Thursday, December 5, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14  No 47 (Issue #717)

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

TODAY IS “BATHTUB PARTY” DAY which reminds me of my “bathtub” superfectas -- entire pools of about $20,000 each I took down after handicapping them in my bathtub. See below.

“Spoil yourself. Soak in the tub. No interruptions. Or invite your friends,”
said the Pennsylvania woman, author Ruth Roy, who originated this special day in the early 1990s. In fact, she and her actor husband, Tom, created dozens of special days that are now recognized as “official” in books and calendars. Some legacy!



Many milestone stakes races will be run this year, according to track historian Bob Gates: the 60th running of the Free Press, the 45th running of both the R.C. Anderson and the Phil Kives (formerly the Agassiz), the 40th running of both the Chantilly and Manitoba Matron and the 35th running of the Winnipeg Sun.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Mandatory payout of the 20-cent pick-6 at Aqueduct Saturday should result in $2.5M pool
  • "Bloodman" McKellar strikes again: will the ex-cop earn HOTY title for third time?
  • Betting flashback: My $20,000 "bathtub" supers
  • ASD trainer is the new bully in the desert. Who is it?
  • Who won national contest for best Caesar in Canada?
$150 AT STAKE IN SATURDAY’S “3 FOR THE MONEY” CONTEST: Pick the winners of the first three legs of the late pick-4 at Aqueduct Saturday, Cigar Mile Day, to win $150 in wagering vouchers.

IT’S CUSTOMER APPRECIATION TIME AT OTBs: If OTB manager Shannon Davis drops into the OTB you’re at this Saturday, you’ll get 20x the usual Player Rewards on bets you make while she’s there, go into a draw for a 60-second betting spree and enjoy complimentary finger food and drinks! And a $50 draw continues every Saturday at all staffed OTBs.

with a draw in the Race Book at 4 p.m. for a chance to pick the ace of diamonds from 49 cards to win $1,000 or pick one of the two jokers for $100 (the other cards are $25). Tickets are $5, three for $10, available until 3:30 p.m. and you’re helping the Winners Foundation.

Get drawn in the Club West Gaming Lounge to “pick an ornament” from the festive tree to win $5 to $100 daily from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (Dec.16 to 27). Also enjoy complimentary hot apple cider and more on those days!

Click to expand


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

FREE VLT TOURNAMENTS FRIDAY AND SATURDAY AT 8 PM: Enter in the Club West Gaming lounge Friday and Saturday. 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.

POOL TABLES, ELECTRONIC DARTS, TAP TV TRIVIA: These are the new games added to Clubhouse fun on the plaza. Pool games are just $1 (insert coins). Tap TV Trivia: Download the free app on your phone to answer 12 questions every 20 minutes to see if you’re better and faster than others. NOTE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY ARE TRIVIA NIGHTS WITH PRIZES! (Bartender/special events coordinator Cory is your host starting at 7 p.m.)


GREEDY CORNER: See all jackpot carryovers here. Note: There is a mandatory payout of the 20-cent Empire pick-6 on Saturday with a likely pool of $2.5 million.

"Bloodman" McKellar strikes again
Ex-cop plays a $51 horse based on breeding in tourney; will he win third HOTY title?

A colt sired by a Manitoba mare’s son has put an ex-cop in position to become the best-ever handicapper at the Downs.

Brian McKellar
, a one-time Toronto police officer who is the reigning Handicapper of the Year, won Saturday’s Player’s Choice monthly tournament with a $51 first-time starter--based on his breeding acumen--that also put him in a position to become Handicapper of the Year for an unprecedented third time.

The horse, Mailman Money, is the son of Goldencents who was born to Manitoba mare Golden Works. Goldencents is the leading second-crop sire in the world so it’s surprising that the odds were as high as they were. It’s ironic that the favourite in the race who finished second, Digital, is the son of Goldencents’ father, Into Mischief. W. Bret Calhoun trains the top two finishers. It was race 8 at Churchill.

Mailman Money paid $51.50, $15.80 and $10 across the board but, since there is a contest cap on the odds, McKellar received $42 in the win position. His total bankroll was $104.50 which earned him top prize of $1,000.

The four runners-up were:
  • Ron Phelps – $98.90 bankroll – $400 prize money
  • Earl Grantham – $86.60 – $200 prize money
  • Grant Buckoski – $71.80 – $100 prize money
  • David Blake – $67.70 – $50 prize money
*       *       *

New "bigger" group strategy
Will pursue mandatory pick-6 payout at Aqueduct Saturday as well as "default" Woodbine

Analysis of past races during my holidays showed that Saturday’s “I won bigger” betting group should be playing more than just its “default” track each week.

In one case, a $39,000 Rainbow six payout at Gulfstream had winners that fit group rules and would have been hit had the group played it.

So, going forward, the group will play its “default” track (Woodbine for two more Saturdays, then Tampa Bay) but also play “pick” pools from other tracks that appear to have a good fit.

This Saturday’s play at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza will be Woodbine’s early pick-5 as well as Aqueduct’s Empire pick-6 that has a mandatory payout that should reach $2.5 million.

