By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
It’s very seldom that bettors get a sure thing at a thoroughbred race track.
At Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs, however, it is beginning to appear as if there are at least four of them.
This season, if you put money on Melisandre, St. Louie Guy, Jorge Carreno or Jerry Gourneau, you will very likely win money.
Melisandre, the small but beautiful three-year-old Manitoba-bred filly remains undefeated. St. Louie Guy, a seven-year-old Florida-bred gelding, has entered two stakes races and won them both. Veteran jock Carreno won six times last week and has now won 13 times on the last six cards. And defending trainer’s champion Gourneau has another seven wins this past week.
So, let’s start out a tour of ASD sure shots with Melisandre. On Tuesday night, June 15, with Stanley Chadee Jr. in the irons, she coasted to a 2 ½-length victory in the $35,000 Chantilly Stakes for three-year-old fillies, easily beating a game Fox Appeal, with Carreno up, to the wire. She led almost the entire six furlongs and had no real challenger from the head of the stretch to the finish line.
It was her sixth straight victory for owners True North Thoroughbreds and Arnason Farms and trainer Lise Pruitt. Last year, in her two-year-old season, she won all four races – three of them stakes races – that she entered. This year, she’s two-for-two ad has now won $78,051, a pretty nice haul for a Manitoba bred that was purchased for $18,908 from consignor and breeder Cam Ziprick at the 2019 Yearling Sale.
“She’s like a Cadillac,” said her 68-year-old majority owner Barry Arnason. “She reminds me of Escape Clause (with she shares sire, Going Commando). She has tactical speed. She can head to the front or she can relax and stalk. She has natural talent and she’s beautiful to be around. She’s a really kind horse.”
She’s also a winner and is scheduled to race again in either the $35,000 Hazel Wright Sire Stakes on July 5, over six furlongs or the $35,000 Jack Hardy Stakes on July 6, over 7 ½ furlongs. That will bring her up to either the $35,000 Manitoba Oaks on July 26 or a date with the boys in the $100,000 Manitoba Derby on Aug. 2. Expect that she’ll take her shot in the Derby, just like Escape Clause, who ran second in 2017.
In the other stakes race last week, Jorge Carreno rode his second stakes winner of the season bringing home St. Louie Guy for owner Henry S. Witt Jr. and trainer Jerry Gourneau. Wednesday’s $35,250 six-furlong sprint came down to St. Louie Guy and Quincy Express with Leroy Nelson aboard and Carreno and St. Louis Guy won by half a length. The 2017 Manitoba Derby champion, Plentiful, with Stanley Chadee Jr. in the saddle finished third. It was St. Louie Guy’s second stakes win of the spring.
St. Louie Guy, had been racing at Sam Houston and Lone Star in Texas this past winter and, in seven races in 2021, has not been out of the money anywhere. In fact, he has not been out of the money since finishing 11th in a race at Oaklawn Park on April 3, 2020, a streak of 13 races in first, second or third.
Meanwhile, Carreno who has now won 1,515 races during his 19-year career, has had a superb early season riding stakes-calibre horses. He finished second in the first stakes race of the year, the $20,000 Astral Moon Overnight Stakes abroad Cypress Point for Witt and Gourneau. He rode St. Louie Guy to victory in the $20,000 One Night Lover Overnight Stakes on May 26, for Witt and Gourneau. He finished second to Melisandre on Fox Appeal in the $20,000 Sail To France Overnight Stakes on May 31 and finished third aboard Cypress Point in the $35,000 LaVerendrye Stakes on June 9, behind Miss Imperial and Purrsistent.
As a result of last week’s stakes win along with 12 other victories in the past two weeks, Carreno has built up a huge early lead in the jockey standings. He now has 18 wins, 16 seconds and five thirds in 62 starts and has won $208,173 for his owners. Melisandre’s rider, Stanley Chadee Jr. is second with 11 wins, six seconds and 10 thirds and $152,220 in earnings while Leroy Nelson and Neville Stephenson are tied for third with 10 wins each.
Meanwhile, Gourneau, the defending trainers’ champion – a man with the biggest barn at the track — has almost locked up the trainers’ race just one month into the season and he’s used Carreno on his horses quite willingly.
Gourneau has 20 wins, 18 seconds and 13 thirds in a massive 86 starts. He’s already won $236,482. Wendy Anderson and Lise Pruitt are next, 13 wins behind. Anderson has seven wins, four seconds and four thirds in 32 starts with $83,665 in earnings while Pruitt has seven wins, three seconds and three thirds with $84,577 in earnings.
“In 2020, Jerry Gourneau concluded what could only be called the most dominant training season in the history of Assiniboia Downs,” said Downs CEO Darren Dunn. “The skill he brings to the table, the strength of his team at the barn and the sheer volume and talent of the horseflesh he brings to the oval every year makes us so happy that he always returns to Assiniboia Downs.
“We have a number of very talented, hard-working trainers here at Assiniboia Downs but the No. 1 position in the standings starts and ends with Jerry Gourneau. He is the defending champion trainer and has the largest stable on the backstretch – in the range of 60 horses – and he brought race-fit horses from Texas. His lead owner, Henry Witt, is very aggressive in the game and has purchased a large number of horses pointed toward winning at Assiniboia Downs. The rode to the winner’s circle each night will go through Jerry Gourneau’s barn.”
Live racing continues Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week at 7:30 p.m. without spectators.