Aug 082019



“You can’t beat how they treat you here”

Robertino Diodoro wins third Manitoba Derby in four years with Oil Money



Robertino Diodoro is a heavyweight trainer in the U.S. with 110 horses racing in New York, Kentucky and Minnesota but he still looks forward to sending horses to Assiniboia Downs on Derby weekend because, he says, “You can’t beat how they treat you here.”

It also helps that his horses do well at the Downs. The 3-year-old gelding Oil Money–owned by Charles Garvey whose company sells drilling pipe in Alberta– gave Diodoro his third Manitoba Derby win in four years on holiday Monday ($3) and his Arizona Sun–owned by Alberta sugar-beet grower Randy Howg–won the $30,000 Debutante for 2-year-old fillies on Friday ($8.30). Both horses had been shipped to the Downs from Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

There were two other stakes races on Derby weekend, both of which were won by ASD connections: the Michael Nault-trained Hidden Grace won the female equivalent of the Manitoba Derby on Friday–the Manitoba Oaks ($2.80)–and Shelley Brown debuted an impressive Florida-bred, Cash Or Card, in the Graduation Stakes on Saturday, a race open to all 2-year-olds, which the gelding won impressively ($13).

The Manitoba Derby was almost anti-climactic. Ninety per cent of race fans questioned before the race said Oil Money was going to win gate-to-wire and the 3-year-old gelding did so seemingly effortlessly, paying $3 to win. When the first half-mile of the 1 1/8-mile race was run in a dawdling :49.80 under jockey Orlando Mojica, Diodoro was getting ready to head to the Winner’s Circle.

Diodoro’s other horse in the race, Rocknroll Rocket finished third and the Tim Rycroft-trained Call It a Wrap from Alberta was second.

The biggest headline of the race was that a $5,000 ASD claimer, Flinch, the longest shot on the board at 42-1, ran fourth, beating several stakes horses. Flinch’s trainer, Juan Pablo Silva, seemed just as happy as Diodoro.

Betting on the seven-race card was $598,000, $40,000 more than last year. Diodoro won the Derby last year with Sky Promise and in 2016 with Inside Straight. Overall, his horses win at a vaunted 24 per cent rate.


Bullet briefs . . .
  • Sunday alert: Yearling sale 2:30 p.m., Manitoba Night Market 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Escape Clause’s sister skips local auction; being shipped to Keeneland sale instead
  • Hot Rodin’s loss sets up near-record high show price
  • Leading jockey Alex Cruz is done for the season
  • Why did onlookers in the Chase the Ace game gasp?
  • Vegas beckons! Sign up for Saturday’s horseplayer tournament to make it happen

WHEW! CHASE THE ACE JACKPOT ALMOST WON ON DERBY DAY: The crowd around the Chase the Ace board on Derby Day gasped as it was revealed that the jackpot card, the ace of diamonds, was right next to the card that that day’s winner had chosen to try to win $23,367. Which means the game continues tomorrow night with just 18 cards remaining. Will you take down the pot with your $5 ticket?

NEW OTB GOODIES: Starting this Saturday, enter your name with mutuel sellers at these OTB locations (Pembina, Windsor, Quest & Green Brier) to be drawn on Saturday to win 10,000 Player Rewards points. And, at Club Regent, McPhillips & Rookies, get 5x the usual Player Rewards points when you bet ASD races.

READ, REMEMBER AND WIN: Don’t forget the end-of-season quiz on Bob Gates’ blogs to win betting vouchers, ASD merchandise, artifacts from your birth year and bragging rights forever.

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DO THE DOWNS Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
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What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
Want to follow sports in the Race Book? Bombers

FREE VLT TOURNAMENTS AFTER LIVE RACING: Enter in the Club West Gaming lounge following live racing. Get into the draw for 10 chances to win $20 in free VLT spins tonight and 10 chances to win $40 in free VLT spins on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Top winner from each night participates in a month-end finale for more spins and $250 in prize money.

POKER FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT: $10 buy-in poker is now on summer break. Poker will resume on Friday, Sept. 13 with a royal flush progressive jackpot of $5,111.25.

GREEDY CORNER: $470K and $300K carryovers in the 20-cent jackpot pick-6s at Gulfstream and Del Mar respectively.


How did invaders do on Derby weekend?
Local horses win two of the four stakes races

Trainer Shelley Brown and jockey Antonio Whitehall celebrate Cash Or Card’s victory in the Graduation Stakes

Top trainers Robertino Diodoro (U.S.) and Tim Rycroft (Alberta) shipped horses to ASD to try to scoop the lion’s share of the $165,000 in purse money available in four stakes races — and, in Rycroft’s case, to look for wins in other races, too. How did they do?

DIODORO: 3-2-0-1. Diordoro couldn’t have asked for much better. His horses finished first and third in the Derby and first in the Debutante

RYCROFT: 6-0-1-3. Rycroft’s best showing was second in the Derby. Otherwise, his horses finished third in the Graduation, the Debutante and in an $11,000 claimer and out of the money in the Manitoba Oaks and in an optional claimer

LOCAL TRAINERSAcquitted themselves well, outperforming the ship-in horses in the Manitoba Oaks (Michael Nault won with Hidden Grace) and Graduation Stakes (Shelley Brown won with Cash Or Card).

