Friday, May 22, 2020

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 15  No. 20 (Issue #739)

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



as spectator-less live racing begins Monday at 7:30
  • YOU NEED A BETTING ACCOUNT: You need an HPI account ( to wager on the races online. Go to HPIbet or phone 204-885-3330 ext. 225 to sign up. Bet $20, get $20 credited to your account.

  • MON-TUES-WED RACING GOES EVERY WEEK: The 50-day meet--which will be spectator-less because of coronavirus directives--will run Monday to Wednesday every week until Tuesday, Sept. 15.

  • THERE IS A CASH-BACK BONUS OF 3% when you wager at least $40 on each day--Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week--on ASD races on your HPI account. (Except for $2.10 payoffs.) Maximum bonus each day: $100. You must opt-in at or if you are calling in your bets to a TAB operator, you must advise you would like to opt-in to be eligible for this promotion. Get more details here.

  • $10,000 GUARANTEE: There is a guaranteed $10,000 pick-4 pool every live race day through May and June. The pool will be “seeded” with $2,143.75 which is the “overage” in money submitted at the end of shifts by tellers selling and cashing mutuel tickets.

  • STAKES FEATURES: Each of the first three days will feature a stakes race honouring a famous horse from ASD’s past: Go Go Lolo, Liz’s Pride and IwoodifIcould.

  • FREE PROGRAMS SUNDAY: Free programs for the first three race days of racing at Assiniboia Downs are available the following ways: At, via email (as soon as each race card is complete) or the three programs will be delivered to your home on Sunday by registering now at 204-885-3330 ext. 225.

  • HANDICAPPING SHOW EVERY RACE DAY: Track announcer Kirt Contois and fan education specialists Marshall and “Stretch” are teaming up for “ASD Live,” a new race analysis show broadcast before each race card (6:45 to 7:15 p.m.) and between the races.

  • MONTHLY ONLINE TOURNAMENTS: Online handicapping tournaments will be held in June, July, August and September with the top prize being a trip for two to Las Vegas to participate in next spring’s Horse Player World Series--or $2,500 in cash. Get a deduction on the $50 tourney entry fee by predicting three winners on race cards leading up to the tournaments. See tourney details here.
Assiniboia Downs is the first racetrack in Canada to offer live racing this year because of coronavirus concerns. Woodbine will follow on Saturday, June 6. Century Mile in Edmonton and Hastings Park in Vancouver are working toward doing the same.


A full complement of tracks starts today with Tampa at 11:45 a.m. For full schedule click here.
  • TWICE-A-DAY HOME DELIVERIES, PICK-UPS CONTINUE: Call 204-885-3330 ext. 225 before 10 a.m. and an ASD staffer will deliver race programs or pick up a deposit at your home by 2 p.m. Call before 2 p.m. and the delivery/pick-up will be made by 5 p.m. Distancing protocols are in place.
  • FREE ONLINE RACE PROGRAMS will be emailed to Manitoba players. Email your request to Sheri at Please specify what track you would like and whether you’d like an Equibase or DRF program
  • WHERE TO BET: Bet on your phone, laptop or computer through an HPI ( account which you can open by calling 204-885-3330 ext. 225. Telephone wagering is also available at 204-885-9800.

Bullet briefs . . .

  • Top 10 ways to get ready for live racing
  • Who are the new jockeys?
  • Why is this the Year of the Asterisk?
  • Will the Preakness Stakes be the most important leg of the Triple Crown?
  • Historian Bob is back with a brand new series of columns

PREDICT PREP RACE TRIACTOR TO WIN GROUP SHARE: The Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs tomorrow is a new qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby. Predict the top three horses in the correct order to win a free $25 share in next Saturday’s “I won bigger” group play. Email your entry to by 2 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday). See entries here.

Click to enlarge.

  • $500K carryover today in Gulfstream’s 20-cent Rainbow pick-6. First post 11 a.m.
  • $200K carryover today in Tampa Bay’s jackpot pick-6. First post 11:45 a.m.
  • $250K carryover today in Santa Anita’s jackpot pick-6. First post 2:30 p.m.

