Thursday, December 19, 2019

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 14  No 49 (Issue #719)

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

NOTE: TODAY’S INSIDER IS A DOUBLE EDITION because of the holidays. What’s happening each day? Click on the Event Calendar under DO THE DOWNS.

Who doesn’t love potato latkes? Boxing Day!
JUST ONE CHANCE: Boxing Day a week from today will be your ONLY opportunity to enjoy a Chanukah-themed prime rib buffet that will include such favourites as potato latkes, brisket, lemon glazed chicken, mushroom kugel and lots more in the festive comfort of the Terrace Dining Room from 5 to 8 p.m. (or enjoy at your carrel).

will book your reservation at 204-885-3330 ext. 0


Blake survives harrowing highway travel
to earn HOTY title -- by a single point

David Blake wins $1,500 and bragging rights forever as 2019 Handicapper of the Year
David Blake, a Kenora restaurateur and ASD horse owner, was counting his lucky stars on the weekend that he didn’t crash into a snow plow or skid off treacherous roads as he drove to Winnipeg to attend the final Player’s Choice handicapping tournament Saturday where he captured the 2019 Handicapper of the Year title and the $1,500 prize -- by a single point!

Describing his trip on the Trans-Canada Highway in his 4 x 4 near Richer mid-day Friday: “I accelerated after passing one of two semis in a cloud of snow when suddenly the lights of a snow plow appeared right in front of me. I hammered on the brakes and don’t know how I avoided swerving into the ditch or into the semi. Someone had to be looking down.”

While his frightened passenger/partner, Cristen Parks, “called me every name in the book” as he slowed down for the continued trip to Winnipeg, he said, conditions became even worse on the icy Perimeter Highway. “Cars were sliding into the ditch in front of me and there was an air ambulance.” (RCMP Const. Allan Poapst died that afternoon in a head-on collision with a pick-up truck that had crossed the median.)

Blake’s tournament play the next day proved to be harrowing--and dramatic--as well. While he had a five-point advantage atop the leader board, he needed to win on his final play so he could eke out the HOTY title by a mere point over two-time HOTY Brian McKellar.

The horse who did it for him--and likely will be remembered for a long, long time--was Correctness, a 2-year-old filly from Laurel who had the advantage in her first Tampa race of a 30 per cent jockey/trainer combo of Daniel Centeno and Arnaud Delacour and paid $5, $3.20, $2.40 across the board.


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WOULD MANDATORY RACES BOOST TOURNEY EXCITEMENT? Handicapper of the Year David Blake said he likes the idea of having a couple mandatory races in the monthly Player’s Choice tournaments next year. “It will make the contest more exciting because everyone will be watching the same races instead of just doing all races on their own. And it will be similar to other tournaments where there are usually some mandatory races.”

And the winner of a monthly contest, bus driver Roger Jones, agreed, saying: “ It’s a great idea. It represents a different kind of challenge. You’re not looking for longshots. You’re having to handicap the race to pick the winner.”

They both suggested a year-ending Champion of Champions tournament, too, which would see all of the monthly winners compete against each other.

What do you think? Email your views to to be considered in decision making.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Complimentary festive-treats--beverages and snacks--continue at ASD until Jan. 1
  • In a surprise move, Gulfstream slashes purses for Pegasus World Cup races
  • That's a no-no! Jockey hands whip to another jockey during a race
  • What jockey is retiring at the top of his game?
  • New California whip rule; six strikes and done
Play “pick an ornament” to win $5 to $100 until Dec. 27
WIN UP TO $100 IN “PICK AN ORNAMENT” GAME: $365 ALREADY PAID OUT!   Get drawn in the Club West Gaming Lounge to “pick an ornament” from the festive tree to win $5 to $100 daily from noon to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. until Dec. 27.  In the first two days, $365 was paid out! Also enjoy complimentary festive treats--beverages and snacks--until Jan. 1.

Pick the winners of the first three legs of the late pick-4 at Tampa Saturday to win $150 in wagering vouchers.

with a draw in the Race Book at 4 p.m. for a chance to pick the ace of diamonds from 47 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.

 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.
Click to enlarge. Note complimentary beverages and snacks will be served daily until Jan. 1

Want highlights for the next 17 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! Starts at 7 p.m.

CONGRATS to trivia players Chris Trubyk, David Blake and Cristen Parks whose trivia acumen made ASD #1 in North America Saturday night among about 400 locations where trivia was being played!


GREEDY CORNER: See all jackpot carryovers here.

Purse-slashing shocker
Gulfstream reduces purses for Pegasus Cup races from $16m to $4m

Has lost a bit of sheen
The sheen on Gulfstream’s Pegasus-Slaying-Dragon statue has taken a bit of a hit as the track is severely slashing purses for the two Pegasus World Cup races to be held Saturday, Jan. 25. The Pegasus World Cup on dirt will now carry a purse of $3 million--down from $9 million--and the turf Pegasus will be $1 million instead of $7 million.

