Five days to my King’s Plate predictions; can I match last year?

So the biggest stakes race in Canada happens next Sunday — the $1 million King’s Plate — and your dutiful servant will try to do what no other public handicapper did in last year’s Queen’s Plate: pick the top three finishers. That triactor paid $200 for $1 and now the pressure is on to try to duplicate that feat. Will rules for the 1 ¼-mile distance work equally well? It’s likely to be a huge field — possibly even the maximum 17 horses. Whatever. I’ll be back here Friday brashly predicting the likely outcome.

Some horses tell you where they like to finish. Listen to them.

If you’re a vertical exotics player — in other words, you play exactors, tris, superfectas and even super hi-5s — then a no-brainer is to look for horses that tell you where they like to finish. I’m talking about horses that seem to finish in the same underneath position time after time.

Take race 2 Saturday at Woodbine. What a wonderful money-making opportunity that maiden race turned out to be! Almost every handicapper picked #5 Wahrer Schatz to win the maiden race. But what about underneath? Glancing at past performances, it was evident one of the horses loved to finish fourth. The chestnut filly, #2 High Treason, had eight past performance lines in the Equibase program. In five of those races, she finished fourth. Five of eight, 62.5 per cent. See program page here.

So wasn’t an obvious superfecta wheel betting the favourite on top with High Treason fourth — 5-ALL-ALL-2? A $1 superfecta wheel costing $20 returned $815. A 20-center costing $4 paid $163. Duh!

Using this handicapping angle will obviously help you buy Jackpot Hi-5 tickets on the cheap, too. You look for horses that like to finish fourth and fifth. And, especially, watch for maiden races in which a horse that keeps on finishing second is favoured to win. Generally, that’s a false favourite and you could cash big simply by wheeling that seconditis horse for second with “all” horses in other positions in your 20-cent triactors and superfectas.

Most Topsy-Turvy Derby Day in ASD History?

Ouch! Track handicappers Kirt and Stretch picked just one winner each and blanked on all 17 of their hundreds of dollars in suggested wagers. That pretty much summed up what was perhaps the most topsy-turvy Derby Day for bettors in Assiniboia Downs history last Monday. Races played out opposite to what most players expected.

Three of the five legs of the mandatory payout Jackpot Pick 5 appeared to be tricky and many players (including my betting group) took “all” horses in those legs. And what happened? The favourite won each race. And the other two legs — with horses appearing to be slam-dunk keys at odds of 3-5 and 1-5 — were won by longshots. Yikes! (The 20-cent pick-5 paid $1,137.)

Needless to say, the $28.80 pick-5 ticket suggested in this column last week went down in flames as well. The recommended six-horse superfecta box in that column DID win but it paid less than the $72 cost because the favourite won.

On the track, trainer Robertino Diodoro was equally disappointed. The high-percentage U.S. trainer is used to bringing horses to ASD that wind up in the winner’s circle, having won four Manitoba Derbies in the past seven years. That’s why his horses were the biggest favourites of the day. But after the dust had settled on the seven-race card, his 3-5 Great Escape, a Midnight Storm gelding, finished third in the $50K Harvey Warner Manitoba Mile Stakes and his 1-5 Quality Road colt, Heroic Move, came second in the $125K Manitoba Derby.

But local race fans still were happy for Henry S. Witt, Jr., the Texas horse owner and one-time champion race car driver who has sent hundreds of horses up to ASD through the years. He’s more than paid his dues and finally broke through to win the elusive Manitoba Derby after four tries with three-time leading trainer Jerry Gourneau.

He did so with 15-1 Mano Dura, a son of Keen Ice, a colt he had claimed in Texas for $50,000. Will he scoop the $100,000 bonus for winning the first-ever Western Canadian Triple Crown that now continues with the $200K Canadian Derby in Edmonton at the end of this month and the $125K B.C. Derby in Vancouver in mid-September? He’ll certainly be getting a lot of support from ASD.

It was a good day for the track, too, which set a Derby Day wagering record of $3.7 million on the seven-race card. The pick-5 pool grew from just under $600K to $1.86 million and the pick-4 pool soared to $190K, seven times higher than it was on the pre-COVID Derby Day afternoon of Aug. 5, 2019 when it was $28K. From extremely contrasting standpoints, the 75th Manitoba Derby was indeed a memorable one.