Thursday, December 20, 2018

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 13 No. 50 (Issue #668)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

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

NOTE: This is a TWO WEEK edition of The Insider. Be sure to click on the calendar under DO THE DOWNS for the daily highlights during the upcoming holidays.

Is it snowing? Make it snow by clicking here. (Tenor photo)

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Will super-filly Escape Clause make Manitobans super proud? Biggest test is 9 sleeps away
  • More than $1 million pool likely this Saturday in Woodbine harness mandatory payout
  • Do the Downs Xmas Eve and Xmas Day ($13.95 turkey dinner) and New Year's Eve ($20 buffet)
  • Who's the 2018 Handicapper of the Year?
  • So close: "Bigger" betting group just misses pick-5 that pays $35,500
  • When should you hit the ALL button in your horizontal wagers? See Marshall's column.
Anne Champion
"3 for the money" pride
ANNE CHAMPION HITS “3 FOR THE MONEY;” SHARES PRIZE WITH RUNNER-UP: Congrats to horse owner Anne Champion whose correct “3 for the money” entry at Woodbine Saturday won her $150 in wagering vouchers. She thoughtfully shared the prize with retired math prof Jim Roberts whose entry was also correct but who lost out to Champion in the draw. So, this Saturday, “3 for the money” reverts to a $50 prize. Track: Gulfstream, first three races of the late pick-4. And the following Saturday, Dec. 29, the contest races will be at Santa Anita starting with race 6, the Robert J. Frankel Stakes that Escape Clause is pointed to.

The five players drawn from entries to receive a $10 wagering voucher were Anne Champion, Bill Latta, Brian McKellar, Chris Lucyshyn and Sue Mymko.

Enjoy complimentary hot apple cider

ENJOY HOT APPLE CIDER, MUNCHIES AND MORE IN THE VLT LOUNGE: ‘Tis the season for fun and perks in the Club West Gaming Lounge including complimentary hot apple cider, hot chocolate, munchies and, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a chance to win holiday cash by picking an ornament from the tree.

January at the OTBs means a $25 draw for wagering vouchers and an ASD toque every Saturday.
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 December? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Jets, NFL. ASD subscribes to NHL League Pass - watch any NHL game any day!

FREE VLT TOURNAMENTS: Enter in the Club West Gaming lounge every Friday and Saturday 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 (EXCEPT DEC. 28 & 29): $10 buy-in poker in the clubhouse on the second level. Please note that registration begins at 7:00 p.m. Game starts at 8:30 p.m. Maximum of 60 players. No late registration.

Who can resist eggs benedict?

IRRESISTIBLE BREAKFASTS CONTINUE FROM 9 AM TO NOON DAILY: Be sure to arrive at the Downs before noon to dig into so many delicious breakfast items on Chef Gerardo’s menu including stuffed hashbrown (shredded potato stuffed with cheddar cheese, onion and bacon topped with two eggs and toast $11.95), eggs benedict $11.95, At the Post (two eggs, bacon or sausage, hashbrowns and toast $7.95), breakfast sandwich $5.95, omelets $10.95, breakfast wrap $6.95, hot oatmeal $3.95, Belgian waffles or pancakes $6.95, grilled cinnamon bun $2.95 and muffin $1.95.

No need to search high and low for gifts when ASD gift cards are as close as the VLT cage at the Downs. Any denomination you choose. And you KNOW how delicious and reasonably priced the Downs’ Thursday night prime rib buffets are – with a dessert that is the talk of the town: hot bacon bourbon brownies. Your gift-card recipient is sure to thank you again and again.

Pick up tickets at the VLT cage or general office for the New Year’s Eve casual buffet in the Clubhouse from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Entrees include pork souvlaki, fried chicken and roast beef au jus. Plus mashed potatoes, salads and dessert cakes. Load up a plate and seat yourself. Just $20.18 including tax. Of course, 140 VLTs are in play and these simulcast race tracks.
Did you know . . . that eggs benedict originated at the Waldorf Hotel in New York in 1894 when a stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict, suffering with a hangover, ordered “ some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs and a hooker of hollandaise sauce.” Note: You don’t have to have a hangover to order eggs benedict at the Downs from 9 a.m. to noon daily—with two different sauces available! ($11.95 includes coffee).


