By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
The temperature is expected to remain hot, but the action will be even hotter at Assiniboia Downs this week.
Antonio Whitehall, Jerry Gourneau and Murray Duncan had great weeks; Duncan’s Miss Imperial won the big Canada Day Stakes match race against his “other” mare, Hidden Grace; and now a guaranteed payday kicks off Week 7 of the 17-week meet at ASD.
“The stage is set now for the mandatory payout event,” said ASD CEO Darren Dunn in a written statement. “Assiniboia Downs has the highest carryover for any pool in North America right now and we are paying it all out on Monday. The single winner Jackpot Pick 5 pool has not been won after 18 consecutive racing programs and it is scheduled for a mandatory payout day. A mandatory payout day requires that the entire jackpot and the current day’s pool must be paid out to the winners that day. These events draw substantially more wagering as everyone is trying to win their share of the jackpot bonus.
“Players have been chasing the jackpot for weeks now and have been eager to claim a share of that carryover. They know the wagering will be huge on that day, which just adds to the excitement. This will most likely be a record-setting day.”
With everything added in, bettors could be part of a $1 million pool.
Meanwhile, there was plenty of racing action last week and there will be plenty more this week.
Whitehall, the 2018 Assiniboia Downs champion jockey, won five times this past week while Duncan, the highly-regarded 79-year-old trainer, finished 1-2 in the Canada Day Stakes and Gourneau, the 2018 trainer’s champion and this year’s leader, won five times included three times last Monday night.
“You just be out here running your horses,” said Gourneau, the man who trains the stable of horses owned by Texas businessman Henry Witt Jr. “If you have good horses is the barn and you’re not afraid to run them, you’ll get your share of wins.”
Whitehall still leads the jockey standings with 27 wins, 19 seconds and 12 third-place finishes in 102 starts. He has already won a whopping $237,445, nearly $70,000 more than No. 2 Rafael Zenteno Jr., who won three times last week and now has 19 wins, 16 seconds, and 10 thirds in 87 starts and $168,605 in winnings. Stanley Chadee Jr. is in third place with 12 wins, 13 seconds and 12 thirds in 84 starts and $142,278 in winnings.
On the trainer’s side, Gourneau leads the way with 21 wins, 22 seconds, nine thirds and $192,445 in earnings in 91 starts. Defending champion Tom Gardipy Jr. is second with nine wins, 18 seconds, 15 thirds and $110,763 in winnings in 99 starts and Tim Rycroft is third with nine wins, 12 seconds, eight thirds and $110,793 in earnings in just 41 starts.
Meanwhile, there are two big stakes races coming up this week.
On Tuesday night, it’s the $25,000 Jack Hardy Stakes for three-year-old fillies and in a five-horse field, the early favourite at 7-5 is Kentucky-bred Kickalittlebooty. Owned by Brent and Heather Hrymak, trained by Brent Hrymak and ridden by Whitehall, Kickalittlebooty won the Chantilly Stakes on June 16 and has won two-of-three career races. She should be a favourite in the 2020 Manitoba Oaks if she wins on Tuesday.
The second favourite at 9-5 is Susie Derkins, trained by Craig Smith and ridden by Rico Walcott. Smith also has the No. 3 favourite, Family Day at 4-1. Walcott will have to decide which one of those two fillies he’s going to ride.
On Wednesday it’s the $25,000 R.J. Speers Stakes for older horses and this should be an outstanding race. The early favourite at 8-5 is the defending champion, Deep Explorer. Trained by Gourneau and ridden by Whitehall, Deep Explorer is a seven-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding that won a $25,000 sponsored stakes race on June 17. Last year, Deep Explorer not only won the R.J. Speers Stakes but also the Manitoba Mile and the Gold Cup.
His toughest competition should come from Florida-bred Mr. Dazzle at 5-2. Trained by Shelley Brown and ridden by Rico Walcott, Mr. Dazzle won the $18,000 IwoodifIcould Overnight Stakes on May 27 and finished third behind Deep Explorer is that race on June 17. The four-year-old Mr. Dazzle is the 2018 winner of the Graduation Stakes.
There are two old favourites in the race, as well. Seven-year-old Langara (20-1), trained by Michael Nault and ridden by Edgar Zenteno, is a Manitoba-bred that has won 15 races in his career including the Phil Kives Stakes four times in a row from 2016-2019. And Plentiful (8-1), a six-year-old Kentucky-bred trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr. Plentiful won the 2017 Manitoba Derby and has nine wins in his career, including this race in 2018 and the Golden Boy Stakes in 2017.
It should be a great week of live racing and it returns on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Pick up an hpibet.com account and start wagering today.