WINNIPEG - It all starts Sunday. The first day of Manitoba’s 50-day live thoroughbred racing meet begins on Sunday afternoon and it should be a Mother’s Day treat.
Not only will Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. first post launch the 61st season of racing at the Downs, it will also open up the celebration for the 70th season of the Manitoba Derby.
It seems that at the Downs, there is always reason to celebrate.
In fact, on Aug. 5, at the Downs, the city’s internationally famous thoroughbred track will play host to a nine-band music spectacular, billed as Canada’s Ultimate Tribute Band Festival. It will feature Golden Road at 3 p.m. (Keith Urban), Corny Rempel at 4 p.m. (Elvis), Free Ride at 5 p.m. (The Beatles), Turn Back Time at 6 p.m. (Cher), The Incredibly Hip at 7 p.m. (Tragically Hip), Bed of Roses at 8 p.m. (Bon Jovi), Free Ride at 9 p.m. (Rolling Stones), Whole Lotta Angus at 10 p.m. (AC/DC) and Kissed at 11 p.m. (KISS). Tickets are just $40 and it will be a crazy day.
However, the Downs is still a horse racing venue and with more trainers in town, more barns filled, more horses and more jockeys on the lot, the races are expected to be bigger and more competitive this season. On opening day, there are six entries in the first two races, seven in Race 3, eight in Races 4, 5 and 6 and 10 entrants in Race 7. That’s a huge start for an opening day at the Downs.
Last year’s jockey champion, Rohan Singh, is yet to arrive, but No. 2, Adolfo Morales, is looking at a very good day. He’s riding the 2-1 favorite, Papa Al in Race 3; the 5-2 favorite Open Enrollment in Race 4; and the 9-5 favorite Vermillion Sky’s in Race 7.
“I am particularly gratified with the response to changes in purses and other factors designed to increase the horse population,” said Dunn, at a news conference on Thursday. “Our phone has literally been ringing off the hook for stall space from out-of-province horse trainers. We are tracking for an increase in our horse inventory of 20 per cent. This will be terrific for race field sizes, wagering opportunities and the provincial economy.”
The Mother’s Day opening race card will also feature family fun -- as will all other afternoon cards on holidays and special Sundays. There will be pony rides, a bouncy gym and a petting farm for the kids.
Moms can expect to receive free garden seeds for a uniquely-coloured poppy and entry into free basket draws. There also will be draws for free bets and the opportunity to be Fan of the Day to watch a race from the Winner’s Circle and have a visit with a horse.
After the Mother’s Day Opener, live racing will pick up again on Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19, at 7:15 and Victoria Day Monday at 1:15 p.m.
PHOTO - Assiniboia Downs