Every athlete prepares for a big event differently, but when it comes to this weekend's five major stakes races at Assiniboia Downs, those holding the reins won't say a whole lot.
Rohan Singh, a 47-year-old veteran rider, who has won three leading jockey titles here, and Jennifer Reid, 23, who is just about to complete her two-year apprenticeship, are miles apart in many terms. Both, however, have one thing in common. Neither has won the Manitoba Derby. In Reid's case, that isn't surprising, but for Singh, it's been gnawing at him for a while.
The 67th running of the race, the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby, will culminate a weekend of action on Monday afternoon.
Singh currently leads in the standings with 47 wins. Paul Nolan is next with 43 and Reid third with 39.
The weekend's first big event is Saturday's $30,000 mile-and-one-sixteenth Winnipeg Sun Stakes. The big show continues on Monday, with the $30,000 mile-and-one-sixteenth R.J. Speers; the $30,000 five-and-a-half-furlongs Graduation and the $50,000 one-mile Assiniboia Oaks. Monday's main event, of course, is the Derby.
"I think I've won just about every race they've run here, except the Derby," said Singh. "It has eluded me for a long time, and it would be nice to get that monkey off my back. I mean, I've been in the hunt a few times, but I just couldn't quite get there."
As for Reid, there was bad news and good news Thursday afternoon when the Derby draw was announced.
The bad news was that the trainers went with what has been working for them all along, and that meant she was shut out of the big race. The good news, is that she has plenty of years ahead of her, and there are still four other stakes races this weekend to focus on. "I take it as just another race day," said a disappointed Reid, who will ride Silken Manner in the Sun Stakes. "That way I don't psyche myself up too much, playing mind games with myself."
Singh will be on Finally Flying in the same race.
Neither Singh, nor Reid will know who they are riding in Monday's other stakes races until this afternoon when the draws are completed.
In the Derby, Singh will ride a chestnut gelding out of San Francisco named Cahill Chrome. He has said in the past that he prefers to get to know the horses he will be riding but he isn't about to start stressing over a new mount. "You just prepare yourself the same way you do for every race," he said. "You don't try to think about it too much, but you don't block it out, either. You don't want to over load your brain with too much information. You just try and go into the race stress free and let it flow."
Paul Nolan has the post position, and as expected he'll ride Balooga Bull, who lost his last outing after going 6-0, to bay colt Pleasant Closing on July 14 in the mile-and-sixteenth Harry Jeffrey Stakes. It was the Bull's first trip over six furlongs and he didn't have the finishing power he needed.
Pleasant Closing is also in the mix with Tyrone Nelson up, and you can bet even money that both trainers, Ardell Sayler (Balooga Bull), and Murray Duncan (Pleasant Closings) will have tweaked their strategies, in preparation for Monday's rematch.
If you're looking for a long shot, consider So Shiny, ridden by Prayven Badrie and Runaway Lion, ridden by Trevor Simpson. The probable morning-line odds on those two local horses are 15-1 and 20-1, respectively, but don't let that scare you. These horses have potential.
Also considered a strong contender is Clear The Runway, who just finished third to Up Jumps A Monster in the $50,000 Kentucky Alberta Handicap. The 4-0 Monster, by the way, is also here. Clear The Runway will be ridden by Northlands Park's leading jockey Rico Walcott. Up Jumps A Monster will be ridden by Alberta apprentice Scott Williams.
Finally, out of Vancouver's Hastings Park comes The Gov. Adolfo Morales will be in the irons.
Post time Saturday is 7 p.m., and 1 p.m. Monday.
THE DERBY FIELD
THE field for Monday's 67th running of the $75,000, one-and-an-eighth-mile Manitoba Lotteries Derby, with post position, horse, jockey and trainer. Probable morning line odds in parenthesis:
1. Balooga Bull (6-1), Paul Nolan, Ardell Sayler
2. So Shiny (15-1), Prayven Badrie, Melissa Peach
3. Clear The Runway (9-2), Rico Walcott, Greg Tracy
4. The Gov (7-2), Adolfo Morales, Philip Hall
5. Runaway Lion ((20-1), Trevor Simpson, Shelley Brown
6. Up Jumps A Monster (5-2), Scott Williams Rob Chabot
7. Pleasant Closing (6-1), Tyrone Nelson, Murray Duncan
8. Cahill Chrome (4-1), Rohan Singh, Roger Hansen
Post time is 1 p.m.