The Claiming Crown was run for the 14th time on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, and the event for the blue collar set of horses may have found a new home.
The event was first run at Canterbury Park in 1999, and it has been run at the Minnesota track in ten of the 14 years. It was also run at Parx Racing and Ellis Park, and a scaled down version was run last year at Fair Grounds.
Last year just 37 horses showed up for the five Claiming Crown races, and with a full slate of racetracks running on a Saturday, the event was lost in the shuffle the past few years among simulcast players.
However, this year the Claiming Crown was run on opening day at Gulfstream Park, and drew 97 runners in the seven races, each race with large and competitive fields.
Horseplayers responded, with $12.2 million wagered, a 66 percent increase over last year’s opening day at Gulfstream Park.
The Claiming Crown is a partnership between the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and was created as a Breeders’ Cup type event for claiming horses. Claiming races make up the vast majority of everyday racing in the U.S.
While I am all for moving major events like the Breeders’ Cup to different venues, the Claiming Crown appears to have found a home on opening day in December at Gulfstream Park.
The NHBP and TOBA would be wise to make Gulfstream Park the permanent home for the event.
Express: Tiban ($6.20) got the festivities off with a victory in the Express with Calvin Borel aboard. However, the connections got lucky as jockey Pedro Cotto Jr., who was aboard 14-1 longshot Pot of Gold misjudged the finish line. “I got confused with the poles,” Cotto said after the race. “I feel very bad. I should have been more prepared.” Tiban is trained by Tim Glyshaw.
Iron Horse: Brother Bird ($9.80) was the first of four winners saddled by trainer Mike Maker on the afternoon. The five-year-old gelding bounced back off a seventh place finish against $8,000 starter allowance foes to pull off the victory with Joel Rosario aboard for the win. Jazzit was 15-1 and completed a $2exacta that paid $177.00.
Rapid Transit: Maker, Rosario, and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey teamed up again, winning the Rapid Transit with Bernie the Maestro ($7.40). Maker claimed the gelding for $35,000 in August at Saratoga and turned him around to win a $16,000 starter allowance race in his first start for the barn. Pacesetter Off the Jack (7-1) completed a $59.20 exacta.
Glass Slipper: The Martin Wolfson trained Starship Truffles ($12.20) drew off smartly to win by four lengths in the Glass Slipper. The three-year-old filly won her third straight for the barn and has now won nine of her 16 career starts. Come Sunday (9-2) rallied for the runner up spot, with the exacta returning $69.20.
Tiara: Maker and the Ramseys scored again with Starsilloutte ($15.40) who rallied from last to first under jockey Alan Garcia. The five-year-old mare won her fourth race in six starts over the Gulfstream Park turf course. Malibu Yankee (14-1) landed in the runner up spot, the $2 exacta paying $232.80.
Emerald: Nikki’s Sandcastle ($6.80) held off the Maker trained Major Marvel (4-1) by a head for a game victory in the Emerald. The David Kassen trainee came into the race off a runner up finish in the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland over polytrack.
Jewel: Maker saddled his fourth winner of the Claiming Crown with a victory by Parent’s Honor ($34.40) in the nightcap. The four-year-old gelding came into the race off back to back double digit lengths losses in stakes company in his first two starts for the barn. Maker claimed him for $35,000 back in August at Saratoga. The 10-1 longshot Dominant Jeannes completed a $291.60 exacta.