After further input from horsemen, the final 2019 live racing schedule has been released. It will be a 50-day meet starting on Mother’s Day, May 12 and concluding Sunday, Sept. 8. See it here.

“We received significant feedback from our horsemen about the initial calendar,”
CEO Darren Dunn told The Insider.“As we value opinions and are sensitive to those who race at Assiniboia Downs, we revisited the calendar and adjusted it to meet those concerns.” 


Will the "darling of Del Mar" become "Santa's sweetie?"

Manitoba's Escape Clause is pointed to $150,000 stakes next Saturday at Santa Anita

“She’s better than she’s ever been in her life,” owner/trainer Don Schnell told The Insider enthusiastically this week from Turf Paradise in Phoenix after Manitoba’s super-filly Escape Clause had a workout over the track there in preparation for a race 587 kilometres west of there—at Santa Anita--a week from this Saturday.

The 4-year-old filly, dubbed the “darling of Del Mar’ after she won the $75,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes on Nov. 9 despite humble beginnings, will be taking on other fillies and mares in the 1 1/8-mile $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes on the turf.

“She’s at the top of her game,”
Schnell said, adding that her third place finish in the $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap at 1 3/8-miles at Del Mar on Nov. 22 set her up for an even bigger effort in the planned race on Dec. 29.

So you have two Clauses to give homage to next week: the rotund one with two legs toting a big bag of goodies and the muscled four-legged one carrying Ruben Fuentes and the hopes of a province.

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to former police officer Brian McKellar for earning the Handicapper of the Year title for the second time! His specialty is horse breeding. As a participant in Saturday’s “I won bigger” betting group, his one-word proclamation--”blood”-- about a first-time starter is enough for the group to consider adding that horse to its tickets. He also is involved in horse ownership. He accumulated more points than anyone else in seven out of 12 tournaments held in 2018. The best players of the year and their points and cash prizes are:
  1. Brian McKellar – 279 points -- $1,500
  2. John Whitehill – 274 points – $750
  3. Greg Earl – 260 points – $550
  4. Doug Evans – 259 points – $300
  5. Chris Lucyshyn & Chuck Whalen – 249 points – $150
  6. Ron Phelps – 247 points – $50
  7. Geoffrey Metcalf – 243 points – $50
  8. Al Ilott – 242 points – $50
  9. Alan Hampton & Ken Stewin – 231 points -- $50
  10. Kathleen Buckoski -- 229 points --$50
See the full leaderboard here.

Winner Bill Drew (seated) receives $1,000 from tourney director Dawn Forbes as Bob Pistawka, 2nd, (left) and Doug Evans, 3rd, look on

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to businessman and horse breeder Bill Drew for winning Saturday’s Player’s Choice handicapping tournament, his first tourney victory ever at ASD. His three big plays—and why he bet them--came in maiden races:
  • Rohrbacher won at odds of 5-1 in race 3 at Tampa: Michael Stidham (a 38 per cent trainer) entered two horses. I think it's good to give special consideration to hidden entries. If everything else looks good, why not?”
  • Letzgometz won at odds of 19-1 in race 4 at Aqueduct: “It was a field of relatively inexpensive NY-breds and they paid decent money for this horse as a 2-year old.”
  • Poppy’s Jewel won at odds of 7-1 in race 10 at Tampa: “Again a few positive angles and possibly the most important was a trainer switch.”
Players were required to wager $2 win/place/show on a horse in 10 races between noon and 4:30 p.m. That means each player was required to wager a total of $60. The top five winners were:
  1. Bill Drew -- $115.40 bankroll -- $1,000 prize money
  2. Bob Pistawka -- $105.80 -- $400
  3. Doug Evans -- $83.70 -- $200
  4. Geoffrey Metcalf -- $81.70 -- $100
  5. Ken Stewin -- $78.30 -- $50
See the full tourney results here. The first 2019 Player’s Choice tourney is the last Saturday of January.

