By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — Hidden Grace will return Wednesday, after just nine days rest, to take on the best fillies at Assiniboia Downs.
There are two stakes races at ASD this coming week and Hidden Grace will take on a talented four-horse field in the $30,000 Manitoba Matron Stakes for older fillies and mares. On Monday night, it’s a three-horse match race in the $30,000 Phil Kives Stakes for older horses.
For Hidden Grace, this will be a very interesting test. Early in the season she went up against the best fillies and mares at the track in her first two outings and finished second to Miss Imperial and second to Labhay in two stakes races. She dropped down and won a $14,400 Allowance race for Manitoba breds and then won the $30,000 Distaff Stakes for Manitoba breds last week. She now has two straight wins against Manitoba bred fillies and mares and has won 11 times in 13 starts in her career.
On Wednesday night, however, she’ll jump back in with the best on the grounds and this is a small but star-studded field. She’s the morning-line favourite – a line set by track handicapper Dustin Davis who picked every winner on last Monday night’s card – but not by much.
Hidden Grace, trained by Murray Duncan and ridden by leading jockey Antonio Whitehall, who won seven times last week, is at 7-5. Cypress Point, trained by leading trainer Jerry Gourneau and ridden by Rafael Zenteno Jr., is second at 8-5. Miss Imperial, who beat Hidden Grace in a tremendous race in the Canada Day Stakes, is third at 2-1. And the talented More Mo For Me, ridden by Wilmer Galviz, is 12-1. These four fillies will race over one and one-eighth miles in a grinding beast of a race.
This will likely be one of the highlights of the 50-day ASD meet.
Meanwhile, on Monday night, three great geldings will face off in the Kives Stakes over one mile. The legendary seven-year-old Langara, trained by Michael Nault and ridden by Antonio Whitehall will go to post as the even-money, morning-line favourite. Purrsibility, trained by Jerry Gourneau and ridden by Rafael Zenteno Jr., will go off at 3-2 and Marselan, trained by C.N. Anderson and ridden by Stanley Chadee Jr. is next at 5-2.
There are only eight days of racing left on the schedule and these two stakes events this week should prove to be among the most exciting races of the summer – even though the fields are small.
In case you missed it, last Wednesday night, in an upset win, Richard Mangalee and Explorer Bill, fought off Kayla Pizarro and Fire On Command to win the $30,000 Osiris Stakes for talented two-year-olds.
In a race in which the favourites, Bells and Whistles and Freezing Jimmy weren’t even a factor, Explorer Bill took over the race at the sixteenth pole and despite a great ride by Pizarro, beat Fire On Command by half a length at the finish. Explorer Bill won the $22,776 first prize and paid $12.40 to win, $6.10 to place and $4.10 to show. Fire On Command paid $8.80 to place and $4.30 to show while Bells and Whistles was a distant third and paid $3.20 to show.
Explorer Bill is a two-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding owned by Dialed In Racing Stable and Bill Dory, trained by Craig Smith and ridden by Richard Mangalee.
Jerry Gourneau, who won five times last week, could be handed the trophy as the 2020 champion trainer at ASD today. This year, the veteran trainer from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reserve in Belcourt, North Dakota has 62 wins, 42 seconds, 32 thirds and $536,611 in earnings in 244 starts and has won $573,446. He leads No. 2, defending champion Tom Gardipy Jr., from Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation in Duck Lake, Sask., by 31 victories.
Gardipy Jr. has 31 wins, 30 seconds, 37 thirds and $281,273 in winnings in 205 starts and former champion trainer (2012) Shelley Brown is third with 19 wins, 28 seconds, 30 thirds and $275,668 in winnings in 145 starts.
Meanwhile, in the jockey race, Antonio Whitehall has a lock on that title.
With Week 15 of the 17-week meet starting Monday night at 7:30, Whitehall now leads No. 2 Rafael Zenteno Jr. by 27 first-place finishes. Whitehall, who won the 2018 ASD jockey title with just 41 wins, has 67 victories, 43 seconds and 46 third-place finishes in a track-leading 249 starts. He has now earned a whopping $613,940 for his owners – almost $250,000 more than his nearest rival. Whitehall has finished in the money an amazing 63 per cent of the time this season.
Zenteno Jr., who won three times last week, remains in second place with 40 wins, 29 seconds, and 23 thirds in 188 starts and has $380,461 in winnings while Stanley Chadee Jr., who won six times last week, is in third place with 37 wins, 40 seconds and 29 thirds in 217 starts and has $409,091 in winnings. Kayla Pizarro is fourth with 25 wins in 175 starts.
Remember, there is more than just live racing three nights a week to enjoy at the Downs. There are 60 VLTs open daily from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and while the grandstand and tarmac are still closed to spectators, you can watch live racing from the Terrace Dining Room, the Club West Lounge and the Racebook. Reservations are required for the Terrace Dining Room, just call 204-885-3330.
Live racing is back this Monday night, August 31, at 7:30 p.m.