by JIM WELLS
His trainer thought they were beat, so did his owner, but Antrim County wasn’t having any of it on Saturday and made a bit of history as a result.
So, the best was delivered last. Antrim County, who won the opening race in the Claiming Crown in 2008, the $50,000 Iron Horse, became the first horse in the 11-year history of the event to win another title.
He needed the heart and fortitude of a real racehorse to accomplish the feat, battling Fancy Runner the final 100 yards.
Antrim County was owned by Boys Haven Equine in 2008 and trained by Louisville police officer Cliff Wilkinson, who claimed him for $7,500.
This time, he wore the colors of Carl Moore of Fort Worth, Texas, who convinced trainer Bret Calhoun the horse was worth claiming for $50,000, based on what Moore saw of him in the past performances.
Antrim County was awarded the HBPA’s National Claiming Horse of the Year award earlier in the day, and put in a bid Saturday for a repeat award.
Fancy Runner put a long nose in front of Antrim County inside the 16th pole while mounting a furious stretch challenge and looked ready to put him away.
That appearance lasted an instant or less, because once Antrim County recognized the challenge, he dug in and had a short neck on Fancy Runner off a long head bob at the wire.
“He came back at the right time today, didn’t he,” said Calhoun. “He won on sheer guts and determination.”
The winning time for the mile and 1/8 event was 1:50 and 3/5ths, under Jamie Theriot.
The turnout Saturday was 11,324 and those who wagered on this race sent off the winner as third choice at 4-1. Antrim County paid $10.80, $4.60 and $3.80.
Fancy Runner came within a short neck of providing trainer Scott Lake with a win for the day. Glamour Guy, second choice at 3-1, finished third, 4 ½ lengths behind Lake’s horse. Furthest Lad, the favorite at 9 to10, was fourth.
Theriot and Russell Baze, who has the most wins in racing history, had two wins apiece in the Claiming Crown, although the crowd clearly appreciated Baze’s second win more.
As the designated Classic Jockey on the card, beer and soda prices were reduced to 1985 prices with Baze’s second win.
That came aboard Frisco Fox in the $75,000 Glass Slipper, the seventh race on the card. Baze also won the $75,000 Rapid Transit with Your’re My Boy Blue.
Theriot opened the Claiming Crown with a win aboard Bright Hall in the $50,000 Iron Horse. Bright Hall took command in the mile and 1-16 event during the run to the first turn, slowed the fractions to a crawl and came home easily, finishing 5 ¼ lengths in front of Calm and Collected the 2-1 favorite. Benson, a 42-1 outsider, finished third under Derek Bell for trainer . The winning time was 1:44 and 4/5 after earlier fractions of 1:13, 48 and 48 and 2/5.
The winner of the $100,000 Tiara at a mile and 1/16 on the turf was Mizzcan’tbewrong, who was in the winner’s circle at Canterbury on June 27 following the HBPA Mile. Ridden by Paul Nolan in that race, the daughter of Mizzen Mast was ridden by Robby Albarado on Saturday and prevailed by a neck over Love to Tell and Francisco Torres. The winner paid $6.10. Third was Bartok’s Bling, ridden by Baze.
Baze took You’re My Boy Blue to a 1 ½-length victory over Gran Traverse, the even money favorite in the Rapid Transit, taking the lead inside the 1/8 pole and then finishing strong.
Idaho Joe, ridden by Derek Bell for Jeremiah Englehart, was third, another length and ¾ behind the winner.
Chasing the Prize was running seventh in a 10-horse field at the half-mile marker of the $50,000 Express 7 ½ lengths off the lead. He was still fifth at the stretch call, five lengths back and not improving his position. At the 1/16th pole, with Julien Leparoux using the lefthanded whip unsparingly, Chasing the Prize exploded as if he had been shot out of a canon and surged to a ¾-length win over Norjac, with Who Let the Cat In another length and ¾ further back.
Chasing the Prize, trained by Mike Maker, was the 2-1 favorite.
Frisco Fox, trained by Lloyd Mason, took charge in the upper stretch and earned a three-length victory over Thunder and Belle as an 11-1 outsider in the Glass Slipper . Cassie D, ridden by Ry Eikleberry for his dad, Kevin, finished third.
Gran Estreno, an Argentine-bred, was a 7-2 favorite in the $100,000 Emerald, and cashed in under E. T. Baird, taking charge at the eighth pole for a 1 ¼ length victory over 6-1 choice Hard Top with Stormy Surge at his shoulder for third.
But it was Happiness Is, a five-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, who prevailed under Rosemary Homeister, Jr., turning back a challenge from Euphony for a victory by a nose. Lady Carlock was third.
The winner paid $10.40, $4 and $3.