The Inside Track | Issue #98 | September 22, 2023

140 VLTS
  • Open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • VLTs, Race Carrels and Tables are sanitized between customer use.

In this edition . . .

  • What's happening at the Downs?
  • ASD Player Portal
  • September HPI Bonuses
  • Chase the Ace at ASD
  • ASD Handicapping Tournaments
  • Dining at ASD
  • Chef's Special
  • 2023 Live Racing Season Among Best Ever
  • David Blake Wins Las Vegas Challenge from Bed
  • Fan Appreciation Nights
  • TravyFootball Week 2
  • Looking For a Special Photo?
  • Snapshot in Time - Major Enterprise
  • Carryover Watch
  • Dark Horse Bets Download
  • Accidental Hero wins BC Derby
  • Cigar's Owners Started with Nothing
  • The Best of Bob - Sweet Treats for the Soul
  • Upcoming Events
Do the Downs!
September HPI Bonuses
  • ASD CUSTOMER APPRECIATION - Wager $100 or more on any track on Friday, September 22, Saturday, September 23 & Sunday, September 24 and receive 2% cash back. Minimum wagered $100. Maximum cash back $25. Available to all Manitoba HPI account holders. Must opt-in at All wagers must be made on your HPI account. ($2.10 payouts not eligible)

Win $5,000 by selecting the Ace of Diamonds!

Tickets for Chase the Ace Week #19 are on sale now with a $5,000 Guaranteed Accumulator Jackpot if someone picks the Ace of Diamonds!

Manitoba Jockey Club - LGCA-5630-RF-39799

2023 Player's Choice Online Tournaments

  • Saturday, October 14
  • Saturday, November 11
  • Saturday, December 16

PRIZES: 1st place: $1,000 (plus a trophy), 2nd place: $400, 3rd place: $200, 4th place: $100, 5th place: $50

Entry fee is $25. $2 WPS on one horse in any 10 races (harness, thoroughbred or quarter horse) from any North American track on the contest day. Click here for full rules.


Player's Choice Tournaments

  • Saturday, January 21 - Randy Premachuk
  • Saturday, February 18 - Steve Holborn
  • Saturday, March 18 - Nicole Baker
  • Saturday, April 15 - Barry Mymko
  • Saturday, May 13 - Brad Ostrove

Las Vegas Challenge Tournaments

  • Monday, June 19 - Ron Zurba
  • Monday, July 10 - Murray Chaban
  • Monday, July 31 - Tanis Atras
  • Monday, August 21 - Brian McKellar
  • Monday, September 18 - David Blake
Club West Gaming Lounge

140 VLTs available daily in our spacious Club West Gaming Lounge from 10 a.m. through 1 a.m. Please note that our VLTs are sanitized between play. Click here for a full list of games available at ASD.

Win CA$H Every Day!

  • Draws to win up to $100 cash on our lucky wheel Monday through Friday from noon until 5 p.m.

  • Draws for $20 in FREE VLT Spins Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Dining at Assiniboia Downs
Club West Dining Room & Lounge Open Daily

Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks plus Happy Hour food and beverage specials in our Club West Dining Room & Lounge! Open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

  • Club West Dining Room & Lounge menu
  • Daily Happy Hour specials
Chef's Weekend Specials
Friday Steak & Suds $24.95: 8 oz. Sirloin steak charbroiled and seasoned with our smoky dry rub. Served with fresh vegetables and a choice of mashed potatoes or french fries. Plus a complimentary pint of ASD Lucky Lager.

Saturday Prime & Wine $29.95: Certified Angus Prime Rib (8 oz. cut.) Served with fresh vegetables and a choice of mashed potatoes or french fries, horseradish, and Yorkshire pudding au jus. Plus a complimentary 6 oz. glass of house wine.

Sunday Fish & Chips $14.95: Two pieces of beer battered cod with tartar sauce and lemon. Served with french fries and coleslaw.

Add a starter Caesar salad, tossed salad or soup of the day to any of the above specials for $3.95. Served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Reservations are not required.
At The Post with G.S. Thompson

2023 Live Horse Racing Season One of Best Ever at ASD

Better horses, impressive wagering, championship performances, highlight stellar year

2023 leading trainer Jerry Gourneau (left) with Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn and 2023 leading rider Antonio Whitehall. (Jason Halstead photo)

We knew it from the first time we walked through the backstretch this spring. The quality of the horses was better than ever, and the 2023 live horse racing season was going to be something special. It was.

