Thursday, March 26 , 2020

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 15  No. 12 (Issue #731)

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


Sign of the times
At the corner of Portage Avenue and
Race Track Road

While ASD remains shuttered to the public in the face of the coronavirus threat, simulcast racing continues from tracks devoid of spectators.


12:15 p.m. Gulfstream in Florida with a 20-cent Rainbow pick-6 carryover of $1.4 million
1:30 p.m. Oaklawn Park in Arkansas
2:45 p.m. Golden Gate in California with a 20-cent Jackpot pick-6 carryover of $300K
6:00 p.m. Remington Park in Oklahoma
8:00 p.m. Australia

(Manitobans only) please email simulcast/program director Sheri at the email address below. Specify whether you’d like (a) the Equibase program with pace/speed figures or (b) the DRF program with Beyer speed figures.:

  • ONLINE ON YOUR HPI ACCOUNT: No HPI account? Phone the ASD mutuel desk at 204-885-330 ext. 225 to sign up. Your first $20 in wagers are free!
  • ON THE TELEPHONE: Place your wagers with an operator at 204-885-9800, ASD’s TAB (Telephone Account Betting) phone line
  • AT OTB SITES: As of this writing, these off-track sites were open--Rookies, Green Brier, Canad Inns Windsor Park and the Pembina Hotel.
WHERE TO WATCH ON TV AND ONLINE: Bell MTS channels 179 & 180. Fox Sports has also been carrying weekend races. The channel is available in the Bell MTS sports package (channels 1170-1182) and online follow instructions at Fox Sports.

See the race schedule for the next 10 days here.
See pool carryovers here.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • He made a billion dollars playing the races. That's "billion" with a "B."
  • About $10 million at stake Saturday in must-pay 20-cent Rainbow 6 at Gulfstream
  • This endangered mammal is likely our initial coronavirus contact
  • A "royal" ASD race program that hardly anyone saw
  • Manitoba mare’s son is truly a “golden” father


If you already entered the contest to win a $200 bankroll to play the Kentucky Derby, you may email your prediction for the Florida Derby winner at Gulfstream Park by 2 p.m. Saturday.

Email your prediction to Be sure to include your full name. Download entries here. (Or request a program from Sheri at above email on Friday or Saturday.)

See current standings in the KENTUCKY DERBY COUNTDOWN CONTEST here. A draw will be made for a set of Derby glasses once the Downs reopens. Winner will be contacted.

Billionaire horseplayer
He beat the races using mathematical algorithms

Bill Benter is a guy you’ve likely never heard of--but he did something most horseplayers could only dream of doing. Banned from Las Vegas casinos for card-counting at blackjack, he turned his attention to developing mathematical algorithms to play the races with a partner in Hong Kong where he became a billionaire. That’s billionaire with a “B.”

He didn’t even collect his final $20 million in winnings--his score for having the only winning ticket on the giant Triple Trio wager pool-- because he just wanted to prove his system could even solve the trickiest of wagers--predicting three triactors in a row on huge fields of horses.

Now he spends most of his time giving away his money to charitable foundations and to the U.S. Democratic Party. He reportedly gave $1 million to the University of Pittsburgh in the city in which he was born and now lives.

According to an online biography, he moved to Hong Kong--where the average betting pool per race is about $20 million--and began betting the races in 1984, losing $150,000 in his first year as he fine-tuned his system. Essentially, he bets on horses that, according to reams of computerized stats, have a better chance of winning than the odds say they have.

Watch the video “HOW TO MAKE $1 BILLION ON HORSE RACING” here.

"There is nothing that's not on the table"
Darren Dunn still wants to begin live racing on Mother's Day with strict protocols, no public

While the coronavirus has created uncertainties, as things stand now, says ASD CEO Darren Dunn, the goal of Assiniboia Downs is to begin racing on Mother’s Day Sunday, May 10.

Then again, he said, the situation is “evolving” and “there is nothing that’s not on the table” as far as the future goes.

Manitoba has had a more positive experience with COVID-19 than most other places, with just 35 cases as of writing this.
*       *       *


Fire in the press box and Princess Anne’s aborted visit were the last two

A race program you never saw
Click on image so you can read the bottom
(courtesy of track historian Bob Gates)
With Assiniboia Downs on a two-week shutdown in the wake of the coronavirus threat, other ASD shutdowns come to mind:

(1) The Downs was shuttered to Princess Anne on Wednesday, July 14, 1982, the very day she was to dine at the Downs and make a presentation in a stakes race named for her. That was the first day of a 10-day shutdown that ended when the provincial government stepped in to save the track from an owner who didn’t have the capital (when interest rates were 18 per cent) to keep it going. The owner had tried to use the Princess’s visit as leverage to obtain favourable financial concessions from the province. Historian Bob has the details here.

