05/06/2010 11:00PM

Track builds on last year's success


The Assiniboia Downs meeting was a roaring success in 2009, when the move from Sunday afternoon racing to Wednesday night racing helped increase total handle by 38 percent over the previous year.

With some slight adjustments to the schedule, Assiniboia begins this year's 65-day meeting with Sunday's Mother's Day program. A total of 64 horses were entered for the eight-race card.

"Things should be all right, horse-wise," said Ray Miller, Assiniboia's racing secretary. "We still have a lot of horses coming in every day."

Larren Delorme ran away with the jockeys title last year, when she won 86 races, but she figures to get competition this year with the returns of Janine Stianson and Juan Crawford.

Stianson, the Sovereign Award winner as Canada's outstanding apprentice jockey in 2008, left Winnipeg in the fall of that year after stewards tagged her with several whip violations. Last year, Stianson had recurring back problems and did not ride.

Crawford did well when he was based here in 2002 and 2003, but he also departed on a low note after being involved in a jockeys' room altercation that led to a lawsuit. Now a Canadian citizen, Crawford has been riding in the Barbados but will be settling in here with his family.

Among trainers, Carl Anderson and Tom Gardipy, who tied for first with 45 wins last year, are back along with third-place finisher Ardell Sayler.

Jonathan Nance, who was at Assiniboia in 2007, returns with 30 stalls. He was the runaway leader at the recently concluded Portland Meadows meeting.

Robert Diodoro, who was second in the Northlands Park standings with 47 wins, and Tim Rycroft, who had 28 wins there last year, both will have horses at Assiniboia.

Also coming in from Alberta are Dennis Dorchester and Randy Watt, who in recent years have done the majority of their racing on that province's "B" circuit.

Jason Homer, who was in Winnipeg in 2007, returns after spending the last two seasons at various meets in California, Oregon, and Washington.

After opening day, the meeting will proceed with Friday and Saturday programs, and Wednesday racing will begin May 19.

Additional Sunday race cards will be held June 20, Father's Day; Aug. 1, the day before the civic holiday; and Sept. 26, closing day.

There also will be holiday Monday racing May 24, Aug. 2, and Sept. 6 and a Canada Day program Thursday, July 1.

Tuesday summer racing has been dropped to accommodate the additional Sunday cards and a longer scheduled span for the meeting.

The highlight of the 30-race stakes schedule will be the Aug. 2 $75,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds.

The $50,000 Assiniboia Oaks and the $30,000 Graduation will be run on the same card.