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Whitehall, Gourneau Lead the Way at the Downs

June 29, 2023 11:26 AM | Sports

By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)

Presented by:

Assiniboia Downs


Antonio Whitehall

Jockey leader Antonio Whitehall (RUSTY BARTON PHOTO)

WINNIPEG — Look up. Way up to the top of the standings. Yep, those are familiar names.

As we finish the month of June at Assiniboia Downs — six weeks into the season and just six weeks from the $125,000 Manitoba Derby — veteran champions Antonio Whitehall and Jerry Gourneau lead the jockey and trainer standings for 2023.

Gourneau, a four-time trainers’ champion who has won the last three titles at ASD, leads his category with 14 wins, 15 seconds and nine third-place finishes in a Downs-high 82 starts. He leads fellow First Nation’s trainer and six-time champion, Tom Gardipy Jr., by three wins, although Gardipy Jr. has sent only 50 horses to the starting gate this season. Wendy Anderson and Jared Brown are tied for third with nine wins each.

Whitehall, meanwhile, is on top of the jockey standings with 20 wins, 16 seconds and 16 third-place finishes. He’s been in the money in 54 percent of rides and has won two stakes races. Whitehall has a five-win advantage over defending champion Jorge Carreno and is six ahead of Prayven Badrie and Damario Bynoe.

Whitehall, 29, who arrived at Assiniboia Downs from Barbados in 2016, was the 2018 and 2020 ASD jockey champion. He has always said jockeys like Carreno and top competition “bring out the best in me,” and he’s proving it again this season. While he’s a long way from a third ASD title, he has certainly made his presence known this season.

This past week, Whitehall rode only one winner while Carreno and Bynoe closed the gap in the jockey standings with five wins each, Prayven. Badrie and four wins as Whitehall’s lead got just a bit smaller

In the three Stakes races this past week at the Downs, the jockey leader failed to win although he was the bridesmaid twice. Carreno won the $50,000 Golden Boy Stakes on Monday night aboard trainer Murray Duncan’s Chicago Gray owned by Roll the Dice Stable, Royce Finley and Arnason Farms; on Tuesday night, Stanley Chadee Jr. on Burrow Down held off Whitehall on Melisandre in the $51,000 LaVerendrye Stakes on Tuesday; and on Wednesday in the $51,000 Free Press Stakes, Carreno on Tiger Dad edged Big Nick with Whitehall aboard to pay $10.90, $5.40 and $3.20.

It’s obviously going to be tight for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Gourneau, who hails from Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation in Belcourt, N.D., is on pace to win his fourth straight (and fifth of his career) trainer’s title. This past week, he saddled four winners to hold on to his 2023 lead and with all the quality horses in his barn appears headed to another championship.

With just six weeks to go before Manitoba Derby week, both the jockeys’ and trainers’ races will be highly competitive.

Meanwhile, with Canada Day weekend on the horizon, there is a lot coming up at the Downs. There are race night buffets on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week with the first post at 7:30 p.m. The table is yours for the entire evening and includes racing programs and tip sheets. It’s $49.95 for adults, $46.95 for Seniors (65+), $29.95 for kids 12 and under, and $16.95 for kids five and under. Reservations are required so call (204) 885-3330 and book your table now.

And, of course, on Saturday, July 1, it’s the Downs’ annual Canada Day Fireworks and Festival. The celebration runs from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and includes live musical entertainment, beer gardens, more than 100 artisans and vendors, more than 15 food trucks, kids’ entertainment and a spectacular fireworks display by CanFire Pyrotechnics. Tickets are $10 and kids five and under are free. Tickets available at the door or at Showpass. Event parking is $5.