The 2023 racing season will be remembered as one of the most extraordinary seasons in the track's storied 65-year history. The season not only showcased remarkable wagering numbers but also saw outstanding performances by leading jockey Antonio Whitehall and leading trainer Jerry Gourneau, setting new records and solidifying their legacy at Assiniboia Downs.

Champion Burrow Down on her way to victory in the Manitoba Matron Stakes for trainer Murray Duncan and owner Gerald Babchishin. Stanley Chadee, Jr. up. (Jason Halstead photo)

The final race program of the season, held on Wednesday, witnessed an astounding total wagering amount of $2,233,624. One of the standout features of the closing race program was the ASD Jackpot Pick 5, which drew considerable attention. The Jackpot Pick 5 had a carryover of $142,232 entering the program, and horseplayers contributed an additional $978,069 to the pool on the day.

The 2023 racing season at Assiniboia Downs witnessed a phenomenal accomplishment, as fans wagered $60,962,674 over the course of the 50-day meet. The average wagering per race was $174,179 which is a 9.87% increase over last year. This remarkable wagering represents the second highest in the track's history, reaffirming Assiniboia Downs' incredible growth over the past few seasons.

Trainer Wendy Anderson after winning the 65th running of the Gold Cup with Magic Tiger for Bill Meikle and Wind Dancer Stable. (Jason Halstead photo)

"Assiniboia Downs extends its heartfelt gratitude to the fans, horsepeople, and all the stakeholders who have made this season a resounding success," said Darren Dunn, CEO. "The incredible support on site, from our international wagering partners and the racing community at large has been truly inspiring. We are delighted to conclude the season on such a high note and look forward to continuing to provide exceptional racing experiences in the seasons to come."

Trainer Mike Nault, jockey Chavion Chow, and owners A2 Thoroughbreds and True North Thoroughbreds in the winner's circle after winning the Buffalo Stakes with Manitoba-bred Commandoslastdance. (Jason Halstead photo)

Antonio Whitehall emerged as the leading jockey of the 2023 season, securing his third riding title. Whitehall's outstanding skills in the saddle and dedication to his craft have made him a fan favourite and a force to be reckoned with on the track.

In the training ranks, Jerry Gourneau demonstrated his expertise by capturing his fifth overall training title. Gourneau's talent and commitment to excellence have not only earned him this remarkable achievement but also set a new track record with four consecutive training titles at ASD.

Shavon Belle was all smiles after winning the Winnipeg Futurity aboard Canyouhearmerunnin for trainer Devon Gittens and ownership partners Pink Cloud Racing and Ron Wiley. (Jason Halstead photo)

This dynamic jockey-trainer combination of Antonio Whitehall and Jerry Gourneau also claimed victory together with Mano Dura in the prestigious Manitoba Derby, the first leg of the newly established Western Canadian Triple Crown. Wagering records were also established for the race itself and Manitoba Derby night as a whole.

The 2023 racing season at Assiniboia Downs has left an indelible mark in its horse racing history, with its incredible wagering figures and the triumphs of Antonio Whitehall and Jerry Gourneau.

And you all made it happen.

Leading rider Antonio Whitehall wins the final race of the 2023 meeting aboard Warrior's Map (#7) for trainer Jared Brown and ownership partner John Ganas. (Jason Halstead photo)

David Blake Wins Las Vegas Challenge

2019 Handicapper of the Year battling cancer, wins from bed at home

David Blake pictured above

Former horse owner and Handicapper of the Year David Blake won the September Las Vegas Handicapping Challenge last Monday, and he did it while fighting cancer from his bed at home.

The 2019 Handicapper of the Year Blake ramped his bankroll up to $69.70 to win by an uncharacteristically large margin of $12.00 to win the $3,500 first prize and the trophy that goes with it. The margin of victory in the summer handicapping tournaments often comes down to less than a dollar, but not this time.

Blake’s biggest winners on Monday included Highriseinthepeg ($13.60) in the second race and Annakhozana ($10.50) in the eighth. Murray Chaban ($57.70) finished second in the tourney followed by Margaret King ($57.40), Gerald Houle ($53.70) and Randy Premachuk ($53.60).

Blake was happy to win, considering he’s facing the biggest challenge of his life right now, and said the racing at Assiniboia Downs is one of the things that keeps him going.

