By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — Jerry Gourneau just can’t wake up from his almost perfect summer dream.
The 60-year-old thoroughbred trainer who won his 500th race at Assiniboia Downs earlier this year, is on a record-setting pace for a 50-day meet and on a wet, rainy Wednesday night, he put an exclamation point on an incredible summer.
In the 40th running of the $30,000 Manitoba Matron Stakes, a race that was billed as a four-horse match race featuring Miss Imperial and Hidden Grace, Gourneau’s Cypress Point was having no part of the hype. The four-year-old Kentucky-bred filly went out quickly and led post to wire over a mile and an eighth, beating fellow longshot More Mo for Me by a length and a quarter to claim the $22,958 first prize.
Hidden Grace, who sure didn’t seem to like the muck on a rainy Wednesday night, finished third while Miss Imperial tired over the distance and was way back in fourth.
Cypress Point, owned by Henry Witt Jr., and ridden on Wednesday by Rafael Zenteno Jr., last ran a month ago at Lone Star in Grand Prairie, Texas, finishing fourth in an Optional Allowance. This was her fifth win in nine starts this year and her first stakes victory. She paid $16.90 to win and $6.80 to place.
More Mo for Me is also a four-year-old Kentucky-bred filly who has now finished second in back-to-back stakes races at ASD. Owned by Jim and Susan Hill, trained by Calvin Britton and ridden by Wilmer Galviz, More Mo for Me was second in the Ericka’s lass Overnight Stakes and now second in the Matron. She has two first and two seconds in four starts in Winnipeg this summer. She paid $6.50 to place.
For Hidden Grace, it was a bitter defeat. She finished out of the pari-mutuel money for the first time in her career and now, after 14 starts, has 11 wins, two seconds and a third-place finish. She is 2-2-1 in five starts this summer.
It was also a tough night for trainer Murray Duncan who had two horses in a four-horse field and they finished third and fourth. It was Miss Imperial’s worst finish in six races at Assiniboia Downs this season. Obviously, the rain and muck had a negative effect on her, as well.
Meanwhile, for Gourneau, it was just another outstanding race in a summer full of outstanding races. After winning the Matron, he also had a winner with Witt’s Gold in the fifth race on Wednesday night while on Monday night he had a winner with Empirical Data to give him three wins on the week.
That means Gourneau is unquestionably the 2020 champion trainer at Assiniboia Downs. The 2018 champion who hails from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reserve in Belcourt, North Dakota has 65 wins, 45 seconds, 37 thirds and an incredible $620,195 in earnings in 264 starts this season. He leads No. 2, defending champion Tom Gardipy Jr., from Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation in Duck Lake, Sask., by 32 victories.
Gardipy Jr. has 33 wins, 33 seconds, 38 thirds and $301,163 in winnings in 217 starts while another former champion (2012), Shelley Brown, is third with 20 wins, 29 seconds, 33 thirds and $287,826 in winnings in 156 starts.
Gourneau has simply been brilliant during this 50-day meet and has won more races in 50 days than any trainer in Assiniboia Downs history.
Meanwhile, in the jockey race, Antonio Whitehall has a lock on that title.
With Week 16 of the 17-week meet starting next Monday night at 7:30, Whitehall now leads No. 2 Stanley Chadee Jr. by 25 first-place finishes. Whitehall, who won the 2018 ASD jockey title with just 41 wins, has 68 victories, 47 seconds and 51 third place finishes in a track-leading 267 starts. He has now earned a whopping $637,414 for his owners. Whitehall has finished in the money an amazing 62 per cent of the time this season.
Chadee Jr., who won six times for the second week in a row, now has 43 wins, 40 seconds, and 33 thirds in 235 starts and has $463,975 in winnings. He rode Marselan to victory on Monday night in the $30,000 Phil Kives Stakes, a race that was deemed to be “non-wagering” because there were only three horses in the field.
With Chadee Jr. on a roll, it means that Rafael Zenteno Jr., is now in third place with 42 wins, 31 seconds and 27 thirds in 208 starts and has $422,764 in winnings. Kayla Pizarro is fourth with 26 wins in 184 starts.
Live racing is back this Monday night, Sept. 7, at 7:30 p.m.