How to get serious about playing the races


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/09/2021 (625 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Well, as live racing winds down at Assiniboia Downs with only three nights remaining, this column will soon come to an end.

And that’s a good thing for you. Why? Because I’m going to turn my attention to teaching you and others how to become successful horse players in person at the track. After years of writing this column, I think it’s about time to demystify the world of racing to make it more fun and more profitable for you.

I want to be your coach. I’m calling this my “quit your job and play the races” mission. That shows the seriousness of what I’m undertaking.

Jason Halstead / ASD Mongolian Wind, seen here winning the 2020 Manitoba Derby, tied for Horse of the Year honours with local mare Miss Imperial.

The world of racing is more than horses running around an oval. In winter, for example, racing is a great escape because it’s happening under palm trees and around cactus plants. For retirees, handicapping races means keeping your mind sharp and healthy.

And racing is about socializing. Players get together at the Downs to pool their money to have a shot at sharing in racing pools that often reach millions of dollars. The discussion itself is part of the fun. Players love it.

So do you find this enticing? Ready for a new adventure? Then email me at

My wish is to hear you say: “Thank you, Ivan, for making my life fuller and more exciting.”
Speaking of big pools, Assiniboia Downs has been abuzz about an Ontario player who really stepped up to the plate to capture a pool that was growing since live racing began in May.

A wager, called the Jackpot Hi-5, requires a player to be the only one to predict the top five finishers in the last race. The bet is only 20 cents but, when the pool reached $137,000 recently, a player in Ontario decided to spend a lot more than that — $3,024 — to buy every possible combination in the nine-horse field.

The player picked a good time to make the gutsy play. The top two favourites in the race finished second-last and third-last so longshot horses finished in the top five positions so the Ontarian had the only correct ticket.

But there’s another pool at the Downs — the Jackpot Pick 5 — that also gives players a chance to land a big score. The object it to pick the winners of five races in a row. The Downs is guaranteeing a $1-million pool on the final night of live racing next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. (if it’s not won before then — which is unlikely).

Last year’s Horse of the Year was recently announced and, for the first time, it was a tie: Manitoba Derby winner Mongolian Wind and multiple stakes-winning mare Miss Imperial received the same number of votes.

So there’s just Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. to cheer and jump up and down as live racing fades and attention turns to simulcast racing and the countdown to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November.

Of course, you must be fully immunized to enjoy everything the Downs offers which also includes more than 80 VLTs and dining that features steak Fridays and prime rib Saturdays. And don’t forget the $1-million guarantee next Wednesday!

Ivan Bigg

Ivan Bigg
At the Races

Ivan Bigg is a railbird and handicapper at Assiniboia Downs.

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