“Every time I get up, it just doesn't work out,” said Blake. The racing keeps me going. I just love the races, as you know. I didn't own any horses this year, but I kind of lived vicariously through Randy Premachuk and Steve Holborn there. They keep in touch with me all the time.”

Blake's best known horses in these parts was Jaya Ho, who won 10 races for him at Assiniboia Downs and Turf Paradise before finishing her career at Woodbine.

“She was a pretty good horse,” said Blake. “She paid her way. We ended up breeding her to Upper Mesa Falls and she's got a little baby there that's going to hopefully race next year at the Downs.”

Blake is currently trying to get into some special cancer treatment trials at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, and he is hoping for the best.

“The current treatments that I'm on started last Friday,” said Blake. “It's kind of a maintenance program. They give me less than a year to live unless I can get on some type of trial. My oncologist is doing his best to get me in on a trial at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. According to everyone I've talked to, it's the best hospital in Canada for cancer treatments."

Blake’s current medications cost approximately $10,000 per month and a GoFundMe Page has been set up to help cover expenses. “Thank God I have people going to bat for me,” he said. “I'm just taking it day by day here. Let's hope for the best. Hopefully they can come up with something and extend my life for a little bit longer.”

“I just hope I get a little more time on this earth, but I guess somebody upstairs will decide that for me and we'll see what happens. I think at the start I was really in denial a little bit, not accepting, but now I've kind of accepted it.”

Blake posted a message on his GoFundMe page on September 16, “… I can’t express enough how thankful I am for everyone's love, prayers and financial support for me. It truly is overwhelming. I hope all is well with everyone.

All of us at Assiniboia Downs wish David the very best in his quest to get into a clinical trial, and for a successful recovery. You can email David at [email protected].


He would probably love to hear from his horse racing friends. 

Top NFL Picks by TravyFootball: Week 3

Chargers over Vikings (Sunday noon): In a battle of winless teams, the Los Angeles Chargers will head to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Vikings in what would be described as a “loser leaves town” match for any of you professional wrestling buffs. Starting out 0-3 pretty much eliminates you from playoff contention and that will be the end result for one of these teams. I told many people before the season started that the Vikings would not be anywhere near as good as they were last year, and that was just based on the eye test. Last season, they were 11-0 in games decided by one score or less, but this year they’re already 0-2 in games decided by one score or less. After letting Dalvin Cook go in the off-season, new starting running back Alexander Mattison has a total of 62 yards in two games and he's averaging 3.3 yards a carry, which is pretty awful. The Chargers aren’t any better off than the Vikings are right now, finding themselves 0-2 and at the bottom of the AFC West. I personally believe that Brandon Staley will be the first coach to be fired this season, maybe not after this game, because I’m picking them to win, but if they fall to 1-5 over the next few weeks, he will be out of a job. 


Commanders over Bills (Sunday noon): The surprisingly 2-0 Commanders will host Josh Allen and the Bills in what has the makings to be the upset of the weekend. Nobody, and I mean nobody, had the Commanders being undefeated after two weeks, but after surviving a literal last second comeback attempt by the Broncos last week, the defense shut down the game trying a two point convert attempt to remain perfect. A lot of questions were asked of head coach Ron Rivera, when he anointed Sam Howell as his new starting quarterback in the off-season, when there were significantly better options he could’ve went with through the draft or free agency, but so far, his decision seems to be working out. Josh Allen did get back on track in week two after a very disappointing week one lost to the Jets, but they still have no running game and no complementary offensive option to take pressure off of Stefon Diggs.  


Chiefs over Bears (Sunday noon): I was told by one reader of my column to “stop picking on my Bears!” so naturally I will continue to do so. The Chiefs got back in the win column last week, although it wasn’t really convincing, but a win is a win. Bolstered by the return of Travis Kelce and Chris Jones, the Chiefs held the Jags to only nine points in what was supposed to be an entertaining rematch from last year’s playoffs. Instead, it turned into more of a dud. The Chiefs offense has not looked great through two games, most likely due to the lack of offensive weapons for Mahomes to work with, but when your quarterback makes so much money, you’re going to have to make sacrifices in other spots on your roster, and that seems to have caught up with the Chiefs. The Bears must have growing concerns about their third-year quarterback, Justin Fields, who, once again just looked completely overwhelmed on the field last Sunday. He holds the ball too long, he makes poor decisions, and he doesn’t read the pocket very well, those are three essential things you have to be good at to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL and so far, he has not showed any progression from year one to year three. There are a lot of good young quarterbacks that will be available in the draft next year, and depending how the rest of the season pans out, the Bears have to seriously contemplate whether Justin Fields is going to be their quarterback of the future or not.


