Prayforpeace a deserving favourite

74th running of Manitoba Derby tough to pick


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Leading trainer Jerry Gourneau didn’t want his photo taken with Manitoba Derby favourite Prayforpeace on Friday morning, but not for the same superstitious reasons most trainers balk at it.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/07/2022 (309 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Leading trainer Jerry Gourneau didn’t want his photo taken with Manitoba Derby favourite Prayforpeace on Friday morning, but not for the same superstitious reasons most trainers balk at it.

“Take the picture with the help,” said the three-time local training champ. “They do all the work. They should be in the photo.”

We couldn’t agree more with Gourneau, who saddles 7/5 morning-line choice Prayforpeace in the 74th running of the $100,000 Manitoba Derby on Monday, along with fellow Derby entrant Get Witt Gone, who is the longest shot on the board at 40-1. Grooms so often go underappreciated, and they perform 90 per cent of the work with the horses, some of whom wouldn’t win without them.


Manitoba Derby morning-line favourite Prayforpeace shares a moment with groom Madison Turk.

We were lucky enough to catch Prayforpeace right after his morning bath on Friday outside the Gourneau barn with groom Madison Turk, who was as humble as could be while walking her quietly confident grey charge.

Prayforpeace headlines a stellar holiday Monday racing card at Assiniboia Downs that was put together by Racing Secretary Dustin Davis. A total of 63 horses have been entered, eight of which will compete for the winner’s prize of $60,000 in the Manitoba Derby, but there’s a treasure chest of more riches for both fans and horses.

On the horsey side, the Derby goes as the sixth of eight races, which also include the $50,000 Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile (2nd race) and the $50,000 Escape Clause Stakes (3rd race). On the fan side, there’s a mandatory payout on the 20-cent Jackpot Pick 5, and a $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4. The Jackpot Pick 5 carryover pool currently stands at $515,683 and is expected to grow to over $1 million on Monday. There’s also a carryover pool of $45,142 in the Jackpot Hi 5 in the eighth and final race on Monday.

The Jackpot Pick 5 requires you to pick the winners of five races in a row. The Jackpot Hi 5 requires you to pick five horses in the exact order of finish in one race. The minimum bet is 20-cents and if you have the lone winning ticket, you win the pool. If there is more than one winning ticket, the pool is split among the winners, but with excessive amounts of money expected in the pools on Monday, it’s unlikely you’ll mind sharing. And if you think you can’t win it all, consider this…

At a handicapping contest in Las Vegas 15 years ago a woman accompanied her husband to a major two-day handicapping contest. She knew nothing about horses. He was an expert handicapper. She was bored, so her husband bought her an entry into the contest. On the first day, picking by names only, she nailed five long-shot winners to take the lead in the contest. Everyone scoffed. On the second day, she picked four more long-shot winners the same way and won the contest, taking home more than $100,000.

There’s no question the races will be difficult to handicap on Monday, with numerous horses having a chance to win. You could spend two days studying the card and still not find a guaranteed winner. That won’t stop anyone from trying though, as a streak of beaten favourites is not only possible, but also lucrative. Even the Manitoba Derby is tough to pick.

Prayforpeace is the deserving favourite based on his impressive 6 ½-length score in the Derby Trial here three weeks ago, but fellow Derby entrants Clancy’s Pistol, Great Escape and Gold Special had trouble in that race and could improve enough to give the favourite a run for his money.

Clancy’s Pistol and Great Escape are conditioned by one of the best trainers in North America, Robertino Diodoro, who is currently 11th in North America by number of winners with 109, and who has also won the Manitoba Derby in three of the past five years. Diodoro, who is winning at a 20 per cent clip, will also saddle a third entrant in the Derby, Red Knobs, who was claimed for owner Rob Nokes at Churchill Downs for $50,000 on July 3. Nokes once worked in the Assiniboia Downs jocks’ room before going on to fame and fortune as a movie sound wizard in Hollywood.

So Gourneau saddles two horses in the Derby for Henry S. Witt, Jr. a former race car driver from Texas who has been the leading owner at Assiniboia Downs for the past five years, while Diodoro saddles three classy horses from the likes of Churchill Downs and Oaklawn Park, for some of the owners that were in on his previous Manitoba Derby winners.

In an interesting battle of the sexes subplot, the three remaining horses in the Derby will all be saddled by female trainers Shelley Brown (Strong Belief), the first and only female ever to lead the standings here in 2012; Wendy Anderson (Gold Special), who had one of her best years ever here last season; and Jennifer Jordan (Dimmi Quando), whose owner Andy Stronach won the Derby in 2020 with Mongolian Wind.

Fans will be able to enter a Derby Sweepstakes where they can win a $100 wager on a Derby horse, there will be bouncy castles, face-painting and kids’ live entertainments from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Downs’ historian Bob Gates will have a Derby history display that always brings back memories, and as the crowd begins to pack the place before 7:30 p.m. post time, the national anthem will be performed by Winnipeg Jets’ anthem singer Stacey Nattrass.

Things to do, angles, hunches and karma plays abound on Derby Day, but you have to admit, with the state of the world today…

Prayforpeace is most compelling.

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