By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
In past years, September was mop-up time at Assiniboia Downs. For most racing seasons, September offered up six race dates over two weeks and a couple of big stakes races, but for most people, school, football and the Jets were starting and a season of horse racing was just about a memory.
This year, however, it’s completely different. Not only will thoroughbred racing be held at Assiniboia Downs right up until Sept. 27, there will be six big stakes races including three of the most important races of the 2022 season.
“Originally, we were planning on finishing in the middle of September,” explained Darren Dunn. “But because of backstretch flooding in the spring, we delayed the start of the meet, we have had to push it to the 27th of the month and there are a lot of big things happening this month.
“There are still six big stakes races, $250,000 in purse money and of those six races, there are among the top stakes races at their categories. The Matron is the Top Mare race of the year, the Gold Cup is the top race for older horses – also my favourite race of the year, even ahead of the Manitoba Derby — and the Futurity is the highlight race of the two-year-old season. These are Tier 1 stakes races to finish the meet and these races will go a long way toward determining the champion in each category.
“These races are important and I’m looking forward to them because they will round out what has been a very, very strong season.”
Dunn has always loved the Gold Cup. It is, after all, the race that features the best horses on the grounds. This year it will go to post on Tuesday night, Sept. 13, over one mile and one eighth for a purse of $40,000.
“The Manitoba Derby is restricted to three-year-olds and three-year-olds only,” Dunn said. “This is for three-year-olds and up. In other words, Who is the best horse on the grounds this year? We have 500-600 horses here. Which one is the best on the property at this time against the best possible field. The horse that wins the Gold Cup can say I’m the best horse on the grounds. I like that. I want to see who the gold medal winner is, if you will.
“Going back to my teenaged years, I’ve always enjoyed the Gold Cup more than any other race. This is the best field at the track and it’s wide open, no age restrictions It’s mano a mano, who is going to step and beat the best? Who is the Tiger Woods, who is the Babe Ruth, who is the Wayne Gretzky at Assiniboia Downs.
“Now, we also have to be aware that horses from other provinces also compete in this race. You can almost always count on a horse from Alberta and occasionally a horse from Canterbury (Shakopee, Minn.). I don’t know if that will happen this year but even we don’t get an invader, it won’t take away from the top older horse race of the meet.”
Based on what he’s seen this season and considering that the entries aren’t yet in, there are a few horses Dunn wants to see in this year’s Gold Cup.
“I’m interested in the horses that ran in the Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile,” Dunn explained. “That was a $50,000 race and those horses should have an impact on the Gold Cup.
“Soy Tapatio, a four-year old Kentucky-bred gelding from Alberta (trained by Robertino Diodoro and ridden by Rico Walcott) won that race and I would love to see the return of that horse to Winnipeg to defend his Harvey Warner title,” he said. “It’s always nice to see a local horse step up and win the Gold Cup. The winner of the prep race, the Elite Mercedes Stakes, was Itsthattime, for True North Thoroughbreds who are amazing local owners out here and I’d like to see the money stay local. Itsthattime has been the best local horse and finished third to Soy Tapatio in the Harvey Warner so it would be a heck of a rematch.
“And don’t forget Plentiful, the eight-year-old, who is running really well for his owners, Murray Duncan and the Estate of Garylle Stewart. But, yeah, I’d really like to see these two local horses take on Soy Tapatio again.”
The Gold Cup will be the feature race of the month but there are six big stakes races in total. Here’s the schedule:
September is going to be a tremendous month at Assiniboia Downs. Despite all the other sports on the calendar, racing will be more competitive than ever this month for 10 nights right up to Sept. 27.