The 60th Season: What a Finish!
WINNIPEG, MB. — Rohan Singh has won his fourth jockey title, Escape Clause won her final race of the meet, Tom Gardipy Jr. won his fifth trainer’s title and Galitzianer upset Manitoba Derby Champion Plentiful in the Gold Cup.
It was a remarkable conclusion to the 60th Anniversary season of Assiniboia Downs on Sunday.
There were so many big stories on the final day that it was hard to keep up with them all. Perhaps, the two most remarkable were Escape Clause’s final win and 52-year-old jockey Singh winning a fourth title.
Without question, Escape Clause was the most dominant three-year-old Manitoba-bred filly in decades. On Sunday afternoon, she toyed with her older rivals in the $25,000 Manitoba Matron Stakes to put an exclamation point on a season in which she won seven of eight races by a combined total of more than 70 lengths.
Sunday’s victory pretty much guaranteed that Escape Clause will be the Downs’ 2017 Horse of the Year. The last—and only other—time that local race fans saw such a precocious Manitoba filly was in 1978 when Liz’s Pride won all seven of her three-year-old races at the Downs and finished second in the Manitoba Derby, a feat also accomplished by Escape Clause.
“It was a dream year,” said one of her owners, Barry Arnason, as he watched her male counterpart, Paint My Ride, which he also co-owns, win the $25,000 J.W. Sifton Stakes for Manitoba three-year-old colts and geldings. Escape Clause is trained by co-owner Don Schnell and was ridden by Adolfo Morales.
Meanwhile, Singh caped off a marvelous season by winning a fourth jockey’s title and his first since 2005. Long a favourite of bettors at the Downs, this near-senior citizen from Guyana, who makes his winter home in Texas, finished with 46 wins, 38 seconds, 32 thirds and $422,166 in earnings on 205 starts.
“The leadership and work ethic Rohan brings to the table each race day received a just reward with the leading rider title,” said Downs CEO Darren Dunn. “While he would not have been the pick to do so heading into the season, there is nobody left surprised after the effort he put forth this campaign. Rohan won the title against a backdrop of very stiff competition in the saddle and surely inspired a lot of people in the jocks room in doing so.”
In an amazing finish, defending jockey champion Christopher Husbands finished second in the standings by winning two races on Friday night, one on Saturday and an incredible five on Sunday. Husbands finished with 42 wins, 34 seconds, 44 thirds and $403,594 in 228 starts.
Adolfo Morales who led for most of the meet finished third in wins but first in winnings. The man who rides Escape Clause had only 140 starts but finished with 38 wins, 35 seconds and 17 thirds with a Downs high of $447,651 in earnings. Antonio Whitehall and Kayla Pizzato were tied for fourth in the tandings with 31 wins each.
It was also a solid year for attendance and wagering. Per-race wagering was up by 14.42 per cent over last year. A total of $11 million was wagered compared to $9.8 million last year.
Darren Dunn, Rob MacLennan and Ivan Bigg sent along these other highlights from the final weekend of the 50-day 2017 summer racing season:
- A low-key trainer with only five horses, Linda Kropius, became a giant killer in two stakes races on Sunday: Her Galitzianer knocked off Manitoba Derby winner and fan favourite Plentiful bythree-quarters of a length in the $25,000 Gold Cup – a race for the best horses on the grounds — and, in the Winnipeg Futurity, two-year-old filly Dandy Deen at odds of 9-1 upset favoured Cheertothenewyear trained by 12-time leading trainer Ardell Sayler. Galitzianer paid his backers $21.20 for a $2-win ticket and Dandy Deen paid $20.50.
- In a down-to-the-wire tilt, trainer Tom Gardipy Jr. grabbed the trainer title for the fifth time with 36 victories, two more than Don Schnell.
- Wayne Misko, last year’s Handicapper of the Year, won the 60-second betting spree finale over four other frenzied motor-mouth competitors, turning his $116 in wagers into $259.20 which also gave him the $600 season-ending bonus.
- The 20-cent Super High 5 Jackpot at the Downs paid $34,130.44 on Sunday while the $2 Win-4 3/4 paid $491.80.
“It was an extremely gratifying season,” said Dunn. “We had extraordinary horse performances and an exceptionally competitive jockey colony. And, for the first time in years, we had a new, industry-friendly Manitoba Horse Racing Commission that allowed the track to space its live races between other competing tracks’ races so that wagering pools exploded in a positive fashion to the delight of our customers.”
“I also enjoyed the recounting of glorious moments from the past, recognizing everything from legendary horses and jockeys to industry builders. We also had concerts and two Night Markets. The Downs was alive this summer.”
The Downs now turns its attention to simulcast racing and preparing for the biggest racing event of the year, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Del Mar race track in California on the first Friday and Saturday of November.
The Downs is open every day of the year, including Christmas, for simulcast racing, dining, 140 VLTs, $10 buy-in poker, Thursday prime rib buffets, weddings, trade shows and business meetings. The Downs doesn’t stop when live racing stops.
—Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo – Assiniboia Downs