|Strong competitive fields and smooth rides over an exceptionally kind surface resulted in a new opening day record handle on the opening day of the 65th live race meeting at Assiniboia Downs, as bettors from around the world and on-track pumped $1,151,223 through the wires and windows. Wow! What an opening night!
The $25,000 guaranteed Pick 4 pool had a whopping $109,686 in it on opening night and a $1 ticket paid $1,134.05 to a pile of happy punters. It was more of the same on Wednesday evening with a total handle of $1,123,118 and a Pick 4 pool of $74,121 that resulted in a $1 ticket paying $4,494.85.
If you liked a horse, you could basically bet as much as you wanted to win without changing the odds. And all but one of the 14 races appeared to run to handicapped form, which made many a handicapper’s dreams a reality.
Manitoba-bred first-time starter Miss Giving (Kentucky Bear-Bull Market Lady by Holy Bull) showcased trainer Devon Gittens’ ample skills with young horses with a win in the first race of the year, the Don Gray Memorial, and it was onwards and upwards from there.
The highlight performance of the first two days was a scintillating score by Halfinthewrapper in the Ruby’s Big Band Overnight Stakes. Claimed for $15,000 last fall at Woodbine, the 5-year-old mare trained by Saskatchewan born and raised trainer Mike Taphorn rifled out of the gate and set fractions we haven’t seen here by a female since One More Lady in the mid-1980s.
Halfinthewrapper went 21.60 and 44.40 to open up 8 ½-lengths on the field by the eighth pole and coasted home under jockey Neville Stephenson to win by 4 ¾-lengths in a sizzling 57.60 for owners Lets Dance Stable, paying $11.50 to win. Kudos to Taphorn for having this mare ready to rock ‘n roll at first asking.