(2) The press box fire on May 16, 2004
. An early-morning fire of undetermined cause ravaged the original press box that “hung” from the roof of the grandstand. Sadly, valuable historical videos were lost in the blaze but a yeoman effort put the pieces into place for racing to resume within 10 days.

Where did the virus come from?

Bats to pangolins to humans is thought to be the transmission course

So where did the coronavirus come from? Online reports suggest it came from a mammal being sold at a market in China just as the SARS virus did in 2003. A preference for meat from freshly-killed animals results in various kinds of live animals--including exotic ones--being sold at these markets.

For the coronavirus, an armadillo-like endangered mammal called a pangolin is suspected of being the intermediary that passed the virus on to humans and, for SARS, the animal was a cat-like creature called a civet. It is believed both had contracted the virus from bats.

“There’s always been a list of these new viruses popping up and it’s just this one’s time to come
,” Ontario epidemiologist Jeff Kwong is quoted as saying about the coronavirus. “Who knows when the next one will be? Could be in a few years. It could be a few decades. It’s hard to predict these things.”

The pangolin, by the way, is a threatened species that is being supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Pangolin scales are in demand because they are thought to have medicinal benefits and pangolin meat is considered a delicacy.

*       *       *
CORONAVIRUS AND HORSES: An equine coronavirus that doesn’t affect humans originated at a race track in northern Japan in 2009. It infects mainly middle-aged horses at boarding facilities in a limited way and has popped up in outbreaks around the world, especially in the past five years, but most horses recover. The virus is spread through manure of an infected horse.

“To work together, we’ve got to stay apart.”
“Better to be six feet apart than six feet under.”
POCKET PLENTY IN '20: Using the billionaire's logic to pick horses

The billionaire horseplayer above spent nine months inputting data on horses into a computer to formulate algorithms that led to his success. But the logic behind it all is quite simple: he bet horses who had a better chance of winning (or finishing in other positions) than the odds showed. In a less-sophisticated way, you can go through a race, writing in the odds you think a horse should have--then bet the horses whose odds are higher than you think they should be.

Because Ontario has ordered non-essential businesses to shut down in the face of COVID-19, Woodbine has announced that since it can’t train horses, the opening of its thoroughbred race season is on hold.

Goldencents’ son, By My Standards, wins Grade 2 stakes at Fair Grounds
GOLDEN FATHER: Goldencents, the son of a Manitoba mare, continues to sire exceptional offspring. By My Standards, a Goldencents/A Jealous Woman colt won the $400,000 Grade 2 New Orleans Classic Saturday at Fair Grounds, paying $6.60. He was last year’s winner of the Louisiana Derby. Goldencents was the number one sire in the world last year of second-crop foals. Goldencents’ mother is Golden Works, a mare bred in Manitoba by the late Phil Kives.

The novel coronavirus certainly has created novelty in our lives. From my home in north Winnipeg, I guested on a radio gardening show Sunday (my other passion) while the host questioned me from her home in south Winnipeg and the show’s producer put the show on the air from his home in east Winnipeg.

When making a car insurance payment, I had to phone the office ahead of time, describing what I was wearing (toque and sunglasses) so an agent would unlock the outside door of her company office and reach out to hand me my receipt as I extended my arm to give her a folder of cash. Followed, when I got home, by vigorous handwashing, of course.
THE BEST OF BOB: A record-setting mystery man

How many winners does a jockey have to ride to have a great night - a hat trick, a four or five-bagger, how about six winners? Any jock would be thrilled with that kind of an effort, but how about seven wins on a card? Read Bob's account of the night Jimmy Sorenson could do no wrong here. (First published in June 2015)
  • This Saturday: Mandatory payout of the Rainbow pick-6 at Gulfstream with an estimated pool of $10 million. Also at Gulfstream: the Florida Derby, a Kentucky Derby prep race.
  • Saturday, April 4: Santa Anita Derby, another Derby prep race.
  • Saturday, May 2: The final Derby prep race, the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. The Kentucky Derby has been moved to the first Saturday in September.

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

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