New bully in the desert
ASD's Juan Pablo Silva muscles ahead of Robertino Diodoro with 41% wins

Trainer Robertino Diodoro has met his match in the desert. It’s Juan Pablo Silva who was second in the trainer standings at ASD this past summer.

Silva is burning up the track at Turf Paradise. He has more wins and a higher percentage of wins than perennial leading trainer Diodoro. After 34 days of racing, Silva has 30 wins compared to 27 for Diodoro and his horses are winning at a whopping 41 per cent rate compared to Diodoro’s 31 per cent.

If you simply bet Silva’s horses to show, you’ll cash four out of five of your bets. Alex Cruz is his main jockey as he was at the Downs.

Silva’s most recent wins came Monday with Bay Area in a $6,350 claimer ($7) and Tuscany Beauty in a $3,000 claimer ($2.20).

At ASD, Silva was winning at a 19 per cent clip and his 41 wins were second to leading trainer Tom Gardipy, Jr. who had 48.

*       *       *

SCHNELL SETTLES INTO A LIFE WITH BABIES: Out of the limelight now that his 5-year-old Manitoba-bred mare, Escape Clause, has been sold for $300,000 to a Japanese breeder, Don Schnell has the challenge of training a barnful of babies at Turf Paradise. And he is doing quite well with a record of 24-4-4-4. His best is the 2-year-old gelding, Double One Shot, a maiden optional claimer who finished second twice.


Albertan Kjeryn Dakin’s Caesar rated best in Canada
ALBERTA RESTAURATEUR WINS CAESAR CONTEST; ASD’S CORY GETS $450: Kjeryn Dakin, a restaurateur from the resort town of Sylvan Lake in central Alberta, was named top Caesar-maker in Canada in the rigorous Mott’s Clamato national finals in Toronto on Grey Cup Sunday and won $3,000. Nova Scotian Shuntaro Ahsan won $1,500 for second; Ontarian Cam Dyment won $500 for third. ASD’s Cory O’Grodnik, representing Manitoba, received $450 for making it to the finals.

The three Toronto judges--Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell, social media influencer Jamie Milne (@Everything Delish) and chef/TV personality Matt Basile--praised Kjeryn’s “laser focus,” her creativity and her element-by-element attentiveness. She had been the runner-up the previous year--which gives Cory hopes of reaching the top next year if Mott’s continues its annual contest which it started in 2014. Manitoba has never won top prize. Saskatchewan won it three years in row, Ontario twice in a row and Alberta the last two years. Of course, you can enjoy Cory’s famous Caesar at the Clubhouse bar for $5 during Happy Hour.

go out to harness racing specialist Rodney Zaretsky, a Race Book fixture Friday and Saturday nights, who went under the knife for 11 hours at the Health Sciences Centre for a back procedure that has him learning to walk again at the hospital’s rehab centre. The good thing is, he has Woodbine/Mohawk and Century Mile to become proficient at as he plays them in his HPI account on his phone. You’re missed, Rod. Best to you!

Del Mar posted a healthy increase of 8.9 per cent in daily wagering at its fall meet, with its $11.3 million in average daily wagering setting a record since fall racing began there six years ago. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer who is banned from racing at Santa Anita and Golden Gate says he will be taking his large stable to Oaklawn for the first time for its winter/spring meet.
Superfecta pool picks originated here

Ah yes, those were the days. Before Woodbine changed to a synthetic surface in 2006--and superfectas were available only on two races (the fifth and last) with a $1 minimum--I pocketed three superfecta pools worth around $20,000 each, two of which I dubbed “bathtub supers” because they were handicapped in the bathtub. All have memories you may find interesting. (My run on superfecta pools back then also included a $20,459 pick-up at Fort Erie on Canada Day 2003, the largest super paid out by Fort Erie that year.)


Barbarella wires the field to set up $20,016 superfecta
(1) Grey Cup Sunday, Nov. 24, 2002. Soaking in a steaming tub about noon, I’m mostly thinking about NFL football and the Edmonton/Montreal Grey Cup game later that day (Montreal will win) but I glance at Woodbine race 5 to see if the superfecta is playable. It’s a 14-horse field but it’s a maiden claimer, my specialty, and #1 Barbarella at 20-1 could steal it because she has the highest pace figure. So I box her with five horses that have the highest speed numbers and head to an OTB where I bet a six-horse box at a cost of $360. I return home just in time to see Barbarella crossing the wire in front at odds of 14-1 followed by four of my other horses with odds of 9-2, 15-1 and 11-1. I head to the track that afternoon to pick up a cheque for $20,016. (I saved the program pages which you can see here. Result: 1-4-13-11)

(2) The other bathtub super
is memorable because I really didn’t feel like playing the races. It was a Sunday again and I was in a super-relaxed state soaking in the tub while watching NFL football on a TV visible beyond the open bathroom door. Half-hoping the fifth-race superfecta doesn’t look playable, I reach over the edge of the bathtub for the Woodbine program I had brought from the track the previous night. Darn! The favourite looks vulnerable and a “rule” horse (cutting back to a sprint after showing speed in a route race) would likely be part of the super at high odds.