Last week :2-1

Overall :5-1

Looking for a Special Photo of Your Big Horse?
Track Photographer Jason Halstead may have just what you're looking for

Groom Olive Johnston gives Commandoslastdance a kiss after winning the Buffalo Stakes on Monday for trainer Mike Nault and owners A2 Thoroughbreds and True North Thoroughbreds. (Jason Halstead photo)

Looking for that extra-special photo of your big horse, one you might not find in your win pictures? Track photographer Jason Halstead takes numerous photos during the races, and not all of them can make it into the win photos. If you’re looking for something frameable from your big race, or of your special horse, email Jason at [email protected]. Prices are excellent! Almost as good as his photos 😊
Carryover Watch
  • Parx (Sept. 23) - Jackpot Pick 5 carryover $264,765
  • Prairie Meadows (Sept. 22) - Jackpot Pick 5 carryover $88,469

See all carryovers here.

Can't make it to the track to wager?
Watch and wager at one of our off-track betting locations:

"I Won Bigg" Wagering Group

The "I Won Bigg" wagering group will meeting every Saturday at 10:30 p.m. on the plaza. This week the group will be playing Woodbine. $20 per share. Email Larry at [email protected] for more information.

A Snapshot in Time
by Track Historian Bob Gates

The 1980 Gold Cup had the distinction of being the richest purse ever offered for a field of older horses at the Downs. The 11-horse field battled for a purse of $30,750 with $19,065 going to the winner. Major Enterprise handled the off-track with ease, beating a fine field of local stakes winners including Mr. Macho, Intercontinent and Scarlet Rich. (Gerry Hart photo)

Accidental Hero Surges to BC Derby Victory for WYN Stable

Son of Mo Town wins spirited stretch duel in 76th edition of Hastings premier race

Accidental Hero and jockey Kimal Santo edge past Sunbird to win the 76th BC Derby on Sept. 16. (Patti Tubbs photo)

Accidental Hero and Sunbird waged a fierce battle to the wire in the 76th BC Derby and Accidental Hero prevailed late in the third leg of the Western Canadian Triple Crown for trainer Larry Grieve and owners WYN Racing Stable. More from Jennifer Morrison at the Canadian Thoroughbred here.

Allen Paulson: Cigar’s Owner Embodied the American Dream

From 30 cents an hour to multimillionaire and four-time Eclipse Award winner

Owner Allen Paulson leads Cigar and Jerry Bailey to the winner’s circle. Winnipeg Free Press horse racing writer George Williams on the left far back in the photo. (Anne Eberhardt/Blood-Horse)

Allen Paulson, one of the most prominent owners and breeders in Thoroughbred racing history before his death on July 19, 2000 at age 78, embodied the American (and Canadian!) dream.The native of Clinton, Iowa, began supporting himself at the tender age of 13 by selling newspapers and doing janitorial work. In 1941 he was earning 30 cents an hour. He went on to start his own hugely successful aerospace company and win four Eclipse Awards. Read the story of how he did it at America's Best Racing here.

Best of Bob

by ASD Historian Bob Gates

The Best of Bob returns this week and our ASD historian has some sweet treats for the soul. This trip down memory lane promises to be a dandy and Bob warns us to buckle-up because it’s going to be quite the ride. Click here for some M&M’s! (From June 2022)

Upcoming events at ASD

  • Spin to Win in the Club West Gaming Lounge - Monday to Friday - more info
  • Lucky Spins - Draws for $20 in free VLT Spins - Friday to Sunday - more info
  • Together Again - Friday, Sept. 22 - more info
  • Vintage & Collectibles Sale - Saturday, Sept. 30 - more info
  • MICEC Monster Bingo - Saturday, October 21 - more info
  • Naughty Halloween Social - Friday, October 27 - more info
  • Wpg 19+ Adult Expo - Friday, October 27 & Saturday, October 28 - more info
We would love to hear from you! Email your comments and/or suggestions to [email protected].
The Inside Track Archives
Did you know that past issues of The Inside Track are available on our website? Click here to read them now.
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