COUNTDOWN: Just nine days of live racing until the giveaway of the Chrysler 200 on Sunday, Sept. 25. Your destiny is still in your hands! Enter Horses & Horsepower with a vengeance as many times as you can--with an "I visited Winnipeg Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram" card ready to flash at Guest Services to triple your car-winning chances. The video. The rules. The race calendar.
Your key? Nine days will tell.
KIRT'S "SO PIE ME" PICK FOR TONIGHT: Can he be right FOUR times in a row? His pick is #2 Barramoon in race one Score: Kirt 7, Pie 15.
RIB-ILICIOUS WEDNESDAYS ARE RUNNING OUT! Dig in tonight! Four big ribs with Chef Michael's secret sauce, homestyle fries and creamy coleslaw just $6.95. Double the ribs: $11.95.
TODAY IS LAST DAY AT DEL MAR; FAIRPLEX OPENS FRIDAY: There's a compulsory pick-6 payout at Del Mar this afternoon because California racing moves to Fairplex Friday. Post time today: 4 p.m. Fairplex Friday: 3 p.m.
FAIR GROUNDS OPENS TODAY; TURFWAY TOMORROW: Fair Grounds post time: 12:40 p.m., Turfway 4:30 p.m.
All eyes on the prize
With just nine days of live racing left, jockey David Lopez--with 10 more victories than Rohan Singh--is on the cusp of winning his first-ever jockey title and having his picture mounted on the Wall of Champions for an eternity. He has 64 wins, aided by his agent, Tim Gardiner (inset), who's been landing him live mounts. Gardiner won the jockey title himself in 1991, 1993, 1994 and 1999. The race for leading trainer is much tighter: nine-time leading trainer Ardell Sayler has 43 wins; Chad Torevell has 38.
Two trainers fined and banished
Needles and syringes found in Hebdon and Flanders trucks
Trainer Lisa Hebdon and owner/trainer Grant Flanders have been fined a total of $5,500 and barred from ASD for the balance of the race season after their horses tested positive for illegal drugs and a search of their trucks turned up needles and syringes.
Such a finding at ASD is rare. In fact, David Miles, chairman of the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission, said this was the first time in his 11 years as chairman that drug-injecting equipment has been discovered in the wrong hands at the Downs. "I wonder what's going on?" he said. "I don't like it."
MHRC chairman David Miles
"I don't like it."
In total, Hebdon (21-6-4-1) was fined $3,000 and banned for 80 calendar days and Flanders (22-4-2-1 on the year) was fined $2,500 and banned for 35 days. Flanders is facing further action after a search of his trailer turned up tubing, restricted drugs and needles and syringes. Flanders brought his horses to the Downs from Arizona after Yavapai cancelled its meet on May 26.
Hebdon's horse, Golden Venture, tested positive for clenbuteral (a decongestant) in the first race on Aug. 1. The horse finished third. And Flander's horse, Jatoma, tested positive for ketoprofen (an anti-inflammatory drug) in the 10th race on Aug. 6, a race he won. The stewards disqualified those horses from sharing in the purse money which will be redistributed to the other top finishers. That does not affect mutuel payouts.
TRAINERS APPEAL: Hebdon has appealed the penalties but not her convictions, Miles said, and the Commission will hear her appeal this Saturday. Flanders, who has left the Downs, is appealing everything, Miles said.
And how does ASD management feel? "While the findings absolutely concern me," said CEO Darren Dunn, "I take comfort in the system that is in place to detect and deal with those who are trying to get an edge or take a short cut to the winners circle. Unfortunately though, that system works on a reactionary basis after the public has put down their wagering dollars in good faith before the start of a race expecting, and deserving, a level playing field."
In other recent action taken by the stewards, jockey Rohan Singh was fined $500 for excessive use of the whip in the eighth race on Aug. 17 and Perry Winters was fined $200 and told that he must take an anger management course before the commission would consider re-licensing him after this season. He has left the Downs to return to his Alberta home, still 32 wins shy of the 3,000 he had hoped to reach at the Downs this year.
Time's running out . . . soak it all in!
Gold Cup and Winnipeg Futurity this Saturday!
Go up to the rail and soak it all in: pounding hooves, jockeys trying to outhustle each other to the wire, the fresh cool nights under wide-open prairie skies. It's gonna end on Sunday, Sept. 25--exactly nine live race cards away including tonight.
But the good thing is: Some of the best action is yet to come. This Saturday especially: the $50,000 Gold Cup to determine the best horse on the grounds and the $50,000 Winnipeg Futurity for the top 2-year-olds, with lots of history behind both of those races. The Futurity originated in 1930 at Whittier Park and the Gold Cup started in 1958, the year Assiniboia Downs opened.
Race historian Bob Gates has been busy again, compiling a year-by-year listing of all Futurity and Gold Cup winners. For Futurity winners, go here. For Gold Cup winners, go here.
Free Press chart from the inaugural edition of the Winnipeg Futurity (1930): Note two jockeys who were to become legends later: Edmonton-born John "Red" Pollard who was to become Seabiscuit's rider later that decade and Johnny Longden (misspelled in the chart) who emigrated to Alberta from England as a youngster and helped found the Jockeys' Guild in 1940 and became the winningest thoroughbred rider in the world in 1956.
