A season to remember at Assiniboia Downs
Record-setting year at ‘small racetrack in the middle of Canada’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/09/2022 (250 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Assiniboia Downs ended its 2022 live racing season on a positive note Wednesday as fans bet $2,448,634 and increased the wagering total for the season to $55,326,730, second only to the record wagering of 2020.
Think about that for a second. Horse racing fans from around the world bet $55 million on Assiniboia Downs, a small racetrack in the middle of Canada. What does that say about the talent in our great province?
“To conclude this season with the positive results we achieved is a true testament to the team we have out here working for us, and the will and determination of the horsepeople involved at all levels,” said Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn.
“It seemed challenge followed us throughout 2022. We lost our Board Chair, Harvey Warner, unexpectedly during spring training and then saw a long winter and late wet spring force our hand to adjust the racing calendar. Add a lightning storm and a track lighting outage that caused further cancelled races that had to be made up and it was a live race meet that will not soon be forgotten.
“We are also so appreciative of the strong fan support we received when we were finally able to open restriction free for the first time in years.”
A large portion of the money wagered on Wednesday’s card went into the Jackpot Pick 5 pool, which was offered as a mandatory payout and grew from $535,091 to over $2 million at post time for the final race of the season. Winning Pick 5 bettors were rewarded with a $1 payout of $1,434 when favourite Bitethebulletpro ($3.40) galloped away from his field under Renaldo Cumberbatch despite stumbling at the start.
Interestingly, trainer Tom Gardipy, Jr. finished first, second and fourth in the race with Bitethebulletpro, Ohtani and Aniar respectively, but even more revealing was the fact that his top two finishers were claimed away from him by trainer Jennifer Jordan.
There were almost 200 horses claimed again this year at Assiniboia Downs. Thoroughbred racehorses continue to be in demand everywhere including Manitoba, and claiming activity is another good sign of a healthy racing industry.
Trainer Jerry Gourneau won his fourth training title in the past five years with 40 wins, helping his major owner Henry S. Witt, Jr. win his sixth consecutive leading owner title at Assiniboia Downs. Witt’s horses won 35 races at the Downs this summer and earned $378,429.
Trainer Jared Brown and his owners also had a strong season. Brown finished second in the standings with 33 wins, as did his main owners Ira Donald and Kane Kachur, who won 18 races and $171,693 in purses.
Rounding out the top five in the trainer standings were Shelley Brown (27 wins), Wendy Anderson (18), Tom Gardipy, Jr. (18), Jennifer Jordan (18) and Mike Nault (16). It was a breakout year for Jordan, who had her best season ever in 2022, primarily for her new owner Andrew Stronach, son of racing magnate Frank Stronach.
Jorge Carreno won his second straight jockey title at the Downs with 65 wins, and always had his horses in a position to win, but this season was slightly tougher than last, with the return of a number of jockeys who had missed two seasons locally due to the pandemic.
Renaldo Cumberbatch was one of those jockeys and he was in excellent form all year to finish second in the standings with 38 wins. Rounding out the top five in the standings were former local champs Chavion Chow (39 wins) and Antonio Whitehall (27), and Stanley Chadee, Jr. (20).
The biggest winner of the meeting had to be Manitoba Derby victor Red Knobs, trained by top North American trainer Robertino Diodoro for Rob Nokes Jr., who worked in the jocks’ room here early in his working life before going on to become a successful movie sound producer.
Diodoro set two new records in this year’s Manitoba Derby, as the first trainer to ever win Manitoba’s most prestigious race four times, and the only trainer ever to run 1-2-3 in the race.
While there were many good performances in the stakes ranks, strong winning efforts by Manitoba-breds in the big races continued to draw attention from anyone who has watched the local racing scene for any length of time.
While Manitoba-bred millionaire and Canadian champion Escape Clause put Manitoba on the map a few years ago as a daughter of the now retired Going Commando, new sires including Kentucky Bear, Vengeful Wildcat and Nonios have all shown that they can sire good horses that can beat open company.
On that note, trainer Devon Gittens was the season leader in the Manitoba Strong Program that rewards trainers who have the most success with Manitoba-breds, but trainers Lise Pruitt, Mike Nault, Fred Rawson, Carl Anderson and Larry Cizik also did a fine work to win stakes with our homebreds.
Also worthy of mention was the Groom School program run by the HBPA with sponsorship dollars from the provincial government. Grooms are the most important part of a horse’s life and the local school is producing just the “kind” of grooms the industry needs.
They love their horses.