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Assiniboia Downs Review August 18 - August 20

August 23, 2006     E-mail this page to a friend!

Gus Again, Winner of Agassiz Stakes with owner Rusty Edwards and Jockey Kirk Johnson
(photo by Assiniboia Downs Photo)
Gus Again Returns to Winners’ Circle with Impressive Win in Agassiz Stakes

Saturday, August 19, the annual running of the $40,000 Agassiz Stakes over one mile for Manitoba-bred three-year-olds and up, witnessed an impressive return to the Winners’ Circle by veteran campaigner Gus Again.

Gus Again, a nine-year-old gelding, and the pre-race (7-2) pick, owned by Rusty Edwards and trained by Wayne Elias, topped the five horse field. With leading apprentice rider Kirk Johnson in the saddle, Gus Again scored a convincing four-lengths victory. The (5-2) pre-race choice Brinello with Rohan Singh finished second followed by (2-1) choice Resurgent with jockey Mark Anderson. Gus Again dueled outside early with front runner Resurgent, then opened up midway down the backstretch and took the lead going into the final turn. He held the lead from that point on and ran on to the victory. The running time for the feature was 1:41.00.

Gus Again paid $9.30, $3.70 and $2.60. The triactor of (2-3-1) paid $20.60, the exactor $16.20 and quinella $9.30.

The victory improved Gus Again’s season record after 5 starts to 2-1-0 and with the top purse money of $24,480, his season earnings total now sits at $31,720. His career record after 45 lifetime starts improves to 15-11-6 with career earnings of $210,369.

In his long career at Assiniboia Downs, Gus Again had won the Agassiz Stakes twice before. But, this year’s victory had to be the most exciting and satisfying for owner Rusty Edwards as the gelding returned to avenge his 2-1/2-lengths loss to Albarino in this race last season. Albarino was not entered this year.

This was jockey Kirk Johnson’s second stakes victory this season, and he was pleased to be able to return Gus Again to the Winners’ Circle for Rusty Edwards. “I breezed him the other morning and he ran 5/8ths in a minute flat, and that really excited me. I said to myself if he can repeat that in the race he’s going to be tough, regardless of his age, because he’s really sound and in good shape.” Johnson went on to say that his outstanding riding this season at Assiniboia Downs is the best time of his life. “I am really enjoying this. I want to say thanks to every trainer on the grounds and all the owners for giving me the opportunity, and you can depend on me. I’ll give one 100% all the time.” With the victory Johnson scored his 58th win of the season. He also rode Grizzly in the 8th race on the card to record his 59th win this season.

Rusty Edward’s wife Joan joined her husband in the Winners’ Circle and reiterated how much they love and appreciate Gus Again. “He always gives everything he’s got and you can’t ask for more than that,” said Mrs. Edwards.

“He’s nine but he ran his heart out,” was Rusty Edwards’s first comment about the win. He added. “I just love the daylights out of him. Joanie sold him to me and I really appreciate that.” Edwards also thanked trainer Wayne Elias for the fabulous job he did in prepping Gus Again for the race, and thanked jockey Kirk Johnson who “rode him perfectly.” Edwards added that Gus Again has made the most money of any horse sold at the annual CTHS Manitoba Yearling Sale and that has run exclusively at Assiniboia Downs.

Smart Miss Scores Upset to Win Six Furlongs $30,000 North Dakota Stallion Stakes

Sunday, August 20, witnessed the annual running of the $30,000 North Dakota Stallion stakes over six furlongs for two-year-old colts, gelding and fillies eligible through the North Dakota Thoroughbred Association.

The field of ten rookies that included four filly entries saw one of those fillies and the longest shot in the race Smart Miss (20-1) with jockey Lenny Frazzitta Jr. come out on top in a very close two horse photo finish. Smart Miss won by “a head” over Talkin to Myself (10-1) with Ken Hendricks. Super Duper Me (3-1) with Paul Leacock was third.
The running time for the feature was 1:15.40.

Smart Miss paid $30.30, $14.10 and $6.80. The triactor of (7-8-9) paid $4,860.60, the exactor $1,692.50 and the quinella $455.10.

Owned and bred by Dr. Betty Hughes and trained by Lorna Gray, this was only the second career start for the Manitoba bred filly. In her previous start with Lenny Frazzitta Jr. also on board, Smart Miss finished second and just 1-3/4-lengths behind Exotic Force in the July 23rd Frank Arnason Sire stakes also over six furlongs. With the win Smart Miss improved her season record after two starts to 1-1-0 and the top purse money of $18,000 increased her earnings total to $26,000.

This was Lenny Frazzitta Jr.’s first stakes win this season and said he felt confident going into the feature. “She has been working real well in the morning and every time she has been on the outside of horses, she’s more strong, while if she gets inside she’s a little intimidated. But she broke well today, and I put her close to the pace, and she basically took it from there.”

This was also trainer Lorna Gray’s first stakes win of the season. She wasn’t too concerned about how well Smart Miss would run in this race. “Betty Hughes has always been high on her, and I’ve liked the way she been going in the past, and we’re really happy today. We’ve been second and third in three different stakes this year, so it is nice to finally win one.”

It was a good weekend for owner/breeder Dr. Betty Hughes who also bred Gus Again who won the Agassiz Stakes on Saturday night. She also bred Super Duper Me, the horse that finished third in this race. “I was so glad she was so settled in the gate today,” said Dr, Hughes. She added, “It was very windy today, and everything must have been rattling and banging in the gate. And despite all that wind, the whole field actually behaved really well for 2-year-olds.”