The 73rd edition of the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Manitoba Derby is set for Monday night at Assiniboia Downs. And if the pre-race tote board is an accurate barometer of what to expect, there is a better than average chance that history will be made.
That’s because legendary trainer Robertino Diodoro is one victory away from becoming the career leader in Manitoba Derby wins after first-place finishes in three of the last five years.
Besides that impressive recent run of success, the former Edmonton Northlands Park trainer is bringing the favourite, “Myopic” into Monday night’s race. Adding to their chances, Diodoro will have the Downs No. 1 jockey in the saddle — Jorge Carreno rode a fifth-place finisher in the 2017 Preakness Stakes.
But it’s not like Diodoro, Carreno, or Myopic — who will start from No. 3 position — will get a free pass to the winner’s share of the $100,000 purse.
Alberta-based “Cozy Bear” is expected to excel in the distance race of a mile and an eighth. The California-bred chestnut gelding will start from the rail.
Also in the conversation is “Uncharacteristic” from Hastings Park in Vancouver who is trained by 2002 Manitoba Derby winner Robert VanOverschot. The grey/roan horse has finished no worse than second place in all four of his races at his home track coming into Monday night.
It’s no coincidence there is a full field for this year’s race, with the first six-figure purse at the Manitoba Derby since 2008.
As Downs CEO Darren Dunn told 680 CJOB’s morning show The Start, several factors went into the decision to bump up the prize money in 2021.
“More than anything it sends a message of stability to everybody who follows Assiniboia Downs, whether they wager locally or abroad,” explained Dunn. “It sends a message to the horse community, specifically in Western Canada about the strength of our program, and that we’re on solid ground.”
And it won’t be just the actual race participants with an opportunity to pad their bank accounts on Monday night. Patrons who are on-site, as well as online bettors, will have a crack at a seven-figure payout.
“We do have a carry-over wager called a Jackpot Pick Five,” said Dunn. “For 20 cents, you could win over a million dollars. It’s very, very rare that this happens, but it is something that is on the table.”
Those wishing to take in the event live from the main floor, or the tarmac, will need to be fully immunized against COVID-19 and bring proof via a QR code or a vaccination card along with ID. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. with first post at 7:30 p.m.