By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
Despite the record handles and racing without spectators, the karma of the first stakes race of the season wasn’t lost on Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn.
“I think it was really a great thing that trainer Murray Duncan won the Go Go Lolo Stakes with Miss Imperial,” said Dunn. “Go Go Lolo was our honoured horse in that race and she was a wonderful mare for Murray. The fact Murray trained Go Go Lolo and then won the race honoring her with Miss Imperial was a really cool thing. I was pleased for Murray.”
The $17,400 Go Go Lolo Stakes was the first of three Overnight Stakes Races during the first week of action at Assiniboia Downs as racing returned for the first time since last September.
Last Tuesday night, in the $17,450 Liz’s Pride Overnight Stakes, jockey Kayla Pizarro brought home Music at Work for trainer Craig Smith. Music at Work paid $13.10 to win.
And on Wednesday night, in the $17,850 Iwodificould Overnight Stakes, apprentice Alberta rider Edgar Zenteno rode Mr. Dazzle to victory for trainer Shelley Brown. Mr. Dazzle paid a whopping $17.70 to win.
It was an exciting start to the first of a scheduled 17 weeks of Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday night live racing at the Downs. There is still no plans to have any spectators on the grounds to watch the races although starting Tuesday the lounge will be open when there is no live racing.
This week, there will be one Overnight Stakes race. On Wednesday Night, it’s the $16,000-added Shanghied Overnight Stakes for three-year-olds with six colts in the field. The race will pay tribute to an A.P. Indy colt named Shanghied who, in 2004, won the Golden Boy, the Derby Trial and the Harry Jeffrey stakes and finished third in the Manitoba Derby.
The morning-line favourite in the race is Rail Hugger (8-5), ridden by Antonio Whitehall and trained by Elige Bourne. Next is Dune d’Oro (95), ridden by Kayla Pizarro and trained by Craig Smith. Look out for Rising Revolution (5-1) ridden by Rigo Sarmiento and trained by Alberta invader Tim Rycroft.
Rycroft led all trainers in Week 1 with three wins, three seconds, two thirds and $36,834 in earnings. Jerry Gourneau was next with two wins, four seconds, two thirds and $22,942 in winnings while Tom Gardipy Jr. had two wins two seconds, one third and $16,987 in winnings; Michael Nault had two wins, one second, three thirds and $22,010 in earnings; and Ryan Desjarlais had two wins, a third at $12,889 in winnings on the final two races of last Monday night’s card.
This week, are number of other tracks will open without spectators: Fort Erie at 12:20 p.m. on Tuesday; Belterra at 11:35 a.m. on Thursday; Belmont Park at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday; Mohawk harness at 5:40 p.m. on Friday; Evangeline Downs at 5:50 p.m. on Friday; Woodbine at noon on Saturday; and Louisiana Downs at 3:15 Saturday.
“The racing last week was very competitive, just as we expected,” said Dunn, who was unquestionably thrilled with the record-setting handle of $4.4 million over three nights. “There were some big favourites who won and some outstanding longshots that provided good paydays for some of the players. I think it’s safe to say that the horses who have already been running this winter and spring have had a big advantage in the early going.
“So far, racing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday has worked for us. We’ll see how things go (this) week.”
The first race tonight goes to post at 7:30 p.m. You can get home delivery of the programs by calling (204) 885-3330 ext. 225 before 10 a.m. 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. Social distancing protocols are in place.