By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
They’ve been bobbing and weaving and avoiding each other for a few weeks now, but this Wednesday night at Assiniboia Downs, the battle is on.
Undefeated Hidden Grace will make her 2020 debut against the best mare on the grounds this season, the two-time stakes winner, Miss Imperial in a true Battle of the Giants in the $25,000 Canada Day Stakes.
Hidden Grace has never lost. She’s had nine stakes races in her career, eight at Assiniboia Downs, and starting with the Debutante Stakes at ASD on August 3, 2018 and ending with the CTHS Sales Stakes at Century Downs on October 10, 2019, she has vanquished all of her foes. She has career earnings of $133,140.
Bred by Cam Ziprick, Barry Arnason and Charles Fouillard at Ziprick Thoroughbreds in Russell, MB; owned by Barry Arnason, Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard; trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by leading jockey Antonio Whitehall, Hidden Grace has most of the same connections as her half-sister, the brilliant Escape Clause. Manitoba-bred Escape Clause lost by the hair on her nose at the wire in the Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn Park last year to the best mare on the planet, Breeder’s Cup Distaff Champion and this past Saturday’s dominant Fleur de Lis Champion, Midnight Bisou.
However, on Wednesday night she’ll race for the first time since last October and she’ll face the best mare in Manitoba this year, Kentucky-bred Miss Imperial, who is also trained by Murray Duncan.
WINNIPEG — Three weeks ago, 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.
Murray 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 obviously 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.
Trained by Murray Duncan, owned by Murray Duncan and the Estate of Garylle B. Stewart and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr., Miss Imperial also won the $18,000 Go Go Lolo Overnight Stakes on Opening Night.
Both Hidden Grace and Miss Imperial are four-year-olds at the height of their talents and obviously Miss Imperial will head into the big match as the prohibitive morning-line favourite at 3-5. Hidden Grace, running in anger for the first time this year, is next at 9-5. Kentucky-bred, I’mabarnkat, trained by Shelley Brown and ridden by Rafael Zenteno Jr. is next at 10-1. Even the oddsmakers believe this six-horse field is simply a two-horse match race.
It could very well be the most exciting race of the 50-night meet.
The Canada Day Stakes, Race 2 on Wednesday at about 8:05 p.m., is the only stakes race this week. Last week, two big stakes were decided and both boasted upset winners — which might be prophetic if you want to make big money on this week’s Canada Day Stakes.
On Tuesday night, Dazzling Gold ridden, owned by Starfield Stable, trained by Tiffany Husbands and ridden by apprentice Edgar Zenteno won the Hazel Right Sire Stakes for three-year-old fillies. Dazzling Gold paid $28.10, $13.50 and $7.50 and might be a force in the Oaks.
On Wednesday night, Honour Rules, owned by Hedy King, trained by Marvin Buffalo and ridden by Rigo Sarmiento beat favourites Cross Lake Proud and Bear Me a Moment to the wire to win the Frank Arnason Sire Stakes, for three-year-old colts and geldings. A 28-1 longshot, Honour Rules paid $55.10 to win, $18.20 for second and $10.20 for third.
Antonio Whitehall still leads the jockey standings with 22 wins, 15 seconds and 11 third-place finishes in 87 starts. He has already won a whopping $195,720, $50,000 more than No. 2 Rafael Zenteno Jr., who has 16 wins, 14 seconds, and six thirds in 73 starts and $143,579 in winnings. Neville Stephenson and Stanley Chadee Jr. are now tied for third with 10 wins each.
On the trainer’s side, former champion Jerry Gourneau leads the way with 16 wins, 19 seconds, eight thirds and $159,835 in earnings in 77 starts. Defending champion Tom Gardipy Jr. is second with nine wins, 14 seconds, 13 thirds and $98,740 in winnings in 87 starts and Tim Rycroft is third with eight wins, 12 seconds, eight thirds and $105,933 in earnings in just 40 starts.
Live racing returns to the Downs Monday night at 7:30 p.m. Pick up an hpibet.com account and start wagering today.