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Off and Betting at Assiniboia Downs

May 23, 2024 6:45 AM | Sports


By Scott Taylor (@staylorsports)

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Assiniboia Downs

Tim Tarasenco - Miss Z

58-year-old Tim Tarasenco brings home Miss Z in the fifth at ASD on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (JASON HALSTEAD PHOTO)

They are off and running in the 67th racing meet at Assiniboia Downs.

To be more precise, however, they are off and betting.

Let the record show that on Victoria Day, Monday night, May 20, Yola won the opening race of the 2024 live thoroughbred racing season at the Winnipeg track. Ridden by 2022 jockey champion Prayven Badrie, trained by Michael Nault and owned by A2 Thoroughbreds, Yola led all the way from 3/16ths pole to the wire to win a five-furlong $10,400 claimer.

But Yola wasn’t the only winner during the first two nights of the 50-night meet.

On opening night, the big winners were defending champion trainer Jerry Gourneau and owner Henry S. Witt Jr. who won two races as did jockey Sven Balroop, who rode winners in the fifth and sixth races.

On Tuesday night, the story was a disqualification and the success of 58-year-old comeback jockey Tim Tarasenco.

Tarasenco, a graduate of Winnipeg’s Westwood Collegiate was a top jock all over North America — mostly in the United States — between 1987 and 2004. He retired in 2004 to work in the fire restoration business and then in 2022, he got a call from trainer Larry Cizik.

“Way back in the day, I was buddies with Tony Cizik,” Tarasenco explained. “His dad, John, was one of the oldest trainers out here at that time. I just hung around with him and I’d stay out at the barn just north of the track here. His dad would get tired of watching Tony gallop all the time so he eventually handed me a pitchfork and put me to work in the barn. Then I started galloping.

“Well, Tony’s. brother Larry was training out here at the track and in the fall of 2022, he asked me to get on his three-year-old, Better Make That Two, a nice three-year-old who won a lot of races, but wasn’t switching off the lead properly. So, Larry asked me to help and the rest is history. I knew that as soon as I got back on a horse, I’d be hooked.”

In February of 2023, Tarasenco got a call from trainer Carl Anderson and decided to come back full-time. Last year was his first full season of racing since ’04 and rode Sugar Daddy Jack to victory in the J.W. Sifton Stakes. On Tuesday night, he won two races.

Riding Big Ticket for trainer Anderson, he finished second in Race 2, but Moro Outlaw was disqualified and Big Ticket was named the winner. Then, in Race 5, the 58-year-old Tarasenco brought home owner Douglas Mustard’s Miss Z ahead of Downthestretchdebby to win his second race of the night. He’s now second in the jockey standings behind Badrie and Damario Bynoe who picked up three wins in the first week of racing.

However, while the racing was outstanding, the wagering overshadowed everything else. On Opening night, after only six races, total betting reached $1.36 million, a stunning 24 per cent increase over last year’s opening day handle, a card that featured seven races. This resulted in a 44 per cent increase in average wagering per race compared to 2023.

One punter said on Tuesday, “Assiniboia Downs has the most exciting racing on the first three days of any week. In the summer. You can win big money and the racing is always competitive.”

Not surprisingly, the opening evening was capped off by a spectacular payout in the Jackpot Pick 5, where a lucky bettor won $13,400 on a mere $0.20 wager.

“The excitement around opening day was over the top this year, and Monday’s attendance was one of the largest we have seen in recent memory,” said Downs CEO Darren Dunn in a written statement.

“We have made significant enhancements this year for horseplayers. Most pools have take-outs that have been reduced by a full one per cent and the track has become one of the first tracks in North America to eliminate the run-up to the start pole. Both moves have been very well-received by players. These initiatives reflect ASD’s commitment to providing a top-notch, entertaining racing experience.

“This week, the wagering was fantastic, and the atmosphere was electric, especially with the Indian Horse Relay racing as part of the Manito Ahbee Festival and the historically important raising of the Treaty One flag. It sets the tone for a great season.”

Racing will resume on Monday and Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. CDT. The addition of Wednesday evening racing to the schedule will begin in June and will run through until September. For more information on the 2024 racing season, upcoming events, and more, visit the Downs’ newly revamped website at ASDowns.com.


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