By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
WINNIPEG — Robbie Nokes once worked in the jocks’ room at Assiniboia Downs. Monday night, he was handed the Manitoba Derby Trophy.
Back in Winnipeg as Rob K. Nokes, the owner of Red Knobs, the longtime Hollywood sound operator watched his three-year-old Kentucky-bred chestnut colt wallop a solid eight-horse field of three-year-olds to win the 74th running of the Manitoba Derby.
Trained by Robertino Diodoro and ridden by the Downs’ leading jockey, Jorge Carreno, Red Knobs battled with Great Escape for the lead for most of the race, then, at the top of the stretch, Carreno asked for a little more and got it as he beat Great Escape pulling away to claim the second win of his 16-start career – a win that nearly doubled his earnings for 2022.
Racing in front of an impressive Monday night crowd (the big race didn’t start until 10:15 p.m.) that reminded many veteran bettors of ASD’s old Holiday Monday afternoon Derbies, Red Knobs gave Diodoro his second stakes win of the evening. Earlier, Soy Tapatio won the Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile. A Calgarian, Diodoro, 48, is a legend in American racing, having won nearly $4 million and more than 2,500 races in his 27-year career.
Red Knobs was claimed by Nokes for $50,000 on July 3 after finishing second in claimer at Churchill Downs. Red Knobs had three impressive races – second, third and second — at Churchill before being shipped into Winnipeg last week.
From the start, the Derby was a two-horse race. Great Escape took the lead and battled with Red Knobs for the entire mile and an eighth. Prayforpeace tried to make at the top of the final turn but had nothing. Down the stretch, Red Knobs pulled away and won by a length and a half.
Red Knobs went off at 5-1 and paid $8.30, $3.70 and $2.90. Great Escape (2-1) was second and paid $3.10 and $2.50 while Clancy’s Pistol (8-1) was third and paid $3.50. A $2 Trifecta of 1-5-4 paid $67.10. The even-money favourite, Prayforpeace, didn’t have that second gear that he demonstrated two weeks ago when he won the Derby Trial and finished fourth.
It was a wonderful night for Assiniboia Downs. Total wagering for the Derby was $374,166 and the total for the day was $3,523,260, both records.
“This is my favourite program of the year,” exclaimed CEO Darren Dunn. “We knew this race was going to be competitive and what a battle to the finish! Fans really responded, setting new records for wagering on the day. We are so thankful to the horse people and staff for putting on a fantastic event and for the horseplayers for all their support. We couldn’t be happier!”
There were two other stakes races on Monday night.
In the $50,000 Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile, Robertino Diodoro’s Soy Tapatio whipped a field of six horses to take home the $30,000 top prize. Ridden by Rico Walcott, Soy Tapatio took the lead at the three-quarter pole and outraced the veteran Plentiful to win by 6½ lengths.
One of the favourites, Soy Tapatio paid $2.50, $2.10 and $2.10. Plentuful paid $5.50 and $2.50 while another favourite, Itsthattime, finished third and paid $2.10.
In the $50,000 Escape Clause Stakes over a mile, Escape Clause’s baby sister, six-year-old Hidden Grace, held on to win by a length and a half over the Murray Duncan-trained Texas Rain.
Hidden Grace paid $6.00, $3.50 and $2.70. Texas Rain paid $2.80 and 2.30 and third-place finisher Big Stretch, trained by Michael Nault, paid $2.70. It was Hidden Grace’s third start of the meet and her first win. She has now finished first, second and third in three outings this summer and has 15 wins in 25 starts in her career at the Downs. She’s also earned more than $288,000 during her time on the track.
Hidden Grace is owned by Barry Arnason, Cam Ziprick and Charles Fouillard, trained by Lise Pruitt and ridden by Renaldo Cumberbatch. She was bred in Manitoba by Ziprick, Fouilllard and Arnason.