Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Riding to the top of the Downs

Singh tied as second leading jockey, and he's not done yet

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The tranquility in the jockey's room at Assiniboia Downs during the day is almost Zen-like. It's air-conditioned, lined with big comfy couches, with a big-screen TV in one corner, a drink machine in another, while a pool table graces in the middle of the room and music plays in the background.

So that's what the jockeys do when they disappear between races. They lounge around, shoot a little pool and watch TV.


Well, if you believe that, you'd probably bet the farm on Bullwinkle the moose if some guy with a rolled up Racing Form told you it was his day because he was off Lasix and a bug was in the saddle.

Actually, things usually go pretty smooth there, but once the racing starts there are probably few places on earth with more built-up tension and short fuses than that little room under the grandstand.

"You don't get to see us outside like you do in the CFL, NHL or NBA," said Rohan Singh, who has been burning up the track over the last five racing days. "Every time they score a basket they don't run into the locker-room and hide, but we ride a race and then come in here, and there's a lot of action goes on here sometimes. Things like heated confrontations."

In the minute and change it takes to run one race, any number of infractions (horses bump, a rider cuts off another, etc.) can occur, setting off fireworks once the jockey's return to the room, but Singh says they are usually left there.

"When we go out to race again we focus only on the job at hand, and when the (starting) gate flies open, it's each man for himself. We get paid according to how well we do, so it is either me or him. I don't care how good a buddy he is to me, I am going to do what I can to win."

Speaking of winning, over the four-day stretch from June 29-July 2 the three-time Downs leading jockey (2005, 2001, 2000) won 10 races, including the $25,000 one-mile Canada Day Stakes last Friday on the Charlie Smith-trained filly Ruby's Big Band.

He added another win on Wednesday, riding Menyata to victory and moved into a second-place tie with Janine Stianson with 21 wins each. Both riders are chasing the leader David Lopez who has 33 wins.

Singh says the relationship he has with Smith, a Texan who bases his racing stable at Canterbury Downs in Minneapolis, is one that works well.

"He asks me my opinion, and I tell him what I think. I don't beat around the bush and he seems to take that to heart. There may be some things he may want to experiment with that I disagree with, or things I do that he doesn't agree with, but that's how it works."

Singh plays down the idea that after 36 years of racing, he may be catching a second wind.

"I don't think so. I think it's always there. You can never take away the ability that was there."

With the Minnesota state legislature shut down, there hasn't been any racing at Canterbury for over a week. If it goes on much longer, it could have some positive ramifications here.

Darren Dunn, Assiniboia Downs CEO, says that there is serious talk at Canterbury that if the shutdown lasts much longer, "I'd say a week or so," they will cancel the remainder of the season, and that means a lot more horses could be coming north to race here. In fact, Dunn confirmed that Smith already has plans to move his operation here in the next week or so regardless.

That would suit Singh just fine. In the meantime, he'll be riding Waronthehomefront Saturday in the $25,000 mile and one sixteenth Harry Jeffrey Stakes. The race pits the best three-year-olds on the grounds, and is considered a prep for the $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Aug. 1.

Live racing both today and Saturday has a post time of 7:05 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 8, 2011 C6

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