Oct 272023

Assiniboia Downs Class Showing Up Everywhere

Jeff Fa Fa, Tiger Dad, Whitehall, Escape Clause, Danelson making their marks

Canadian Thoroughbred – G.S. Thompson – SUGAR DADDY JACK and Claimers of the Year at Assiniboia

Jeff Fa Fa, shown here winning his second of four races at ASD on July 5 at ASD with Damario Bynoe up, meets eight rivals in the $200,000 Bold Ruler Stakes (G3) on Friday. (Jason Halstead photo)
Assiniboia Downs class is making its presence felt across North America, and the world may be next!

Four-time ASD winner Jeff Fa Fa takes on eight tough rivals in Friday’s $200,000 Bold Ruler Stakes (G3) at Belmont at The Big A; Free Press Stakes winner Tiger Dad recently won at Keeneland; leading ASD rider Antonio Whitehall won a stakes last week at Century Downs; all-time leading ASD trainer Gary Danelson has been named to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame; and the first foal from the best Manitoba-bred in history, Escape Clause, is slated to make his first start on Saturday in Japan.

Whew! That’s a lot of purple velvet!

Jeff Fa Fa returns after his third of four wins at ASD in the 7th race on July 17 for trainer Wendy Anderson. Damario Bynoe up. (Jason Halstead photo)
Jeff Fa Fa won four races at ASD this summer and finished the season on a three-race winning streak for trainer Wendy Anderson. He then ventured to Century Downs in Alberta and set a new track-record winning the $50,000 Red Diamond Express Handicap on September 16. Transferred to former ASD trainer Rob Atras in New York, Jeff Fa Fa has been listed at 20-1 for the Bold Ruler Stakes, which goes as the 8th race on Friday at Belmont at The Big A. He’ll be making a big jump up in class, but he’s at the top of his game right now.

“Pierre (owner-breeder Pierre Esquirol) called me up out of the blue to see if I’d take this horse and give it a shot – why not,” said Atras in an NYRA Press interview posted on PastTheWire.com. “He’s won four in a row and broke the track record last out at Century. If he’s not at this level we can find a different spot for him, but Pierre wanted to give him a shot at the top level in New York.”

Go get ‘em Jeff!

Tiger Dad (#2), shown winning the Free Press Stakes this summer at ASD for trainer Robertino Diodoro and jockey Jorge Carreno, recently won at Keeneland. (Jason Halstead photo)
Tiger Dad has already carried his winning ASD form south of the border, so maybe Jeff Fa Fa can do the same. Trained by top North American trainer Robertino Diodoro, Tiger Dad won the Free Press Stakes and finished second in the R. J. Speers Memorial this summer at the Downs before venturing to Del Mar and then on to Keeneland, where he won a $20,000 claiming race on October 13 in game fashion.

2023 ASD leading rider Antonio Whitehall moved his tack to Alberta this fall after winning his third local riding title with 56 wins and has continued his winning ways at Century Downs, highlighted by a recent victory in the $50,000 Birdcatcher Stakes on October 22 aboard Grated Coconut for top trainer Craig Smith. Whitehall currently sits in a tie for third in the standings at Century Downs with 11 wins, and is only five victories behind leader Dane Nelson as they head into the final weekend of racing.

Good luck Antonio!

Three-time ASD leading rider and 2023 champion Antonio Whitehall has continued his winning ways at Century Downs in Alberta. (Jason Halstead photo)
On the breeding and racing front, Ivan Bigg reports that Shonan Gachi, the first foal out of Manitoba-bred superstar mare and Sovereign Award winner Escape Clause, is slated to make his debut in the fifth race this Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan. The bay colt by Japanese Derby (G1) winner Duramente sold for almost a million dollars in the 2021 Japanese Select Sale. Escape Clause (Going Commando-Danger Pay by Circulating), was bred in Manitoba by Cam Ziprick and Arnason Farms and went on to win numerous stakes including the La Canada (G3) at Santa Anita, earning $866,100 US from a record of 20-5-4 in 35 starts. On pedigree alone…

Shonan Gachi should be a runner!

Escape Clause colt Shonan Gachi, shown here as a yearling, will make his racing debut at Tokyo Racecourse this Sunday in the fifth race.
Congratulations are in order for all-time ASD leading trainer Gary Danelson. Track historian Bob Gates reports that Danelson has been chosen for induction into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame as part of their class of 2024. The 86-year-old master horseman from Scobey, Montana has been one of the elite trainers at Assiniboia Downs since he first arrived here in 1959, and has trained numerous stakes winners and champions at the Downs including Electric Fever, Smoky Cinder, Hi Lord, Baladi, Smart Figure, Tadaa, and Fancy Bru among others.

Danelson won his 1,250th race at the Downs in his final start of the 2023 season with Kate’s Princess on September 12, improving his overall career record to 1288-1095-959 from 6,501 starts for purse earnings of $5,931,023 US.

Congratulations Mr. Danelson!

Trainer Gary Danelson wins his 1250th race at Assiniboia Downs with Kate’s Princess on September 12, 2023. Congratulations! (Jason Halstead photo)

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