T-shirt toss "energizes" Labour Day crowd
Paddock host Kirt Contois (in red) tosses an Energy 106FM T-shirt from the Winners' Circle Monday as jockey Rohan Singh loads up. Winnipeg's newest radio station gave away 200 T-shirts with codes that could win the T-shirt catcher part of $100,000 in trips, cash and prizes. Watching from the petting farm is Gracie the llama (inset).
Quick bits . . .
Whoops! Dunn calls Saturday's first race on Friday
Race fans might have felt they were living in a parallel universe Friday as track announcer Darren Dunn was calling horses in the first race that bore no resemblance to the names in their programs. It seems Darren had Friday's and Saturday's first race open on a countertop checking field sizes as a result of a trainer's scratched horses and, when it came to call the race, grabbed Saturday's first race by mistake. Both fields were the same size. It was the first time in his two-decade race-calling career he has done that but said an announcer did the same thing in the 1970's. He "re-called" the race correctly that night to post online and make available to the connections of the winning horse.
LOOK WHO DROPPED IN! Nice to see Brian Bochinski, former popular jockey at Assiniboia Downs (1987-94), dropping in at the track last Wednesday with his wife Tracy and daughter Taylor. He retired from riding in 2007 after stints at Woodbine and Fort Erie and lives
in Fort Erie. He now works as a postal carrier in St. Catherines. Tracy has been a merchandise rep for Hallmark Cards for five years. Taylor, 11, takes after daddy's love for horses, showjumping since she was five. Brian said he left riding because he was "burned out" but still says "I miss it every day." Weight would be an issue now: He's 130 pounds. His best memory at ASD? Too numerous to mention, he said. How about his Winnipeg Futurity/Gold Cup double in 1989, both trained by his mother, Hazel? (He won the Futurity on Pick Sure and the Gold Cup riding T.K. Chance.)
Former jockey Brian Bochinski,
wife Tracy, daughter Taylor
"I miss it every day!"
BY GOSH, RACE HISTORIAN WINS BYFUGLIEN JERSEY: After Jets' defenceman Dustin Byfulien's mug shots appeared on the front pages of the Sun and Free Press last Friday (because of alleged liquor offenses aboard a boat in Minnesota), ASD race historian Bob Gates bought five tickets for the raffle of Byfulien's jersey "because I didn't think it was fair to the charity to suffer as a result of the bad publicity." It was a fortuitous purchase because his ticket was drawn Monday to win the autographed Chicago Black Hawks' jersey (when they won the Stanley Cup two years ago) including a beautiful two-sided displayer for the jersey. The raffle was held to raise money for the Winners Foundation which helps backstretch people overcome injuries and substance abuse problems. There were 865 tickets sold. Shawn Jackson-Getzlaff won two Team Canada jerseys and Bob Thompson won a $100 Ticketmaster gift certificate.
HOTTIES OF THE WEEK: Wednesday to Monday
Darren Dunn's "Thrill of the Week:" Race 1, Friday, Sept. 2. "A thrilling call of the wrong race that had patrons scratching their heads and checking the date of their program...not my finest hour."
Hottest jock: Tyrone Nelson and Rohan Singh (5 wins)
Hottest trainer: Ardell Sayler and Chad Torevell (3 wins)
Biggest win payoff: $29.90. Not Opposed (Wed--7th)
Biggest 20-cent superfecta: $1.921 (Wed, race 7, #8-2-3-ALL)
Readers write . . .
"Jon's not strong; pie me if I'm wrong"
"Dear Ivan: Re: The "colour of caring" article in the last Insider--beautiful! But as predicted to a "T:" Jon's Golden Run is a dudskie (because he finished third in the $40,000 CTHS Sales Stakes)! And the two horses I spoke of came in exactly right--Danger Rules and She's Regal. Jon's next race--it's simple--this lovely horse doesn't have it! No heart to win! He won't pass the leaders! If I'm wrong, pie me!" -- Charles Scotlend
Hi Charles! What's your favourite filling?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "It was like pulling taffy but eventually the truth came out." -- Del Mar race steward Kim Sawyer describing in the Daily Racing Form how jockey Tyler Baze finally spilled the beans about feigning a car accident so he wouldn't have to undergo a breathalyzer test at the track and be taken off his mounts. Baze, whom you may recall coming up to Winnipeg to ride Rage Till Dawn to a second-place finish in the 2007 Manitoba Lotteries Derby (won by Weather Warning at 34-1), is under suspension for an indefinite period.
"Like pulling taffy"
OVERHEARD IN THE RACE BOOK: "Saskatchewan is going to win again this weekend and they'll have to change Swaggerville to Shatterville." (Yah, sure. The score this Sunday--where you can watch the game in high-def in the Race Book at 3 p.m.--is going to be 53-6, Bombers. You read it here first.)
TIP O' THE WEEK: Profit by wheeling favourite for 2nd
There is universal agreement in racing handicapping books that you can profit overall by wheeling a less-than-even-money horse for second in a race with at least 10 horses. At Woodbine on the long weekend, the profits were stunning: On Saturday, Casa Loma (76-1) edged out Delightful Magic (1-2) in a 2-year-old race to set up a $459 exactor and on Monday in the Halton Stakes, Bug's Boy (74-1) beat Society's Chairman (3-5) in a 1-mile turf race to set up a $348 exactor. A $1 exactor wheel in each race would have cost a total of $21. Profit: $382.