contenders and generously shares his impressions with you. Without his input, consider your analysis incomplete.

Googling “Breeders’ Cup workouts” will get you other reports as well. Note that Gunnevera is getting “better and better” in sizzling workouts at Gulfstream. Is he a potential upsetter in the Classic? I’ll bet he’s in the superfecta.

*        *        *


  • THE ADVANCE DRF WILL BE AVAILABLE TODAY! There are 187 pre-entries for the 13 Breeders’ Cup races including a record 46 horses from overseas. The advance BC edition will be available at the track and at off-track locations.
  • Del Mar’s summer meet showed that horses who worked out at Del Mar performed better than ship-ins. So look for horses who have been stabled there for awhile.
  • Enter to win merchandise and a chance to spin the Breeders' Cup wheel!

    Del Mar is creating a beach in its infield by hauling in 400 tons of sand. So, if you’re going, pack your bathing suit with your binoculars.
  • Remember next Wednesday night’s Marshall/Glen Breeders’ Cup seminar at 7 p.m. Call Samantha at 204-885-3330 to sign up. Also reserve for the Breeders’ Cup brunch ($14.95) on BC Saturday.
  • Enter the Breeders' Cup Sweepstakes for a chance to win $1,000 cash plus consolation prizes.
  • Draws for Breeders' Cup merchandise and a chance to spin the Breeders' Cup wheel for wagering vouchers will also take place Saturday afternoon.


"It's a $5 cab ride to the rest of the field"

Century Downs announcer injects colour into his calls

Murray Slough at Huntington Beach, California

Horseplayers who appreciate colourful race calls have to be liking Murray Slough, the announcer at Canada’s newest track, Century Downs just north of Calgary.

When Escape Clause was well in front of her rivals in the CTHS Sales Stakes three weeks ago, it was “a $5 cab drive to the rest of the field.” When favourite Langara was making a move Sunday in an allowance race, the gelding was “trying to deliver on the mutuel promise.”

And when a horse was well ahead in another race Sunday, Slough invoked a familiar phrase: “They’re not going to get him today.”

Did Slough use that phrase because he was a fan of Phil Saltzman who died a year ago at 79 but who had made that phrase famous at Calder (now Gulfstream West)? Not really, he told The Insider. “I honestly thought that was my call! I have been saying that for years.” But he does have one he insists is a total original: “The race is for place.”

Calder's Phil Saltzman (left) who died last year and Stampede Park's Joe Carbury who died last week

So who is Murray Slough? For one, he has a sense of humour. When asked by The Insider to email a photo of himself he sent the attached one “on one of my favourite places: Huntington Beach, California.” Bemused, The Insider is running it even though his face is in a shadow. And you have to love the title of a book on harness racing he wrote in 1996: “Bet Like a Chicken, Eat Like a Chicken.”

The racing bug bit him at age 16 in 1986 at Queensbury Downs in Regina, he said, when he played and owned harness horses. He started calling races of all kinds in Lethbridge in 1993, then ultimately harness racing at Stampede Park in 1998. In the last three years of Stampede Park, he said he shared thoroughbred announcing duties with Alberta racing legend Joe Carbury who died recently at 91 (see “The Week That Was” below).

“I have the distinction—not really but it is a fact-- that I called both the last harness race in 2006 and the last thoroughbred race in 2008 at Stampede Park,”
Slough said. He also co-owns a company, Soil Kings Inc. that sells and delivers bulk landscape supplies in Calgary.



Blanket finish at ASD on Aug. 7, 1987
(Photo courtesy of trainer Les Simms)


The mother of all blanket finishes?

Six horses were within whiskers of each other; triactor pays $13,005

Assiniboia Downs’ all-time leading rider Ken Hendricks with 1,666 wins, in a recent conversation with track historian Bob Gates, couldn’t remember a blanket finish at the Downs that was as close as the one above on Friday, Aug. 7, 1987, with as many horses as that one – six.

