WHEN the last three days of racing at Assiniboia Downs began on Friday, all indications were there would be a war between David Lopez and three-time leading rider Rohan Singh for the top jockey title.
Down by eight wins (71-63) to Lopez, Singh mounted a challenge on Friday with four wins while Lopez was shut out to close the gap to four.
Fate dealt both riders a cold hand Saturday and Sunday. Lopez gained one win back on Saturday with a trip to the winner's circle on Dance The Dance in the second race, but that was all she wrote for the two top jockeys of 2011.
"Yeah, no doubt about it," said Lopez after receiving the championship trophy in the winner's circle. "I got blanked the first day, and he won the four. It was looking really tight, but today we've both been blanked. None of the favourites are coming in, and we were both on some heavily favoured horses today."
Lopez, who calls San Diego home, finished the season with 72 wins to Texas native Singh's 67. Tyrone Nelson finished third with 40, including winning trips Sunday on Go My Champ in the fifth and No Image in the sixth.
"We knew last night that today was going to be the factor," Lopez said. "It feels great (to win the title), but to be honest with you, it's like a monkey off my back in a way."
As for the guys who train the horses, Ardell Sayler won his 10th title with 50 wins. Chad Torevell was second with 39 and Jerry Gourneau third with 38. Tom Gardipy Jr., who held the title last year and shared it with Carl Anderson in 2009, finished fourth with 37 wins.
Sayler wasn't there to accept the trophy because he was in Kentucky at the Keeneland yearling sales, already building for next year.
"My dad would be very proud, because it is a record-setting 10 wins here at the Downs," said Sayler's son Aaron, who has his own stable in the same barn, across from his dad, in the backstretch. "But he would still like to thank his staff, the agents and all the people who have stuck behind him since he came here in 1991. If you don't have the clientele and the help behind you it's hard to do what he has done."
Even though the Downs raced only 60 days compared to 63 last year, with 479 races compared to 510 in 2010, the total handle was up, with $9,065,832.45 wagered compared to $8,896,330.40 last year.