Robert Nokes
Wins at Remington Park

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to horse owner Robert Nokes and his son, Robert, who took United Patriot, the second-place finisher in the Manitoba Derby, to Remington Park in Oklahoma where, on Sunday, they won the $70,000 Jim Thorpe Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 3-year-olds. The gelding earlier in the meet won a $40,000 allowance race. Back in 2007, Nokes Sr.’s Rage Till Dawn won the Derby Trial Stakes at ASD but had to settle for second to Weather Warning in the Manitoba Derby and he made waves again in 2015 and 2016 when his horses won back-to-back Frank Arnason Sire Stakes with Madd Edition and Sound Design.

to players who tell me they are having success following “rules” written about in The Insider. In fact, several have suggested I write a book on these rules. Hmm. Something to think about. Actually, I’ve had experience writing a book but it was on my other passion—gardening. I wrote about starting seedlings under lights, a booklet that sold thousands of copies.


"Almost" $35,000. Ouch!

"Bigger" betting group misses big payoff because of failure to cite "rule" horse

Except for a minor oversight, Saturday’s “I won bigger” group would have been cashing a pick-5 at Woodbine that paid $35,515 for a 20-cent ticket.

The missed leg (race 4) was a horse that had cut back to a sprint after showing quick pace at a route (127 pace figure) but no one called it a “rule” horse because 7f wasn’t being thought of as a “sprint.” The group was more used to races under 7f being termed “sprint.” If someone—anyone—had said the horse was a “rule,” that horse, #2 Grom at 32-1, would quickly have been added to the ticket. Every other leg was won by a “rule” horse. (No “opinion” horses.)

#2 Grom catches #7 at the wire in race 4 (groan)

Race 2: Winner, #6 Cool Gizmo at 7-2, Rule: had the LOWEST ADDED-UP NUMBERS in a maiden race. (Add where the horse finished last time to the horse’s position at the first call of the race before that.)
Race 3:
Winner, #8 Rock You at 7-1. Rule: In bottom level claimers, take horses with the HIGHEST SPEED NUMBERS SOMEWHERE in their past performances. (This rule was added two weeks ago and it paid off here. Other horses in the race actually had better recent records.)
Race 4:
Winner, #2 Grom at 32-1. Missed rule: The 7-year-old gelding was cutting back to a sprint (7f) after showing early speed in a route--1 1/16 miles. This won’t be missed again!
Race 5:
Winner, #6 Descent at 10-1. Rule: Horse with highest pace numbers could get loose and win—which is what happened.
Race 6:
Winner, #3 Never Sober at 3-1. Rule: Had the lowest added up numbers in a maiden race. (See race 2 for same rule.) There were just two winning 20-cent tickets. Actually, I had the 32-1 horse marked as a player but, without a “rule” designation, it slipped to the sidelines when the ticket was created. Ouch!

With Woodbine finished, “I won bigger” play reverts to Tampa Bay where, last January, the group had its biggest month ever with winnings of $24,000. That’s 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza this Saturday and next Saturday, Dec. 29.

What about the side wager at a “big carryover” track? What about playing the Jackpot Hi-5 at Woodbine harness Saturday night which has a mandatory payoff of more than $1 million?


Do you want to bet on the red, green or black horses?

NEW BET AT SANTA: BETTING ON RED, GREEN OR BLACK HORSES. WHAT? One of the most original bets in some time has come along and Santa Anita will be the first to try it in its winter/spring meet that starts on Boxing Day, Dec. 26. It’s called Horse Racing Roulette and it gives players a chance to put their win money on red, green or black. What they will get is horses grouped together in one of those colours. Red will likely be favourites; green, the longshots. Presumably the track oddsmaker will do the grouping—only in races with six or more horses. Sounds like a fun wager for partying groups who don’t want to take the time to handicap. What do you think?