Note the fabled jockeys that were in the race including Todd Kabel who was the race favourite but not in the top six – and Brian Bochinski who was. And race veterans shouldn’t be surprised to see Long Notice, a horse that loved to pull himself up just short of the wire, finishing third.


GRADED STAKES WINNERS ARE GETTING SLOWER: Over the past 27 years, graded stakes winners have been getting slower and slower according to a study by Beyer, TimeformUS and ThoroGraph. The speed of graded stakes winners in 1990 averaged 105.72. Last year it was 97.99. After the average speed dipped below 100 in 2008, it has stayed there. See every year’s figures since 1990 here.

Winx: Unbeaten in 21 starts

WINX MANIA REVS UP DOWN UNDER: Australia’s signature Melbourne Cup—which will be run two days after the Breeders’ Cup--is “the race that stops a nation” but racing fans down under are more obsessed these days with the Cox Plate, “the race where legends are made.” That’s because the unbeaten mare in 21 races, Winx, is primed to become only the second horse in 97 years to win that prestigious 1 ¼ mile race three years in a row this Saturday afternoon (Friday night our time). Every Australian will be dropping everything they’re doing to watch. And we can, too!

So each member of the “I won big” betting group got back most of each $20 share Saturday as, once again, the favourite won the “ALL” leg in its pick-5. The group will once again tackle Woodbine, races 2 to 7, this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza but is already registering shares for the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar the following Saturday. Even my dentist is investing in that tilt.

Jockey Clifford Miyashiro

FORMER ASD JOCKEY PASSES: Clifford Miyashiro who rode at the Downs in 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1984 died in a motor vehicle accident in Alberta last week at age 60. He had ridden in races throughout North America for 30 years, starting at the age of 18, and, says historian Bob, had his best season at the Downs in 1981 when he rode 71 winners, making him seventh in the jockey standings. He is survived by a wife and three children in the Welling hamlet just south of Lethbridge where he worked as an insulator after retiring from riding in 2003. He had ridden 486 winners and his horses had earned $1.6 million. Gone -- way too soon.

How small a world is it? Joe Carbury, who called 30,000 thoroughbred races and 5,000 chuckwagon races at Stampede Park before it closed in 2008—and who is mentioned above in the ANNOUNCERS story—died on Oct. 17 at 91. Little did we know—but historian Bob reports—he had actually been born in Winnipeg and his father had been police chief for Fort Garry from 1924 to 1935.

Readers write . . .


Good morning, Ivan: Excellent edition (Oct.19 Insider).” John Field, HBPA director

Ivan: Keep up the great work of mixing our past with the present of racing.
Outstanding work, as always.” -- W.G. Wind, Warm Wind Thoroughbred Farms

Aw, shucks. Nice to be appreciated. Thanks, guys!


Did you know . . . that on July 31, 1965 Mid Strome a 267-1 long shot finished second and paid a record $242 to place - a record that still stands today? That’s just one aspect of Bob’s fascination with “that other woman” which you can read about here.


  • Friday & Saturday, Oct. 27 & 28: Breeders Crown harness championships at Hoosier Park, Indiana
  • Saturday, Oct. 28: Player’s Choice handicapping tournament
  • Saturday, Oct. 28: Don Schnell's Dreaming Ez races in $60,000 stakes for 2-year-olds at Century
  • Wednesday, Nov. 1: Breeders’ Cup seminar at 7 p.m. with Glen & Marshall
  • Friday & Saturday, Nov. 3 & 4: Breeders’ Cup World Championships from Del Mar.
  • Saturday, Nov. 4: Exciting new “survivor” wager begins at Meadowlands (harness)
  • Monday, Nov. 6: Melbourne Cup at Flemington race course in Australia

Do you find the Breeders’ Cup “dress rehearsal” package interesting?
Remember, hard copies are available in the Race Book.

Watch for his return Tuesday night

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