Manitoba trainer is a giant killer in New York state


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/08/2021 (664 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Being able to watch live races in person again at Assiniboia Downs is a big deal. But what also is a big deal for Manitobans these days is what happened recently at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York.  

That’s where Rob Atras of Oakbank, Man., and the horse he trains, Maracuga, knocked off the mightiest filly on the continent in the $600,000 Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks Stakes, earning the pair a berth in the vaunted Breeders’ Cup world championships in the fall. No Manitoba horseman has been able to claim that level of fame.

And Atras did it with the longest-shot filly in the compact four-horse field. His horse was 14-1. She wore down the 1-5 prohibitive favourite, Malathaat, who had never been beaten in five races, in late stretch to win by a head.

Photo by Ivan Bigg For the first time since 2019, race fans can watch live racing from the Assiniboia Downs tarmac.

So, if you’re a homer, circle Nov. 5 and 6 on your calendar because those are the days of the Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar in California in which Atras’ horse will be entered to compete for a likely purse of $2 million.

Hailing from a racing family where his mother, Tanis, has groomed horses for years, Rob was “riding” bales of hay on the Assiniboia Downs backstretch at the age of five and began training at the Downs in 2009. Wherever he has gone since then, he’s always been a high-percentage trainer. So his being a giant killer in New York is no anomaly.  

“She’s always been really special to me,” Atras said of Maracuja in an email to At the Races. “I was very proud of her determination. She really laid it down in the stretch.

“Absolute brilliant ride by Ricardo (Santana). Breaking sharp. Knowing to take her back and give her a breather and move her to the outside with a vigorous ride down the lane. He’s one of the best in the world.”

Local fans will remember Atras for training Inside Straight, who won the 2016 Manitoba Derby.

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In other news, $250,000 is at stake for race players each live race day continuing to the end of the meet on Wed., Sept. 15. The player with the only correct Jackpot Pick 6 ticket will be guaranteed to win that amount. (Bettors attempt to pick the winners of the last five races for a 20-cent ticket.)  

With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, you may now watch the races in person on the main level after providing proof of full immunization.

The clubhouse is open to all. That’s where you can watch live races from the dining room (reservations required), play simulcast races daily from top tracks and get a lucky streak going on 82 VLTs from 9 a.m. to midnight. Admission and parking are always free.

Ivan Bigg

Ivan Bigg
At the Races

Ivan Bigg is a railbird and handicapper at Assiniboia Downs.

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