EYE ON LIVE (cont'd)


By Marshall Posner and Glen "Stretch" Sirkis, fan education specialists
  1. “Stretch” (left) and Marshall -- watch them and track announcer Kirt Contois on “ASD Live” before and between races
    Load up your HPIbet account and download your ASD programs as soon as they become available. Better yet, call the Downs at 204-885-3330 ext. 225 to have a deposit picked up and programs for the first three days of racing dropped off. If you haven’t logged into your HPI account since last September, refresh yourself. 
  2. Pay attention to horses that have raced this year, if there are any. Even lower class ones have a fitness edge to start the year.
  3. Does a horse have sprinter speed or is it a deep closer? Short distances such as four or five furlongs are often won gate-to-wire so figure out who’s fastest early in the race. And pay attention to race shape.
  4. Check out trainer stats. Some are better at getting horses ready off a long layoff while others need their horses to have a start or two before they’re primed to run their best.
  5. Check out workouts. Is there a steady pattern of workouts, equally distanced apart? This could give you strong clues about which horses are ready to run off the shelf.
  6. Look at the horse's record at the distance of today's race. Is this a prep race for a miler or a sprinter who’s ready to roll?
  7. Look at last year’s jockey’s standings to see if any of the top jocks are back. The best jockeys usually ride the best horses.
  8. When handicapping, look at a horse’s back class, not just their last race. Handicap from the bottom up instead of top down at the beginning of the season.
  9. Watch the post parade for any physical clues about how a horse is doing. Also check for equipment changes, blinkers on or off, bandages on or off, etc.
  10. Watch “ASD Live” every race day to get analysis and Best Bets from Kirt, Marshall and “Stretch”!


Whitehall faces Sarmiento for stakes supremacy

Sarmiento won 11 stakes last year; Whitehall won eight

2019 stakes kings Rigo Sarmiento (left) and Antonio Whitehall
With about a dozen Caribbean jockeys awaiting permission to come to Canada in these coronavirus times--including last year’s leading rider, Richard Mairs--two stakes-winning powerhouses top the current ASD jockey colony--ASD’S Antonio Whitehall and Alberta’s Rigo Sarmiento.

Sarmiento, with 465 starts last year, had 11 stakes victories and his horses earned $1.3 million. His win rate was 20 per cent. Whitehall, with about half as many starts (249) won eight stakes and his horses earned $459K. His win rate was 19 per cent.

Remember? Whitehall won the Winnipeg Futurity and Graduation with Cash Or Card, the CTHS Sale Stakes with Esther’s Quest, the Debutante with Arizona Sun, the Harry Jeffrey with Senor Friday, the Phil Kives with Langara and the Winnipeg Sun and Canada Day with Tadaa.

Kayla Pizarro
is the only other stakes winner at a recognized track in the current jockey colony. She won the Free Press with Louden’s Gray. She had 173 starts and won 16 per cent of the time.

Other jockeys include:
  • Stanley Chadee Jr. -- also rode at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon and Century Downs in Alberta -- 2019 record: 163-17-16-29 (10 per cent wins)
  • Sheldon Chickeness -- rode at Fonner, Lethbridge, Fargo and Chippewa Downs -- 2019 record 31-7-7-3 (23 per cent wins)
  • Nicole Hein -- rode at Marquis -- 2019 record 47-7-12-7 (15 per cent wins)
  • Neville Stephenson -- rode primarily at Marquis -- 2019 record 218-44-34-28 (20 per cent wins)
  • Rafael Zenteno, Jr.-- rode in Alberta -- 2019 record 128-13-14-23 (10 per cent wins)
  • Edgar Zenteno -- rode in Alberta -- 2019 record 30-1-0-2
  • Nirone Austin -- started riding at ASD last year -- record 25-0-4-2
  • Shawn Samuel -- rode primarily at Marquis – 2019 record 90-15-13-8 (17 per cent win rate)


Fat N Bitter takes on Miss Imperial in Go Go Lolo Stakes

HISTORIC OCCASION:Assistant race secretary Kirt Contois prepares to take entries for Day 1 of historic COVID-19 meet. (Darren Dunn photo)
You’ve gotta love Fat N Bitter, the name of the 4-year-old filly entered in the Go Go Lolo Stakes at ASD on Monday. But what you’re going to love even more is the highly competitive field.

You have horses that last raced at Woodbine in Toronto, Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Century Downs near Calgary, Hastings Park in Vancouver and Fonner Park in Nebraska--all hoping to grab the lion’s share of the first stakes purse offered in Canada this year.

Do you go with Broadway Bonnie from Woodbine whose rider, Rigo Sarmiento, won 11 stakes races last year or with Miss Imperial who was claimed in Arkansas by Oaklawn claiming specialist and ASD trainer Murray Duncan? What about the filly, Exactly, who is being ridden by Antonio Whitehall who won eight stakes at the Downs last year? You KNOW that newbie bettors will gravitate to Fat N Bitter.

I’d give the edge to Duncan’s Miss Imperial. The Go Go Lolo Stakes--named for a star mare in ASD’s past--is one of six races on what is a great opening day card with 10 horses capping off the night in the Jackpot Hi 5 race.

The following two nights of racing will also showcase stakes events: the Liz’s Pride on Tuesday and the IwoodifIcould on Wednesday. Both races are shaping up to be barn burners as well. Good luck in your picks!


