By Scott Taylor
Hidden Grace will put her undefeated career back on the line on Friday night at Assiniboia Downs.
This time, she’ll take on the adults.
Manitoba’s Fabulous Filly — and the sister of Escape Clause, the only Manitoba-bred to come close to winning a million dollars racing — will go to post Friday night in the $30,000 Manitoba Matron, a one mile and one eighth route featuring the best older mares on the grounds.
It also one of four stakes races — with $110,000 in prize money — that will highlight the final weekend of the 2019 Assiniboia Downs meet. The Matron goes Friday and then on Saturday, it’s the $25,000 J.W. Sifton Stakes for three-year-olds and on Sunday, it’s the $25,000 Buffalo Stakes and the $30,000 Winnipeg Futurity for the best two-year-olds of the 2018 campaign.
Hidden Grace, who was won all seven of the races she’s entered, was bred and is owned by Cam Ziprick, Charles Fouillard and Barry Arnason; is trained by Michael Nault and is ridden by Renaldo Cumberbatch. She will go into the Matron as the 9-5 second favourite on the morning line.
This year, Hidden Grace has won the Hazel Right Sire Stakes (June 8), the Chantilly Stakes (June 21), the R.C. Anderson Stakes (July 13), the Manitoba Oaks (Aug. 2) and the Distaff (Aug. 17). Her share of those five victories is $69,266. If she comes in the money on Friday night she will surpass $100,000 in career winnings.
However, she is a three-year-old running against some of the top mares in the region. The favourite in the race is five-year-old Manitoba-bred Tadaa at 3-5. Bred by Barry Arnason, trained by 82-year-old Gary Danelson and ridden by Dillon Khelawan, Tadaa is Hidden Grace’s older sister and she’s owned by Danelson and Arnason. Nice for Arnason who owns the Top 2 horses in the race.
Tadaa has won her last three races: the Saratoga Sis Overnight Stakes (Aug. 14), the Winnipeg Sun Stakes (July 24) and the Canada Day Stakes (July 1). She was second in the La Verendrye Stakes (June 6) and was second in the Preservata Overnight Stakes (May 17). She has been the dominant mare at the track this summer and could very well put an end to Hidden Grace’s streak.
In the meantime, the 50-day meet ends this weekend (only 27 more races) and it has been one of the most successful seasons in a decade. Attendance is way up, handle is up and with Escape Clause, Deep Explorer, Hidden Grace and Tadaa running to form all summer, the racing has been exciting. Escape Clause will run again on Saturday, September 14, in the $200,000 Grade III Locust Grove Stakes over one mile and one-sixteenth at legendary Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Perhaps the biggest winner of all this summer was local actor Curtis Markusson. Last Saturday night, he drew the ace of diamonds and won ASD’s 2019 Chase the Ace — and the $51,375 that came from selecting the right card. An avid golfer, he’s off to St. Andrews Scotland to play the Old Course with his buddies.
This weekend, the jockey and trainer champions will be crowned in a ceremony in the Winner’s Circle after the final race on Sunday. Five-time trainers’ champ Tom Gardipy Jr. has a four-win lead over Juan Pablo Silva although race might tighten up on Friday. Silva is sending two heavy favourites to post while Gardipy Jr. has only one. It looks like defending champion Jerry Gourneau, who still had a great year, will finish third.
Meanwhile, Richard Mairs has a lock on the jockey title. He won five times last weekend and now leads defending champion Antonio Whitehall 48 wins to 41.
For Mairs, who came to the Downs from his home in Jamaica four years ago, his success in 2019 has been all about hard work.
“I think maybe my success is due to the fact that it just might be my time,” he said. “But I’m a hard-worker and I’ve been doing this for a few years now. I’m here early every day and the owners and trainers really like my work ethic. I treat everyone with respect and I like to talk with everyone here. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 horses or two horses or 30 horses, I treat everyone respectfully.
“Because I have a good agent and I have been able to develop a good reputation, I’m getting more rides and better rides. It’s been better this year because my agent pointed out a couple of mistakes that I made a couple of years ago and I also got some very good advice from a trainer I ride for, Tom Gardipy Jr. So, I’ve been working on the advice they give me and I’ve eliminated the mistakes and people saw that I work hard and I got more and better rides.”
Friday and Saturday night racing starts at 7:30. On Sunday, Fan Appreciation. Day, the first post is slated for 1:30 p.m.