Longshot winners have been rare on the road to the Kentucky Derby the last few years so when one pops up, players take notice as they did Sunday at Remington Park when Steve Asmussen’s Long Range Toddy, the son of Take Charge Indy, won the $400,000 Springboard Mile by a head at odds of 18-1. His Equibase speed figure was 98, 10 fewer than the prep race leader Improbable. The 6-5 favourite was Orb’s son, Epic Dreamer, trained by Kelly Breen. He finished sixth. Next on tap: The Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on New Year’s Day.

Tips ’n’ Tricks

with Marshall Posner

Q: When should I hit the ALL button in my horizontal wagers?

A: There are lots of professional opinions on whether to press the ALL button in your wagers. Most of them recommend you never do that. I disagree. I think there are several situations where you should use the ALL button including:
  1. When should you push it?

    A bottom-level claiming race where there are several different low-level trainers and jockeys. These races repeatedly produce longshot winners. Get to know the bottom-level claiming races at the tracks you play regularly.
  2. A chaos race where there are several unknowns such as first-time starters, low percentage jockeys/trainers, several horses that are dropping from higher levels, several horses that are coming from other race tracks or a race that has been taken off the turf because of an off-track. If any of these conditions best describe the race you’re handicapping, then definitely consider hitting the ALL button.
Got a question for Marshall? Email

THE BEST OF BOB: What two horses won "triple crowns" at ASD?

Did you know that Saskatchewan native Larry Carter owned the first two horses in Downs' history to win the ASD “triple crown” in the same year -- the Wheat City, the R. J. Speers and the Gold Cup? Who were his two champions and when did they accomplish the feat? Read Bob’s blog here. (First published in July, 2014.)


  • Xmas-themed prime rib buffet tonight; enjoy VLT action and turkey dinner on Xmas Eve and Xmas Day

    Tonight: Traditional Christmas-themed   prime rib buffet, pasta bar, salad bar and dessert bar. Reserve with Samantha at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.
  • Monday, Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.  No racing but there’s festive fun: VLTs 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., pick an ornament from the tree to win holiday cash and enjoy a delicious turkey dinner special for just $13.95. Includes roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, chef's vegetable, gravy, dinner roll and cranberry sauce.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 25, Merry Christmas! Same festive fun as above from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Also, play Australian races on your HPI account.
  • Wednesday, Dec. 26, Boxing Day. Full day of racing starts with Laurel and Monticello (H) at 11:30 a.m. Santa Anita winter/spring meet begins 2:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 27: Certified Angus prime rib buffet, additional entrees, pasta bar, salad bar and dessert bar. Reserve at 204-885-3330 ext. 0.
  • Saturday, Dec. 29: Escape Clause likely to be entered in the $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes.
  • Monday, Dec. 31: ALMOST SOLD OUT! New Year's Eve Gala hosted by 94.3 The Drive's  Tom and  Kerri, eight strolling food stations, music by Nu Frequency, photo booth, party favours and late-night snack. Tickets $49.95 available at the General Office or call Samantha at 204-885-3330 (ext. 0)
  • Monday, Dec. 31: New Year's Eve casual buffet $20.18 (including taxes) in the Clubhouse from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Entrees include pork souvlaki, fried chicken and roast beef au jus. Plus mashed potatoes, salads and dessert cakes. See menu here. Get tickets at the VLT cage. (New Year’s Eve Gala on the main level is almost sold out.)
  • Tuesday, January 1: Happy New Year and Happy Birthday (to all race horses in North America). Racing begins with Aqueduct at 11:20 a.m. Kentucky Derby prep race (Jerome) at Aqueduct.
  • Saturday, Jan. 5: Kentucky Derby prep race (Sham) at Santa Anita.
NEXT INSIDER: Thursday, Jan. 3

Happy Winter Solstice! Merry Christmas!
And Happy Festivus for the rest of us.

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