By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
With the $75,000 Manitoba Derby only three weeks away, it’s time to get serious for the local contenders.
Over the first seven weeks of racing we’ve seen some solid, local three-year-old colts: Esther’s Quest, Cross Lake Proud, Bear Me a Moment and Honour Rules, the surprise winner in the Frank Arnason Sire Stakes, have all shown they could be Derby contenders.
We’ll have a chance to see a few more colts with thoughts about the Derby on Monday night when the $25,000 Manitoba Derby Trial will be run over one mile.
The morning-line favourite is Gambler at 8-5. A Kentucky-bred colt owned by Henry S. Witt Jr., trained by leading-trainer Jerry Gourneau and ridden by leading-rider Antonio Whitehall, it certainly has all the connections. Gambler has already run 10 races in 2020, won twice, finished in the money eight times and was second in the $25,000 Golden Boy Stakes on June 22.
The No. 2 favourite is Rail Hugger at 3-1. Owned by John D. Hanson, trained by Elige Bourne and ridden by Shamaree Muir, Rail Hugger is a Kentucky- bred gelding who drove in from Alberta this year and finished second in the $16,000 Shanghied Overnight Stakes. Last year he won the Canadian Juvenile Stakes at Calgary’s Century Downs.
Gambler will also get a test from Real Grace, a Kentucky-bred gelding owned by Shelley Brown, Jean McEwan, Bette Holtman and Bernell B. Rhone; trained by Shelley Brown and ridden by Rico Walcott. Real Grace is 7-2 on the morning line. Real Grace has run only three times in his career and finished second at Canterbury Park in a Maiden Special Weight on June 29 and second in a Maiden Special Weight at Tampa Bay Downs on May 31.
On Tuesday night, there is a major filly race featuring the best three-year-old Manitoba-breds on the grounds. The R.C. Anderson Stakes for $25,000 over one mile boasts two fillies that are coming off victories plus the 1-2-3 finishers in the recent Hazel Wright Sire States.
The morning line favourite is Dazzling Gold at 9-5, owned by Starfield Stable, trained by Tiffany Husbands and ridden by Edgar Zenteno. Dazzling Gold is coming off a victory in the $25,000 Hazel Wright Sire Stakes, which was also the only race of her career.
Next in line is Sizzle ‘N Suzie at 5-2, owned by 2 Points Ranch, trained by Steven Gaskin and ridden by Rico Walcott, Sizzle ‘N Suzie won a Waiver Maiden Claiming race on July 8 and is back with just a week’s rest. Sizzle ‘N Suzie was third in the Hazel Wright Sire Stakes.
As well, watch out for Tigerinyourtank at 5-1. She’s never won, but did finish second in the Hazel Wight Sire Stakes on June 23 and was third in last year’s Buffalo Stakes. And don’t count out Sixtyshadesofblue at 9-2. She’s had two career starts and actually won her first race, a Maiden Special Weight, back on May 27.
As we open Week 8 of the 17-week Meet as ASD, this is also a big three days of racing in terms of the jockeys’ and trainers’ standings. In fact, if trainer Jerry Gourneau and rider Antonio Whitehall have as good a week this week as they did in Week 7, they could pretty much close out the championships.
With six victories in total last week, Gourneau is now running away with the trainer’s title. The veteran trainer from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reserve in Belcourt, North Dakota leads the way with 27 wins, 24 seconds, 12 thirds and $243,945 in earnings in 107 starts. Defending champion Tom Gardipy Jr., is second with 13 wins, 21 seconds, 18 thirds and $141,395 in winnings in 115 starts and former champion trainer (2012) Shelley Brown, is third with 10 wins, 13 seconds, nine thirds and $137,712 in winnings.
Meanwhile, Whitehall went into last week with 27 wins, 19 seconds and 12 third-place finishes in 102 starts. He’d won a whopping $237,445. However, he came out of the week with an even bigger advantage — 35 wins, 22 seconds and 15 third place finishes in 120 starts. He not only won eight of 18 races, but finished in the money 14 times. He has now earned $306,195 for his owners – almost $100,000 more than his nearest rival. Rafael Zenteno Jr. won five times last week, but remains in second place with 24 wins, 19 seconds, and 10 thirds in 106 starts and $212,434 in winnings. Stanley Chadee Jr. is in third place with 14 wins, 17 seconds and 14 thirds in 102 starts and $165,543 in winnings.
This week’s three nights of racing begins Monday night at 7:30 p.m.