By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — After two awesome head-to-head races, Hidden Grace and Miss Imperial avoided each other this week.
Regardless, Murray Duncan’s two dominant four-year-old fillies were the stars of the track as the 12th Week of a 17-week thoroughbred meet at Assiniboia Downs came to a close on Wednesday night.
On Monday night, Hidden Grace won a $14,400 Allowance race for Manitoba-bred fillies. On Wednesday night, Miss Imperial won the $18,000 Ericka’s Lass Overnight Stakes.
On Monday, Hidden Grace made it quite clear that after two second-place finishes in her only two races this summer, she was back, winning a 7 ½-furlong Allowance against the best Manitoba-bred fillies and mares. After a terrible, stumbling start, jockey Antonio Whitehall righted her and it was as if nothing had happened. She sat comfortably in second behind second-favourite Purrsistent, then took a short lead on the final turn and drew away, cruising to six-length win like a well-tuned Jaguar on a summer drive.
Hidden Grace, the four-year-old filly who now has 10 wins and two seconds in 12 career starts, went off as a 1-5 favourite and paid $2.30, $2.10 and $2.10. Purrsistent was second and paid $2.60 to place and $2.40 to show. Honour Class was a surprise third and paid $9.00 to show.
Hidden Grace is owned by Barry Arnason, Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard, trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by Antonio Whitehall. Purrsistent is also a four-year-old filly, but owned by Dr. Betty Hughes, trained by Devon Gittens and ridden by Rafael Zenteno Jr.
On Wednesday night, racing in the one mile and one sixteenth Ericka’s Lass Overnight Stakes, Miss Imperial took the stage and did not disappoint. Another 1-5 favourite, Miss Imperial got out of the gate and ran second until just before the quarter pole and then took control, leading the rest of the way and winning by 3 ½ lengths over highly-regarded More Mo for Me and Kickalittlebooty.
It was Miss Imperial’s seventh win of the year in her 10th start at Assiniboia Downs, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., and Fair Grounds in New Orleans. She’s now won the Go Go Lolo Overnight Stakes, the LaVerendrye Stakes, the Canada Stakes and the Ericka’s Lass Overnight Stakes all at ASD.
Miss Imperial, a Kentucky-bred four-year-old filly, is owned by Murray Duncan and the Estate of Garylle B. Stewart, trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr. For Duncan, it was a gigantic week for the best two fillies in his barn and perhaps the best two fillies at ASD.
Meanwhile, sandwiched between the two big filly races, Assiniboia Downs provided its bettors with a mandatory payout of the Jackpot Pick 5 and once again, the pot was huge. In fact, at the end of the fifth race, the total Pick 5 pool was $2,385,804.
The single winner Jackpot Pick 5 pool had not been won after 15 consecutive racing programs and had built up to $420,542. Then came Tuesday night’s betting frenzy.
“The betting on the card was fantastic,” said Downs CEO Darren Dunn in a written statement. “Horseplayers typically love these events as they look to score on the “free money” of the jackpot that is added to the payout. We had the highest carryover in North America last night and we made sure that we got that word out!”
The wagering on this event was second only to the mandatory Pick 5 payout on July 6. On Tuesday night, a 20-cent winning ticket paid $1,002.
“We are so thankful to the horseplayers, horsemen and partners that truly made this a success,” continued Dunn. “This has been an extraordinary year for the Downs so far. We’re looking forward to the possibility of going out with another big mandatory event to close out the meet in September.”
Live racing returns on Monday night Aug. 17. There are only 14 days over five weeks of live racing remaining this summer. Monday night’s card begins at 7:30 p.m.