By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
To no one’s surprise, Miss Imperial as won the first major stakes race of the season at Assiniboia Downs.
On Wednesday night at the Downs, Miss Imperial broke on top and led gate to wire to take home the $18,636 winner’s share of the $25,000 LaVerendrye Stakes for older mares.
Trained by Murray Duncan, owned by Duncan and the Estate of Garylle B. Stewart and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr., Miss Imperial added to her victory in the first stakes race of the season, the $18,000 Go Go Lolo Overnight Stakes on Opening Night.
Kentucky-bred Miss Imperial paid $3.30 to win, $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show. Tim Rycroft’s Broadway Bonnie, the No. 2 pre-race favourite ridden by Rigo Sarmiento, finished second and paid $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show. The surprising Anstrum, trained by Tom Gardipy Jr. and ridden by the gifted and popular Kayla Pizarro, made a big run down the stretch and moved from fifth to third to pay $5.90.
Obviously, Duncan, the 79-year-old veteran trainer who started in the thoroughbred business in 1960 and then spent almost 30 years away from the track, is certainly having fun with Miss Imperial, a mare he claimed at Oaklawn for US $25,000. Miss Imperial has already won five races this year and now earned $90,068 for her owner/trainer. Her career record has improved to eight wins, three seconds and three thirds in 18 starts. Her career earnings are now $298,398.
“I started out in this business when I was 20, but I was out of it for about 30 years,” Duncan told us. “I started in 1960 and was here at the Downs all through the 60s and then I went to the States and stayed there for 10 years. Then I gave up thoroughbred racing for 30 years and came back in 2010.
“I raced in Chicago, in Michigan at Hazel Park and Detroit Race Course, then I moved to New Jersey and raced in Philadelphia and I raced at Monmouth Park for four years.”
“But I had a partner who had a massive heart attack and died and that’s when everything seemed to just fall apart. So, I decided to come home and watch my kids grow up. I worked in the potato plant for 25 years. I’m glad I did because I got a pension out of that. So, now I don’t have to worry about anything. I can live off my pension and because of that, since coming back in 2010, working with horses is fun again.”
Miss Imperial is certainly fun. She has already raced seven times in 2020, winning two optional claiming races at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. She won a claiming race at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., on April 11, and that’s the night Duncan claimed her. After finishing fourth in a starter allowance at Oaklawn on May 2, she shipped north to ASD and has won both her starts – both stakes races – with her highest Equibase speed ratings ever, an impressive 97 both times.
It’s likely that her next big race will be on Wednesday night July 1 in the & ½ Furlong, $25,000 Canada Day Stakes. Not only will she see Broadway Bonnie, but also Hidden Grace, the undefeated four-year-old mare trained by Mike Nault. Hidden Grace worked on Tuesday and appears ready for her 2020 debut.
She could not possibly face a better foe at ASD than Murray Duncan’s Miss Imperial.