By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)
The 2023 live racing season starts Monday night at Assiniboia Downs and despite some ongoing construction, the building and the horse people can’t wait for the first post.
There will, however, be two events before opening night arrives. The annual news conference/luncheon will be held on Friday while the annual CTHS/HBPA Awards Banquet is slated for this Saturday night.
The Downs is coming off some extremely successful hosting duties as players, coaches and executives of the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships held their opening banquet and coaches’ meetings in the Terrance Dining Room.
However, when things open up on Monday night, there will be a much different vibe. The horses are back, the jockey colony is almost complete and a full card for racing is scheduled to go to post on Monday night.
“We’re excited to bring another thrilling season of live racing to our fans and community,” said ASD CEO Darren Dunn. “We’re committed to making this season better than ever by offering free Family Fun activities on opening night and all Mondays beginning in July and running through to Labour Day evening. We invite everyone to come and enjoy the exciting races and all the fun-filled activities the Downs has to offer.”
Opening night’s festivities will actually start during the day with the most excitement you can have on a horse — the Indian Horse Relay Races. The event begins at noon as Indigenous riders from all over North American demonstrate their incredible horse-riding skills.
“Live thoroughbred racing that night begins with free Family Fun activities from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.,” said Sheri Glendinning, the Downs simulcast and program director. “The evening will feature bouncy castles, face painting, kid’s entertainment, balloon twisters, and glitter tattoos.
“The track will also be introducing the Gmax Hybrid Timing system this year. This technology tracks the horses in real-time throughout the race and shows an easy-to-follow graphical representation at the bottom of the live video. The information collected through this system will also provide a whole new level of statistical data for horseplayers and horse people around the globe.”
“And this season, the Manitoba Derby will be part of the new Western Canadian Triple Crown. It will involve the three major Western tracks — Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Century Mile, in Edmonton and Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver. The three western racetracks will band together to present a combined Derby extravaganza during the 2023 live racing season.”
The Western Canadian Triple Crown connects the $125,000 Manitoba Derby (August 7), the $200,000 G3 Canadian Derby in Alberta (August 26) and $125,000 G3 British Columbia Derby (September 16). In addition to $450,000 in purse money, there will be an additional $100,000 bonus should a horse win all three of the prestigious Derby events.
“To link a meaningful financial bonus to the already robust purse offerings should only elevate the participation and competitiveness of the races,” said Dunn. “It also results in a rewarding outcome for both the racing fans and related horse connections. We are excited to work collaboratively with our western provincial partners who are so energized to put an even brighter spotlight on these historic Derby events.”
Leading jockey Jorge Carreno and leading trainer Jerry Gourneau are both back in Winnipeg for the summer meet, all set to defend their titles, and to make the horse people at ASD even happier, purses are increasing once again this year. In fact, it will be the first time in history that the Manitoba Derby will be a $125,000 race.
The Player Portal is available to all fans where they can access all the information they need in one place, including live video, programs, jockey/trainer stats, bios, and more. The portal can be found at asdowns.com/player-portal.
Meanwhile, the next Food Truck Wars at the Downs will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28. There will also be three Night Markets this season.
Racing begins on Monday night, May 22, and will continue on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 7:30 pm throughout the season. For more information visit ASDowns.com.