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Whitehall, Gourneau Lead at the Midway Point

July 24, 2023 7:00 AM | Sports

By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)

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Assiniboia Downs

Antonio Whitehall

Jockey Antonio Whitehall (RUSTY BARTON PHOTO)

WINNIPEG — Antonio Whitehall last won the Assiniboia Downs jockey championship in 2020. This year, he’s making a concerted effort to win another.

Thoroughbred enthusiasts are at the official midway point of the 2023 live racing season at ASD — nine weeks down, nine weeks to go — and Whitehall finds himself with a six-win lead over two-time defending jockey champion Jorge Carreno and an eight-win advantage over the No. 3 rider, red-hot Damario Bynoe.

Whitehall, 29, who arrived in Winnipeg from Bridgeport, Bahamas in 2016, started his career riding dressage horses and showjumpers when he was 15. These days he’s trying to win his third jockey title since 2018, the year he won his first.

In the COVID world of 2020, Whitehall had a remarkable year. He won the 2018 ASD jockey title with just 41 wins, but in 2020, he finished with 74 victories, 54 seconds and 58 third-place finishes on a track-leading 299 mounts. He earned a whopping $705,869 for his owners.

However, he also finished second in the jockey competition at Edmonton’s Century Mile that same summer as he and a small group of jocks would fly back and forth between Winnipeg and Edmonton to race at both tracks. At Century, he had 251 starts and won 43 races with 31 seconds and 41 thirds. In Edmonton, he won $465,100 for his owners.

With 117 wins and $1,170,969 in earnings, he was easily the No. 1 jockey in Canada in 2020. Whitehall has won 419 races and over $3.9 million in purses in Canada during his seven seasons here.

This year, the numbers aren’t so big, but so far, they’re good enough to give him the lead in the standings.

After winning two races last week, Whitehall now has 28 wins, 27 seconds and 23 third-place finishes in a track-leading 146 starts through the midway point of the meet. He’s been in the money 53 percent of the time, second best among the track’s leaders. Renaldo Cumberbatch who has 13 wins in 95 starts and sits in sixth place, has been in the money 57 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, Carreno, the No. 2 rider who won the jockey title in both 2021 and 2022, has 22 wins, 20 seconds and 13 third-place finishes in 120 starts. He also won twice last week. At No. 3, Bynoe now has 20 wins, 11 seconds and 21 thirds and like Whitehall, has been in the money 53 percent of the time. He won a whopping four races last week.

On the trainer’s side of the ledger, it was a very interesting week. Jerry Gourneau, who won his second trainer’s title in 2020, also won the crown in 2021 and 2022 and this year could become the first ASD trainer to win four straight trainers’ championships. He leads by four wins over Jared Brown at the midway point of the season, but he just had a week off.

All of Gourneau’s horses were scratched last week after he was handed a three racing-days suspension for what was called “a minor medication violation.” With Gourneau on the sidelines, Shelley Brown led the week with four wins while Jared Brown and Wendy Anderson had three wins apiece.

Gourneau now leads with 21 wins, 19 seconds and 15 third-place finishes in a track-leading 118 starts through the midway point of the meet. Meanwhile, Jared Brown is No. 2 with 17 wins, 10 seconds and 10 third-place finishes in just 71 starts. At No. 3, Wendy Anderson now has 15 wins, 15 seconds and 16 thirds in 92 starts, one win better than six-time champion Tom Gardipy Jr., who has 14 wins in 74 starts.

Remember, racing resumes tonight at Assiniboia Downs. First post is 7:30 p.m. Gourneau has 10 horses entered on tonight’s card, three tomorrow night and 14 horses entered on Wednesday night. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll all run, but that’s still a busy week for any trainer.