Hottest jockey:
 Richard Mairs
(51 wins)
Hottest trainer:
Tom Gardipy, Jr. (48 wins)
Biggest longshot: Sheer Prince $122.70 (Fri Aug. 2)
Major stakes champions: Oil Money (Manitoba Derby), Deep Explorer (Gold Cup), Hidden Grace (Manitoba Oaks and Manitoba Matron), Cash Or Card (Winnipeg Futurity)
Horse of the Year: To be announced but likely the unbeaten Hidden Grace

Topsy-turvey Triple Crown

Kentucky Derby is now the middle jewel in the Crown

It’s the Year of the Asterisk and you’re living it
It may not have occurred to you, but this is the Year of the Asterisk and you’re plunk in the middle of it. Decades from now, 2020 will have an asterisk beside it because the Triple Crown races are jumbled up and one is being run at a shorter distance.

What was the longest of the Triple Crown races, the Belmont Stakes, is now the shortest and is being run first instead of last, the Kentucky Derby is to be run in late summer instead of the spring and the Preakness, which is scheduled for a month later, could become the most consequential Preakness ever because it could determine whether we have a Triple Crown winner or not. Never has this kind of pressure befallen the Preakness. Here are the exact dates:
  • Belmont Stakes -- reduced from 1 ½-mile to 1 1/8-mile -- to be run Saturday, June 20
  • Kentucky Derby -- 1 ¼-mile race to be run Saturday, Sept. 5
  • Preakness Stakes -- 1 3/16-mile race to be run Saturday, Oct. 3

At the same time, brand new prep races are being hatched--about 10 of them--to give 3-year-olds a chance to gather more points to qualify to be among 20 entering the Kentucky Derby. That puts extra pressure on trainers to do the right thing at the right time. Look at how simple it was for Justify to win the Triple Crown in 2018. His entire career lasted from February to June.

This year, there’s a three-month gap between the Belmont and the Derby. How do you have a horse razor-sharp for each of them? And then be ready for the Preakness a month later as well? The drama heightens in the Year of the Asterisk.

POCKET PLENTY IN '20: How to turn 20-cent supers into big bucks

When you handicap superfectas, you’re likely to miss a horse I like to call the “x factor” horse somewhere in the sandwich. That happens very frequently. Regardless how thoroughly you analyze a race, a seeming outsider is going to bite you. But that’s great. That’s the good thing about 20-cent superfectas; it doesn’t cost that much to add “all” to various positions in the superfecta and it could produce rich results.

My favourite superfecta wager is a wheel that looks like this: A,B,C with A,B,C with “all” with key. And then A,B,C with A,B,C with key with “all.” Then maybe A,B,C with “all” with A,B,C with key. And for a very small investment with a chance at big bucks try this 20-cent wheel from time to time: “All” horses on top with the favourite with “all” with the second choice in betting.

RACING BEGINS AT BELMONT ON JUNE 6 with the Belmont Stakes being held two weeks later featuring the biggest names in 3-year-old racing. What a thriller that race is expected to be! Mark your calendar.

at Woodbine. It’s the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown that includes the Prince of Wales Stakes on Fort Erie dirt and the Breeders’ Stakes on Woodbine turf. The Canadian Triple Crown hasn’t been won since Wando did it in 2003. Woodbine’s meet opens Saturday, June 6, the same day as Belmont, above.

After a day of “just-abouts” last Saturday, the “I won bigger” betting group will again play the Rainbow pick-6 at Gulfstream with a pool of about $600K and Tampa’s pick-5. It’s time to deposit another bacon feast into the bacon bank!
New! HISTORY ON THE HOOF by Bob Gates: 100 years of milestones

He’s ba-a-a-a-ck!  ASD track historian Bob Gates returns for season #63 with a full slate of new history yarns.  In today’s opener, he looks at 100 years of milestones.  He also provides an off-season update about the passing of a couple of equine local legends. Read all about it here.


  • Saturday, May 23: Kentucky Derby prep race--the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill; “I won bigger” online betting group play. Ruidoso racing from New Mexico begins 2 p.m. with a Canadian announcer
  • Monday, May 25: First day of live racing from ASD 7:30 p.m. No spectators. Online and operator assisted betting only. Go Go Lolo Overnight stakes race (prep for the Manitoba Matron).
  • Tuesday, May 26: ASD live racing 7:30 p.m. overnight stakes race (prep race for Manitoba Oaks). Liz’s Pride
  • Wednesday, May 27: ASD live racing 7:30 p.m. IwoodifIcould overnight stakes race (prep race for Gold Cup)
  • Saturday, May 30: “I won bigger” online betting group play
Remind your friends to open a betting account so they’re ready to
play live races on Monday! (When they bet $20, they get $20)

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

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