So I reluctantly drag myself out of the tub--trying not to lose the relaxed buzz--drive to a bank machine to withdraw $400 and quickly walk in and out of an OTB, having boxed six horses for $360. Long story short: My “rule” horse is part of the super that results in another pool pick-up of around $20,000.

Sometime in the fall of 2003, I believe, I’m watching races on a bank of TVs up on the “closed” third level of the ASD grandstand where I had permission to escape from cigarette smoke in the Clubhouse. I tap out a $194 superfecta wheel on race 5 at Woodbine on a touchtote terminal (four horses in the top three positions with “all” in the fourth spot) after which one of two young fellows who are moving chairs into an elevator comes over and asks me what I’m doing.

I show him the Daily Racing Form and explain the race I’m playing is for horses that have never won a race and one of the betting angles is looking for first-time starters whose “fathers” have a good record for producing first-out winners. I show him a comment about a starter having an “excellent” debut sire.

The race is off and the guys watch my “excellent” debut sire starter win at odds of about 13-1. But, I tell them, my ticket doesn’t have the third-place finisher. But, hold on, there’s an inquiry on the third-place horse and, if he is set down to fourth--where I had taken “all”--I would win and the payoff would be huge. I tell the guys I will give each of them $100 if the horse is taken down. They’re rivetted to the TV screen when, finally, ta-da, the horse does come down and I’m happily giving each of them $100 from a ticket that pays about $21,000.

SAVVY NFL PICKS by TravyFootball: Week 14
  • 49ers over Saints (Sunday noon): Another tough game for my 49ers. They need to win to keep pace with Seattle in the NFC West. The Saints have been winning, but they haven’t been winning very pretty, something seems a little off with Drew Brees.
  • Jags over Chargers (Sunday afternoon): Well, so much for the Nick Foles experiment in Jacksonville. He lasted two and a half games before being benched in favour of the much better Gardner Minshew. I don’t know what they plan to do with Foles after the season ($34 million cap hit if they cut him, $20 million cap hit if they trade him), but the former Superbowl MVP’s days in Jacksonville seem to be numbered.
  • Titans over Raiders (Sunday afternoon): The Titans are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. Since dumping incumbent QB Marcus Mariota and turning to Dolphins castoff Ryan Tannehill they’re 5-1 and are in the hunt for one of the AFC wildcard spots.
  • Bills over Ravens (Sunday noon): Going out on a bit of a limb. The Buffalo Bills are a poor man’s Baltimore Ravens. They both have solid defenses and they both have offenses designed to fit the strengths of their quarterbacks. The only QB that has more rushing touchdowns than Lamar Jackson, is Josh Allen.
MY $5 PROLINE TICKET (worth $222.95): Panthers/Falcons tie ($3.40), Bucs over Colts ($2.00), Jags over Chargers ($3.05), Seahawks over Rams ($2.15) Record: -$45

PICKS RECORD: Last week: 3 correct out of 4. Overall (since week 3): 27 correct out of 44.

In exceptional cases (e.g. injuries to key personnel), these picks may be amended in the online version of The Insider early Saturday afternoon. Go there ( for updates.

THE BEST OF BOB: You'll never guess this rider's name

Did you know that one-time ASD trainer Mike Smith got his first win on August 26, 1977? Damion was the horse, but you'll never guess who was riding the horse - not in a million years. Go ahead, take a guess. Bob has the answer here. (First published in July 2015)
Enjoy Xmas-themed buffets the next two Thursdays and turkey plate dinner on Xmas Eve and Xmas Day
  • Tonight: Certified Angus prime rib buffet 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • This Saturday: Cigar Mile Day at Aqueduct with mandatory payout of the 20-cent Empire pick-6. Two Kentucky Derby prep races -- Remsen at Aqueduct and Los Alamitos Futurity at Los Alamitos. Nine Claiming Crown races at Gulfstream.
  • FESTIVE BUFFET: Thursday, Dec. 12: Christmas-themed prime rib buffet
  • Saturday, Dec. 14: Final Player’s Choice tourney of the year with Handicapper of the Year at stake. Louisiana Champions Day.
  • Sunday, Dec. 15: Kentucky Derby prep race -- $400K Springboard Mile at Remington Park
  • FESTIVE BUFFET: Thursday, Dec. 19: Christmas-themed prime rib buffet
  • CHRISTMAS EVE Tuesday, Dec. 24: Open regular hours 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. with 140 VLTs and $14.95 turkey plate dinner served all day (roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, chef's vegetable, gravy, dinner roll and cranberry sauce). No simulcast racing.
  • MERRY CHRISTMAS Wednesday, Dec. 25: Same as above.
  • BOXING DAY/CHANUKAH BUFFET Thursday, Dec. 26: Racing resumes at 11:25 a.m. Chanukah-themed prime rib buffet.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve gala. Tickets are going quickly! Hurry!
For reservations for buffets and New Year’s Eve Gala call Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.

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3975 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3K 2E9
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