Emotional win in Edmonton for Manitoba trainer


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/10/2020 (970 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it any better.

After a racing season filled with surprises, the biggest, best and most emotional surprise came on Sept. 27 at Century Mile race track in Edmonton, when an underdog Manitoba horse won the $100,000 Canadian Derby.

The three-year-old gelding, Real Grace, wasn’t supposed to like the long distance of the Derby (1 ¼-miles) and he was ridden by an apprentice jockey, Mauricio Malvaez, who had never won a stakes race. Nonetheless, Real Grace, at odds of 18-1, turned his heels up to the competition and gave his cancer-stricken trainer/co-owner Shelley Brown the biggest victory in her 11-year career.

Supplied photo by Dale MacMillan Shelley Brown’s Real Grace won the Canadian Derby at Century Mile in Edmonton on Sept. 27 (note the face mask on jockey Mauricio Malvaez).

“I needed this to help keep my spirits up,” she was quoted as saying after the race which she watched from her Winnipeg home.

The victory choked up many observers.

“It was a tear-jerker,” said one fan.

“The racing gods were with Shelley,” added another.

Riddled with stage 4 cancer, Brown has been dispersing her horses that, at one stage duringthe just-ended race meet, numbered about 40.
Among those most surprised by Real Grace’s victory was the horse’s main owner, Winnipegger Jean McEwen.

“I’m doing this for Shelley,” she told this writer several days before the Derby, talking about the reason for entering the tough race.

But horses who get a comfortable lead as Real Grace was given, have a way of getting brave in the stretch drive. The same thing happened in the Kentucky Derby when the huge favourite, Tiz the Law, was beaten by Authentic, who got the lead and dug in when Tiz the Law came up on him.

What can anyone say?

Yay for Shelley, who is in a battle for her life and thank you, racing gods, for putting a bow on a career in which she was the first female trainer to win the Downs’ training title.

☐ ☐ ☐

So, this Bigg column has wound down for the live race season but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. I will still be churning out a weekly e-newsletter called The Insider, that you can sign up for, free, at

And, of course, the Downs is open year-round for Las Vegas-style simulcast racing, VLTs and dining. The good thing in these COVID-19 times is that the facility has wide-open spaces which make social distancing easy.

The next big event in the racing world is the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7. With a wagering account (go to you can turn it into a real fun — and hopefully profitable — event.

See you in my Insider!

Ivan Bigg

Ivan Bigg
At the Races

Ivan Bigg is a railbird and handicapper at Assiniboia Downs.

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