WINNIPEG - It was only a four-mare race, but at least, this time, it was an actual race.
The last time Escape Clause tried to run at Assiniboia Downs, race organizers couldn’t find three other horses to race against her. This past Wednesday night in the 39th running of the $27,500 Winnipeg Sun Stakes, defending champion five-year-old C.J.’s Flair along with Tadaa and Amaretto went to the post to face the four-year old super filly and the outcome was exactly as any casual racing fan might suspect.
Going off at 1-9, Escape Clause got out of the gate second best to C.J.s Flair. but she was only behind for about 50 feet of track. Jockey Adolfo Morales took Escape Clause right to the front and she stayed there. Granted, she got a bit of a challenge from C.J.’s Flair at the final turn, but Morales looked back, asked Escape Clause for a little more and the 2017 Assiniboia Downs’ Horse of the Year turned on the jets and won by 5 ¾ lengths.
It was only the second time at this year’s meet that ASD fans had a chance to see Escape Clause race. A Manitoba-bred trained by Don Schnell and owned by Schnell, Barry Arnason and True North was, as always, ridden to victory by by her best friend, jockey Adolfo Morales. Interestingly, Arnason either owned or had part-ownership in three of the four horses in race – Escape Clause, Tadaa and Amaretto. Tadaa finished second to Escape Clause three times last year and won the 2017 Manitoba Oaks without Escape Clause in the field.
It has been a tremendous summer of stakes races at the Downs and the next ones go to post next weekend. It’s Manitoba Derby Weekend and it starts on Friday. Aug. 3, with the $27,500 Debutante Stakes for two-year-old fillies over five furlongs and then the $30,000 Manitoba Oaks for three-year-old fillies over one mile. On Saturday night, Aug. 4, it’s the $27,500 Graduation Stakes for two-year-old fillies over five furlongs and then on Monday, Aug., 6, it’s the $75,000 Manitoba Derby for three-year-olds over a mile and an eighth. It’s going to be an outstanding weekend of racing featuring four stakes race with $160,000 in prize money.
Meanwhile, as we head into the 3ist and 32nd nights of racing in this year’s 50-date meet, Antonio Whitehall still leads the jockey standings, but Adolfo Morales and Kayla Pizarro are nipping at his heels. Whitehall leads with 22 wins, 35 seconds and 21 thirds in 143 starts with $262,386 in winnings for his owners. Morales, who won twice on Wednesday night, now has 21 wins, 14 seconds and 15 thirds in 75 mounts (he had two wins and two seconds in four rides on Wednesday) and has won $228,085. Pizarro is tied with Morales with 21 wins, but in 112 starts. She also has 12 seconds and 17 thirds and has won $182,974. Tyrone Nelson is next with 20 wins, 18 seconds and 19 thirds in 113 starts and has won $246,510 while
Renaldo Cumberbatch, Chavion Chow and Prayven Badrie each have 17 wins this season.
On the trainer’s side of the tables, Jerry Gourneau still leads by 13. Gourneau has 28 wins, 26 seconds and 20 third-place finishes in 161 starts, and has amassed $244,126 in earnings. Don Schnell is now second, despite only 49 starts. Schnell has 15 wins, nine seconds and three thirds and has won $150,741. Steven Gaskin is now third with 14 wins, eight seconds and 11 thirds in 68 starts and $167,372 in winnings while defending champion Tom Gardipy Jr. is next with 13 wins and $145,232 in earnings in 146 starts. Juan Pablo Silva is fifth with 12 wins and $100,755 in winnings.
Before Derby Weekend from Aug. 3-6, there will be racing on both Friday and Saturday nights this weekend. However, there will be no Wednesday night racing next week or the week after. Wednesday racing returns on Aug. 15.
Of course, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the free VLT tournaments continue, starting at 8 p.m. each night. You can get into the draw for 10 chances to win $20 in free VLT spins. The top winner from each night participates in a month-end finale for more spins and $250 in prize money.
Every Friday and Saturday, the Downs presents $10 buy-in poker. The registration is at 8 p.m. and the game starts at 8:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy Assiniboia Downs