But now entry into the races will be by invitation only and carries no entry fee. The race also will require horses to be medication-free on race day.

That appears to mean that Maximum Security, the recent impressive winner of the Cigar Mile and disqualified winner of the Kentucky Derby, will skip the Pegasus and head for the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup in Saudi Arabia at the end of February. Will other Pegasus possibilities flee as well?


These player won tournaments throughout the year. Congrats to all!

December tournament winner Al Ilott receives $1,000 from tourney director Dawn Forbes (Sheri Glendinning photo)
AL ILOTT WINS FINAL TOURNAMENT: Congrats to aircraft fueling manager--and recent father--Al Ilott who won the final Player’s Choice tournament of the year on Saturday. His two biggest plays were:
  • War Story at Gulfstream race 10 -- worth $41.60 -- a huge overlay horse, went off at 12-1 despite a morning line of 7-2
  • Bank On Shea at Aqueduct race 8 -- worth $31.90 -- a 2-year-old colt with a 31% jockey/trainer success rate
The top five shared $1,750 in prize money. They were:
  1. Al Ilott -- bankroll $133.10 -- $1,000 prize money
  2. Kevin Palmer -- $120.70 -- $400
  3. Earl Grantham -- $112.70 -- $200
  4. Trevor Tilston-Jones -- $96.80 -- $100
  5. Glen Gray -- $94.10 -- $50 (said that Woodbine’s cancelled races cost him because he had left before two of his races were to be run)
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TOP 10 PLAYERS OF 2019: Players entered tournaments throughout the year, with seven of 12 of their best point scores counting toward $3,500 in year-end prizes. Here are the top 10 with their points and prize money:

  1. David Blake -- 259 points -- $1,500 prize money
  2. Brian McKellar -- 258 -- $750
  3. Kevin Palmer -- 254 -- $550
  4. Alan Hampton -- 249 -- $300
  5. Al Ilott -- 244 -- $150
  6. Earl Grantham -- 243 -- $50
  7. Geoffrey Metcalf -- 236 -- $50
  8. Ron Phelps -- 233 -- $50
  9. Roger Jones -- 229 -- $50
  10. Trevor Tilston-Jones -- 228 -- $50


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BLAKE WON’T BE PLAYING IN VEGAS TOURNEY: Handicapper of the Year David Blake says business obligations will keep him from participating in the Horse Player World Series in Las Vegas in March. He had won two tournaments during live racing which qualified him for a Vegas trip for one win and a cash payout for the second victory. He opted instead to take $5,000 for the two wins ($2,500 each). That leaves Chris Trubyk and Bonnie Simmonds to represent ASD in the Vegas tournament.

THAT’S A NO-NO! JOCKEYS SUSPENDED FOR WHIP HAND-OFF: A hockey player can hand his stick to a player who has broken or dropped his stick, but in the world of racing, it’s a no-no for a jockey to hand his whip to another jockey during a race. Which means two Golden Gate jocks have been handed a suspension of 30 calendar days for a whip hand-off in race 6 last Thursday. Silvio Amador, whose horse was tiring, handed his whip to Julien Couton, who had dropped his whip and was driving to the finish line. He finished third. See the hand-off video here.

A new California Horse Racing Board rule that would limit whipping to six hits in a race is being circulated for public comment for 45 days before the rule is officially adopted. No more than two strikes in a row would be permitted. At its next meeting in January the board will discuss permissible riding crops.

Top jock and race caller say good-bye
Woodbine top jock Eurico Da Silva retires as does Los Al race caller Ed Burgart

Eurico Da Silva rode his last race Sunday and Ed Burgart called his final quarter horse race
How often do you see a jockey quit while he’s on top? That’s what Eurico Da Silva, 44, did Sunday at Woodbine, capping off his 182-win season--and sixth leading-jockey title--with his 19th stakes victory aboard favourite Pumpkin Rumble in the 1 ¾-mile marathon Valedictory Stakes. His mounts earned $9.8 million in Woodbine’s 133-day meet.

Also retiring Sunday after 39 years was popular, personable Los Alamitos quarter-horse caller, Ed Burgart. His final day ended with a meet-and-greet with his fans while his replacement, Michael Wrona (see below), called the first race. Then Burgart ended his career with eight calls, culminating in the richest quarter horse race in the world, the 2 Million Futurity.

“I think he was easily the best quarter horse race caller around -- a perfect voice for it.”
said quarter horse aficionado and ASD fan-education specialist Glen Sirkis who has met him.

Michael Wrona, whose signature race call begins with “Racing!”, takes over the microphone when Los Al quarter horses return two weeks from tomorrow at 9 p.m. He called races at Santa Anita from 2016-2018.