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Shades of Big Brown
“Heavily restrained” Alberta horse in Manitoba Oaks evokes memories of Belmont debacle

Watching Alberta jockey Wilmer Galviz trying to wrestle back Something About Me In the early going In the Manitoba Oaks Friday was remindful of what happened to Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes in 2008 when it seemed he would be an easy Triple Crown winner but finished last.

Trainer Tim Rycroft’s Something About Me, second choice in the betting, finished last, too, way behind the field. Look at the similarity in the comments in their results charts:

Big Brown: “Steadied sharply while rank.”
Something About Me:
“Heavily restrained and checking early.” It was a very slow-paced race and the filly was trying to do what she had done in her previous starts–being on the lead or lying second.

Extreme restraint, it seems, can take the heart out of a horse which is what happened in both cases. Watch the Manitoba Oaks here.


Almost a record high show price
Show price of $78.70 after Hot Rodin fades to last is just 20-cents shy of ASD record
Why was Hot Rodin dropping into a $5,000 claiming race after winning easily for $10,000? Players who asked themselves that question in race 2 Friday and played other horses were collecting big when the 1-9 favourite finished last:

#4 Sheer Prince
#6 HillbillyRoyalty
#3 Willy Be Smart

Hot Rodin took almost 80 per cent of the $40,949 bet on the race. Historian Bob tells us that the $78.70 show price on Sheer Prince was just 20-cents shy of the all-time highest show price paid at the Downs of $78.90 on Oxford City Slew ridden by Christopher Husbands on Sept. 24, 2011.

Here, FYI, are the all-time highest ASD win and place prices:

  • Highest $2 win: Canadian Border (Scott Schindler) – $474.20 – May 31, 1986
  • Highest $2 place: Mid Strome (Joe Selyem) – $242.00 – July 31, 1965

HIDDEN GRACE TOOK BIG SHOW MONEY, TOO: Big show money was bet in Friday’s Manitoba Oaks Stakes, too, on Hidden Grace. The unbeaten filly took $19,429 of the $21,946 bet to show in the race. Of course, in this case Hidden Grace won the race and paid $2.10 to show.




Hottest jockeys: Antonio Whitehall, Renaldo Cumberbatch
(4 wins)
Hottest trainers:
Robertino Diodoro, Elton Dickey, Michael Nault, Shelley Brown, Murray Duncan (2 wins)
Biggest longshot: Sheer Prince $122.70 (Friday, race 2)
Stakes champion(s): Hidden Grace (Manitoba Oaks), Arizona Sun (Debutante), Cash Or Card (Graduation), Oil Money (Manitoba Derby)
Stakes this week:
Buck Domino, celebrating the two-time winner of the Gold Cup, 1984-1985 (Saturday)

Pick-4: None.
Jackpot Pick-5 (starts race 3): $1,317
Jackpot Hi 5 (last race): $4,299


to all-time leading trainer Gary Danelson who broke his longshot record set on July 27, 1960 (mare Fanny’s One paid $101.30, $54.50 and $44.80 on that day) with his Sheer Prince on Friday night who paid $122.70, $86.40 and $78.70 across the board. In this business, you’ve never seen it all, even after five decades of racing! A big shout-out on this race, too, to the newbie who bet $2 to win on Danelson’s horse after Fan Education specialist Ken Porter told the woman she should consider betting against Hot Rodin because his odds were a valueless 1-9.



A BIG SHOUT-OUT to the Alberta sugar beat grower Randy Howg who enjoys being at the Downs so much, he drove 10 hours from Lethbridge to the Downs to watch his Arizona Sun race in the Debutante Friday night and was soon on his way home for another 10 hours on the road. At least his dedication was rewarded with his horse winning ($8.30). His previous victory with a horse on Derby weekend came in the Manitoba Derby itself three years ago when his Inside Straight won the race.

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to the Race Book player Saturday night who nailed the Jackpot pick-5 pool of $6,032 with a $72 ticket (20-cent wheel: 3 x 4 x 2 x 3 x 5). It almost didn’t happen, he told The Insider. “At first, I had closers in the first leg and then thought ‘Closers never seem to get there’ so I changed to horses that would be showing early speed: Alpine Luck and Budlitelarry.” Budlite won at odds of 8-1 after dueling with Alpine Luck.

The tricky last leg was won by a horse The Insider regards as a “rule” horse in maiden races. You add up where the horse finished last time with where the horse was positioned in the first call of his previous race. Imalittlebitcountry, #3, had a low added-up number of 8. The filly, at odds of 11-1, was one of five horses the player had taken in the last leg.




