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Manitoba Derby Winner Set for Second Jewel

August 24, 2023 11:10 AM | Sports

By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)

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Assiniboia Downs

Antonio Whitehall

From left, Jerry Gourneau, Antonio Whitehall and Henry Witt Jr. are back at Century Downs this Saturday. (JASON HALSTEAD PHOTO)

According to trainer Jerry Gourneau, Mano Dura is ready to race.

The champion three-year-old of the 2023 Manitoba Derby will head to the post this Saturday at Century Mile in Edmonton for the second leg of the Western Canada Triple Crown and while he was a surprise winner back on Aug. 7, at Assiniboia Downs, he’s now the only horse with a chance to win the $100,000 bonus as the West’s Triple Crown winner.

“The horse is doing great. Training really, really good”, said Gourneau. “You try and put your horse in the right spot so that if everything goes right, he’s got a chance. And I think he’s in the right spot. He’s got post No. 2. Now it’s all up to him.”

Back on Aug. 7 in the $125,000 Manitoba Derby at ASD, Mano Dura performed brilliantly under the guidance of leading jockey Antonio Whitehall and beat a formidable field to take the first jewel in Western Canada’s Triple Crown Series.

Owned by ASD’s leading owner Henry Witt Jr. of Texas, the Gourneau-trained, Whitehall-ridden 15-1 underdog paid $32.80 to win $5.50 to place and $3.30 to show. The odds-on favourite Heroic Move was second and paid $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show while another favourite Tshiebwe was third and paid $2.90 to show.

It was quite a race. Heroic Move and Tshiebwe got out quickly and Heroic Move took an easy lead around the first turn, but Mano Dura pulled into a comfortable spot on the rail, right behind the leaders heading down the backstretch. As he entered the final turn, Whitehall asked for a little extra and got it. Mano Dura flew past Tshiebwe and then hauled in Heroic Move at the final poll. As the two horses reached the edge of the grandstand, Mano Dura was in complete control.

At that point, Heroic Move’s jockey, Rico Wolcott, put away his whip and watched Mano Dura cross the finish line, three lengths ahead. Now we’ll see if Mano Dura’s win was a fluke. After all, there will be 11 other outstanding thoroughbreds out to take him down on Saturday.

Entries for the $200,000 Canadian Derby at Century Mile in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday, August 26, 2023, over one mile and one quarter.

Canadian Derby Entries

Here are some notes on Saturday’s race that is slated to go to post at 10:15 p.m. CDT:

  1. If any horse is scratched, Jerry Gourneau will get a second entry, Discovery Peak which ran fifth in the Manitoba Derby after going off as an 80-1 underdog.
  2. Four horses that ran in the Manitoba Derby will run on Saturday night: Mano Dura (champion), Heroic Move (second), Tshiebwe (third) and Green Amazon (fourth). If Discovery Peak gets in, the Top 5 horses from the Winnipeg race will run on Saturday.
  3. Rico Walcott, the jockey on Heroic Move, is coming off a disappointing 15th-place finish in the 2023 King’s Plate last Sunday, aboard one of the pre-race favourites Kaukokaipuu. However, he rode the 2022 Canadian Derby winner, Great Escape, trained by the legendary Canadian trainer Robertino Diodoro, who trains Heroic Move.
  4. Mano Dura will head into the Canadian Derby with two straight wins. He won a $10,000 allowance at ASD on July 24 and has now won $138,201 this summer with four wins at ASD and Lone Star in Texas. He also has four seconds and a third in 10 starts this year.
  5. Two Assiniboia Downs regular jockeys — Whitehall and Sven Baldroop on ASD trainer Steven Gaskin’s Green Amazon, are all but guaranteed starts in this Saturday’s Canadian Derby. Neville Stephenson could get in if a horse is scratched. He not only rode Discovery Peak to a surprising fifth-place finish in the Manitoba Derby but also rode Reasonably Lovely to victory in the 2023 Manitoba Oaks.
  6. Assiniboia Downs’ leading owner, Henry Witt Jr., won his first Manitoba Derby, back on Aug. 7, and could have two horses in this year’s Canadian Derby.

You can wager on the Canadian Derby at Assiniboia Downs this Saturday night. The first race at Century Mile on Saturday goes off at 3:45 p.m. and it’s the Alberta Stallion Stakes Derby for quarter-horses. Blink and you’ll miss it.

And remember, live racing returns to the Downs on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Post time for race 1 each night is 7:30 p.m. CDT.