WOODBINE OFFERS $5,500 BONUS FOR NEW WOODBINE STARTERS: To increase field sizes, Woodbine is offering horsemen who raced there for at least three months this year up to $5,500 just for shipping in and racing new horses at Woodbine next spring providing the horses have raced at another track between Oct. 1 and March 1 in a $25,000 claiming race or higher. Horsemen would receive $1,000 for shipping and $1,500 a start, up to three starts (to be completed by June 6). This offer would help offset costs if trainers discover that a shipped-in horse doesn’t take to the Tapeta surface.

Thanks to the cancellation of races 4 to 12 at Woodbine last Saturday because of a soggy track, the “I won bigger” betting group was rewarded with a $374 refund on a losing pick-5 ticket (because only two legs of the pick-5 had been run) which means there’s $1,100 in the bank to bet the late pick-5 at Tampa this Saturday—and perhaps other pick-5 or pick-6 bets you find playable. See you at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza to turn those funds into major holiday cash!
SAVVY NFL PICKS by TravyFootball: Week 16
  • Broncos over Lions (Sunday afternoon): The Lions have nothing to play for. They already announced they will be retaining head coach Matt Patricia for the 2020 season and I don’t know why! The Broncos maybe have found their future QB in Drew Lock.
  • Panthers over Colts (Sunday noon): The Colts were officially eliminated from the playoffs last week After getting thrashed by the Saints on Monday night. QB Jacoby Brissett is playing for his future right now and trying to prove the Colts shouldn’t go in a different direction in 2020.
  • Bucs over Texans (Saturday noon): In three games this season, Bucs QB Jameis Winston was intercepted on his first pass of the game but is turning into a must-watch player each week -- and not necessarily for good reasons.
  • Ravens over Browns (Sunday noon): The Browns are a mess (again) and one of the biggest disappointments of 2019. Look for them to rebuild yet again in the off-season.

MY $5 PROLINE TICKET (worth $115.25): Bucs over Texans ($3.05), Panthers/Colts tie ($3.90), Broncos over Lions ($1.55), Seahawks over Cardinals ($1.25) Record: -$55

PICKS RECORD: Last week: 2 correct out of 4. Overall (since week 3): 31 correct out of 52.

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SAVVY NFL PICKS by TravyFootball: Week 17

  • Broncos over Raiders (Sunday afternoon): The very last game the Raiders will play before moving to Las Vegas and it couldn’t come soon enough. Two weeks ago they were booed off the field at home as fans threw beer cans and other garbage on to the field.
  • Jags over Colts (Sunday noon): Two teams with nothing to play for other than jobs next season. Expect the Jags to clean house after the season is over. They also will have to decide what to do with QB Nick Foles in the off-season.
  • Browns over Bengals (Sunday noon): The sad battle of Ohio. There’s not much to say about this game, other that when it’s over the Bengals will be counting down the weeks until commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium and says: “With the first pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select, quarterback Joe Burrow, University of Louisiana”. Rams over Cardinals (Sunday afternoon): The Rams are just hoping to finish the season with a win. They have some interesting decisions to make in the off-season since they don’t have a first round draft pick and are right up against the salary cap.

NOTE: 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.


NORTHERN SPIKE VS MR. MACHO: Do you remember the rivalry between Spike and Macho in 1979 and 1980? Both ran in the 1980 edition of the Manitoba Derby and had legitimate shots at winning the Queen's Cup. Click here for the result. (First published June 2017)

Did you know that before CowboyJack made the big-time with his Aloma's Ruler win in the 1982 Preakness Stakes, Jack got his "underage" start in racing at the Downs in the summer of 1980? Bob has the Cowboy's story here. (First published May 2018)
Open 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Xmas Eve and Xmas Day for VLT play and “pick an ornament”
  • Tonight: Turkey/dressing/gravy time! Christmas-themed prime rib buffet
  • Tuesday, Dec. 24: CHRISTMAS EVE ASD is open regular hours 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. with 140 VLTs, festive beverages and snacks and win $5 to $100 in the “pick an ornament” game. No simulcast racing.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 25: MERRY CHRISTMAS Same as above.
  • Thursday, Dec. 26: BOXING DAY/CHANUKAH BUFFET Racing resumes at 11:25 a.m. Dig into potato latkes, lemon glazed chicken, mushroom kugel, brisket and more in the Chanukah-themed prime rib buffet
  • Tuesday, Dec. 31: NEW YEAR’S EVE featuring the New Year’s Eve gala.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 1: Happy New Year! Happy birthday, race horses! Kentucky Derby prep race: Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct
For reservations for buffets and New Year’s Eve Gala call Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.
  NEXT INSIDER: Thursday, Jan. 2

Happy holidays!
Did you check out the Event Calendar

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3975 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3K 2E9
Ph (204) 885.3330 • Fax (204) 831.5348

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