Escape Clause’s baby sister to be auctioned at Keeneland
But several other Going Commando yearlings will be available at Sunday’s sale

If you love Escape Clause and/or Hidden Grace, save some affection and admiration for their 19-year-old sire–Going Commando–whose final years as a full-time stud have proven to be his best.

Now we’re going to find out what horsemen beyond Manitoba think of his progeny. The Zipricks, who have been breeding Going Commando for a dozen years in Russell, Man., will, for the first time, send one of his daughters to the yearling sale at Keeneland in September. That’s because that daughter is the full sister to Escape Clause. What will she fetch? Same mom, same dad, same genes. Will she take after her big sister? Hmm.

You’ll still be able to buy a Going Commando sibling at Sunday’s auction, though. Ziprick Thoroughbreds is offering three fillies at the sale that will be held in a Red River Ex pavilion behind the grandstand at 2:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Free sales books with a listing of the yearlings are available at Guest Services.

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“NAME THE YEARLING” FILLY TO BE SOLD, TOO: The filly, Foxy Bon Bon, who got her name in Canstar’s “name the yearling” contest, also goes on the auction block Sunday as Hip #4. Break open the piggy bank and get a few partners together to buy this good-looking filly bred in Foxwarren by Larry Falloon.




INJURIES TAKE ALEX CRUZ OUT OF JOCKEY RACE: ASD’s leading jockey, Alex Cruz, is out of the jockey race. He has been sidelined with a collarbone and rib injuries suffered during a morning workout last Thursday when the horse he was riding fell. He attempted riding Friday but booked off his mounts in pain. Trainer Juan Pablo Silva told The Insider Cruz is likely to resume riding in October when the Turf Paradise meet opens in Phoenix.

NEW JACKPOT WAGER AT SARATOGA: A 20-cent Jackpot pick-6 wager called the Empire 6 has been added to the wagering menu at Saratoga. It’s similar to the Rainbow pick-6 where you must have the only correct ticket to win the jackpot. The track adds 25 per cent of each day’s pick-6 bets to the growing pool until it is won by a single ticket. There will be a mandatory payout on Sunday, Aug. 18 and then on the final day of the Saratoga meet, Sept. 2.



CANDYMAN JACK AND A FORMER TICKET SELLER PASS AWAY: Candy-making was his business; race-playing was his pleasure which is what Jack Tapper was doing almost daily at the track–in his familiar northside carrel in the Race Book–until Sunday, July 28 when a heart attack felled him at the age of 66, his friend, Gerri McLean, told The Insider. He chose to keep to himself, only celebrating audibly when he won $70,000 on the early pick-5 and pick-4 on Breeders’ Cup Saturday two years ago.

Pallbearers at a graveside ceremony at Shaarey Zedek cemetery included David Miles, a former chair of the Manitoba Horse Racing Commission, and his son Greg, and another fervent racing fan, Charles Tax. Also succumbing on July 28 at the age of 53 was Myles Meneer, a former ticket seller at the Downs with a very big heart.


HISTORY ON THE HOOF with Bob: Owner’s favourite horse died in his lap

Vic Clare’s favourite horse died in his lap. That touching event is included in Bob’s latest blog in which he discusses sitting down recently with a man who galloped horses at Whittier Park and Polo Park and was an outrider at the Downs in the 1960s. “Vic and his wife, Marge, ran one of those mom and pop stables for 30 plus years and were married for 70 years,” Bob said. He has their story here.

READ BOB AND WIN (see Fun & Games above).
REFRESHER COLUMN: Read his fifth column of the race season here.



  • Tomorrow: Live racing/ace chase 7:15.
  • This Saturday: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. Buck Domino Stakes for older horses
  • This Sunday: CTHS Yearling Sale behind the ASD grandstand on the Red River Ex grounds 2:30 (free to attend); Manitoba Night Market 3 to 11 p.m. Admission $5.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 14: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. “I won bigger” group betting workshop 6 p.m. in Boots N Saddles lounge main level (all welcome). Saratoga Sis Stakes for older fillies and mares
  • Friday, Aug. 16: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. Phil Kives Stakes for Manitoba-bred older horses
  • Saturday, Aug. 17: Escape Clause in the $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown race track. Third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the Breeders’ Stakes, on the turf at Woodbine; live racing/ace chase 7:15. Distaff Stakes for Manitoba-bred older fillies and mares.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 21: Live racing/ace chase 7:15. Final Wednesday “I won bigger” group betting workshop 6 p.m. in Boots N Saddles lounge main level (all welcome). Osiris Stakes sprint for 2-year-olds

  One Response to “You can’t beat how they treat you here”

  1. CURTIS STOCK’s article about BETTING posted on HRA with less than 300 hits is typical of the lack of direction in stemming the tide of decreasing overall handle in Alberta. Next week’s rumoured article will be HOW TO TRAIN HORSES TO RUN FASTER followed by THE ART OF STALL MUCKING TO MAXIMIZE BEDDING.

    The recent article where horse owners are being urged to find hay for the winter months due to the brutal weather is another indication of growing industry expenses while the horsemen will have to wait to 2021 for any purse increases!

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