Enthusiasm carries the day

Derby day a record-setter for Assiniboia Downs


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Telling leading Assiniboia Downs jockey Jorge Carreno he rode last Monday’s Manitoba Derby winner Red Knobs like a girl was probably not a good idea, but when that girl is one of the best jockeys in history…

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/08/2022 (301 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Telling leading Assiniboia Downs jockey Jorge Carreno he rode last Monday’s Manitoba Derby winner Red Knobs like a girl was probably not a good idea, but when that girl is one of the best jockeys in history…

A smile.

Carreno’s strong, hustling stretch ride on Manitoba Derby winner Red Knobs last Monday reminded us of Julie Krone’s winning ride on 1988 Manitoba Derby winner No Malice. Krone was the best female rider ever to grace a saddle in the thoroughbred game, and her performance on No Malice during the stretch run of the 1988 Derby was heavy poetry.

George Williams photo

Red Knobs and jockey Jorge Carreno power to the front in the 74th running of the Manitoba Derby on Monday.

Carreno’s stretch ride on Red Knobs was similar. Good horses respond to enthusiasm, and there was no better example of that here this year than in the stretch drive of the 74th Manitoba Derby. Of course it helps when you’re sitting on a compressed thousand-pound coiled spring, and Carreno knew it before the race.

“Robertino (trainer Robertino Diodoro) told me to warm him up by himself and turn him loose,” said Carreno. “And I was like, ‘Oh Man’ this is a real horse. I hope this horse runs the way he feels.”

And he did.

Red Knobs and Carreno applied steady outside pressure to stablemate Great Escape and top Alberta jockey Rico Walcott on the lead and went after their rivals at full throttle on the final turn. It took most of the stretch run for Red Knobs to wear down Great Escape under big handling by Carreno, but in the end he was the better horse.

Red Knobs won by 1 3/4 lengths over Great Escape, who was four lengths in front of their third stablemate in the race, Clancy’s Pistol, who rallied for third. Favourite Prayforpeace, who won the Derby Trial over Great Escape and Clancy’s Pistol three weeks earlier, faded to fourth

Elite North American trainer Robertino Diodoro set two records in the 2022 Manitoba Derby. The 48-year-old Canadian from Calgary was the first trainer ever to run 1-2-3 in Manitoba’s most prestigious race, and he now owns more wins (4) in the Manitoba Derby than any other trainer in history. When asked before the race, he didn’t know which horse would win.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” said Diodoro. “I really didn’t know. It was just a nice solid group of horses that we brought and everything worked out well. Mr. Nokes (owner of winner Red Knobs) has a lot of history at Assiniboia Downs, I’ve trained for the guys that ran second with Great Escape for 20 some years, and Kenny Bell, the owner of Clancy’s Pistol, has been a friend of mine for years.”

Nokes worked in the jock’s room at Assiniboia Downs early in his working life, before going on to fame and fortune as a sound producer in the Hollywood movie business.

Diodoro had nothing but good things to say about Assiniboia Downs, and it wasn’t just because he won the race. He’s run in the Manitoba Derby before without winning, and his class remains a constant.

“I actually love it here,” said Diodoro, who also won the $50,000 Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile earlier on the Derby card with Soy Tapatio. “Of course winning helps. But I tell everyone, for a smaller track, these guys put on a heck of a show. People don’t know what they’re missing here. Just the way they treat the owners and horse people up here is incredible. You go to some places that are way bigger than this and they don’t do anything compared to what these guys do. And it’s paying off for them.

“Look at how much the people are betting on Assiniboia Downs now. They’re putting out a good product and they’ve got a good presentation. I mean, you’ve got guys laying on their couches in California and New York at night betting the races here. They pull it up and they’ve got Kirt and Stretch on there with matching golf shirts. The khaki pants, all the valets and the pony people, all matching. It means a lot when you’re trying to get the product from a small track known across the U.S.”

Fans bet a record $3,523,260 on the Derby Day card and $374,166 on the Derby itself, another record. The Derby wagering was boosted by the mandatory payout on the Jackpot Pick 5, which had a carryover of $515,000 coming into the day. There was $1.65 million in additional money wagered into the pool during the program and the payout was $1,920.50 for a 20-cent wager. The $100,000 guaranteed Pick 4 also generated more than $204,000 in wagering, an all-time high for the track.

“This is my favourite program of the year,” said Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn. “We knew this race was going to be competitive and what a battle to the finish. Fans really responded, setting new records for wagering on the day. We are so thankful to the horse people and staff for putting on a fantastic event and for the horseplayers for all their support. We couldn’t be happier.”

And when did Carreno really know he’d won the Derby?

“When the entries came out,” he said.

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