Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Assembly Hall swiftest of all

Minnesota horse wins $75,000 Manitoba Derby

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Assembly Hall's co-owner Dennis Goettsch and his partner Bryan Porter have apparently found a formula for getting their horse to win on the road.

Simply put, Porter should stay at home in Minnesota.

At least it worked for them Monday, as Canterbury Downs jockey Alex Canchari rode the Kentucky-bred bay gelding to victory by a length-and-a-half in the 65th running of the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby.

'Alex got a good ride, and made the right move when he needed to'

"I'm the half (of the partnership) that just stays out of the way," quipped Goettsch, adding he pays the bills and lets Porter, who won the Manitoba Derby in 2009 with Smuggler's Hold, do what he does best -- train the horse.

"Bryan stayed down in Canterbury (Minnesota)," Goettsch went on. "He thought about coming up, but he came up (with other horses) one time and they didn't win. And the time they won in 2009, he didn't come. So he said, 'I'm not going to jinx it. I'm not coming.'

"We were relatively confident that he would do well at a mile-and-an-eighth," said Goettsch. "Alex got a good ride, and made the right move when he needed to and Assembly Hall had what he needed to have to finish strong. We're thrilled with him."

Adrian Ramos, looking for his fifth win of Monday's eight-race card, had to settle for second on the back of Stormin Monarcho and Jon Q, ridden by Chavion Chow, finished third.

Canchari held Assembly Hall in check for about two thirds of the race, but began to move into position in the final turn, coming into the stretch third behind It's All Here and Jon Q. With half a furlong to go, and with Stormin Monarcho barreling down on him from the outside, Assembly Hall dug in all the way to the wire and made the trip to the winner's circle. He posted quarter times of 22.4 seconds, 48.0, 1:14.0 and 1:55.0

"I saw the horses going wide a little bit early, so I just tucked in and actually had a much better trip than I thought I would have," said Canchari, who had ridden Assembly Hall twice previously. "He got a little aggressive when I put him behind some horses and he had to eat dirt, so I tried to keep him in a pocket. Then, when I got into the turn, I took him out and he kicked in. From there on it was my race."

Goettsch, who with Porter, purchased Assembly Hall in a Kentucky yearling sale for only $3,500, said the horse, who is a bit of an enigma, had them relatively confident he could cover the mile-and-an-eighth distance. "You never know for sure," he said. "This horse was actually bred to run on the grass. We've had him on the grass a couple of times, but his lone win prior to today was on a sloppy track.

"We never knew for sure how he was going to handle hard dirt, but Alex had been riding him in the mornings, and said he thought he would do well, and sure enough, he held his own."

He didn't win the big one, but local jockey Ramos had quite an afternoon of his own, with four wins, including a pair of stakes victories. He rode Megatron Ruler to victory in the $30,000 Graduation Stakes for two-year-olds, to finish in front of Maddie's Gold and Regal Silver. Then in the $50,000 one-mile Assiniboia Oaks for three-year-old fillies, he was on Portales, finishing in front of Dynasheals and Magical Powder.

The fourth stakes race was the $30,000 R.J. Speers for three-year-olds and up and the winner was Ran The Man, with Chow in the saddle. Second went to Flexiplus and Gotatigerbythetail was third.

petto@shaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 6, 2013 D4

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