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Assiniboia Downs is an action-packed, delicious day at the races - Assiniboia Downs - credit Oliver Dolinsky

Assiniboia Downs - credit Oliver Dolinsky

By: Only in the PegJune 22, 2016 // Attractions

One thing's for certain, the only thing with a long face at Assiniboia Downs Gaming and Event Centre is the horses.

In fact, one visit to this place is guaranteed to give you an ear-to-ear grin, along with a satisfied belly and a new sense of excitement.

Everyday is race day at The Downs, as they always provide simulcast racing from top tracks in North America (the only exception being on Christmas), while throughout the summer, from May 8 - September 11, live racing is where it's at (full schedule here) -- which is what we took in last week.

Always an exciting time when you #dothedowns @assiniboiadowns

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But before the races even start, the excellence that is The Downs already comes out to trot.

We're telling you this place has it all, including one of the city's finest selections of VLTs, a full service bar, and an extensive and spot-on race-day dinner buffet (served from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.) that is a bargain at $34.99/adults, $31.95 seniors and $17.95/kids.

The prime rib carving station alone is worth heading to The Downs for, while the seafood bar -- featuring steamed mussels and other delicacies -- along with the salad bar and chef maned pasta station were all top notch.

Wild horses would not have been able to keep our table from going back up for seconds -- especially to slather more of that medium rare prime rib with chasseur sauce.

The carving station at the sumptuous buffet (Assiniboia Downs)
The carving station at the sumptuous buffet (Assiniboia Downs)

The dining room provides panoramic views of the track. Plus, you get complimentary racing programs with tip sheets, which come in handy throughout dinner as employees are readily available to provide tableside wagering. During race days on weekends they also provide a similar service for brunch. It's a great outing for a group and you can reserve by calling 204.885.3330 -- which you'll want to do, as The Downs gets busy on live race days, with an average attendance in the thousands.

Of course, you can also watch the races in the open air from the grandstand or trackside, which is a perfect way to spend a summer's night. It's from this vantage point that you can really hear the thunder of the hooves on the track.

photo courtesy of Assiniboia Downs
photo by Rob Bye

If you want an even fancier group experience you can get a Race Presentation Package, where a race will be named after your group and where you'll be able to watch a race from the winner's circle. You even get to make a presentation to the winning horse owner and receive a framed photograph of the moment.

On a day at The Downs you'll also learn some fascinating stuff. For one, did you know that the jockeys (those muscular, slight fellows), ride multiple horses in one evening?

You can learn more about this at their Fan Education Kiosk, where racing specialists are set up one hour prior to the start of the races. These pros will teach you how to read the program, how to be smart with your bets, and how to analyze an upcoming race.

photo by Rob Bye
photo by Rob Bye

Once you get into this, you'll soon realize why this is such a popular attraction in Winnipeg, and how it has such a storied history.

Assiniboia Downs has been holding exciting horse races since 1958, when it was located at the former Polo Park Race track. They have their own blog dedicated to its heritage -- including tales from its glamours history featuring Hollywood stars -- on The Downs' Blog (click here).

It's location at 3975 Portage Avenue, just west of the city, remains one of Winnipeg's busiest attractions, with new fans frequently learning just how exciting it can be when you #DoTheDowns.

I'm telling you, even if you are not an equine enthusiast, you can't help but get caught up in the excitement at the track.

There were times when we all felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, whooping it up Arsenio style as our horse Langara crossed the finish line in first. We caught the thrill, and soon we'll be back again this summer to #DoTheDowns.

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