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Claiming Crown 2012 Preview

Paupers become princes on one special day – Claiming Crown Day. Hallandale’s Gulfstream Park has taken over this year as the host venue for the seven-race Breeders’ Cup for claimers, which will take place on the initial day of their meet, Saturday, December 1st. The format, purses, and fields for this year’s event are exactly what the creators of the ‘Cup had in mind when it made its debut in 1999. An event that started right here at Canterbury Park has come a long way! Entrants must have started for their given price in the past two years, so some of these names have become more familiar in the stakes ranks than others. Fields should be as contentious as ever, so let’s take a glance:

The Jewel (1 1/8 Miles on dirt, $200,000 purse for horses that have started for a price of $35,000 or less)

All entered in the Jewel have been in for a tag this year, so in this difficult field I was drawn to the one that’s been protected since his claim. Private Tale dropped bigtime off his two-year layoff, breaking his maiden for $25,000 after beginning his career in MSW. Since claiming the horse and stretching him out, Trombetta’s Virginia-bred has made quite a living in the Mid-Atlantic.

There isn’t a ton of devoted speed in here, and he may just get a cozy trip on the inside from just off the front-runners. Trade and Willy Elliot will have to do the running up front for the rest of the field, but neither sets the track ablaze early, and both should be kept in consideration as they don’t look like they’ll get pushed all that much.

Tiz Liberty is an interesting prospect, as he’s been cross entered and comes from California. He’s a dirt specialist, but really hasn’t faced much out west and may take more action than he should. The figures look impressive on paper, but a lot of Santa Anita’s do just due to the fast dirt/times.

Race Nine – The Emerald (1 1/16th miles on turf; $125,000 purse for colts/geldings that have started for a price of $25,000 or less)

Quite the lineup for the Emerald – Stakes runners inside and out make up a standing-room-only field. Just like the Breeders’ Cup, we find out if the 3- year-old turf males stack up to their elders. For once the younger class looks like they’ll go favored, but don’t count the veterans out. Even if they can’t keep up with their graded foes, the older males in the Emerald have been holding their own all year. Who will take to this turf is a major question, as no one exactly appears at home over it and neither of the 3 year olds has tried it. This is one race I will wait on the toteboard for, as value will be found in one corner or another. If Nikki’s Sandcastle can even stay around 7/2, I will have to use him along with Tom Kitten for some value. Hard to find secure tosses in any stall.

Race Eight – The Tiara (1 1/16th miles on turf; $125,000 purse for fillies/mares that have started for a price of $25,000 or less)

Here comes the point where shopping for prices may stop. Maker will try to beat this field in three ways – The Class, the Speed, or the Gulfstream-Turf Specialist. All three bring a strong case to the table and depending on the tactics of opposing jockeys he could fill multiple spots in this tri. Not to rob the credentials of the rest of the field (NO pushovers), but several could be had for a tag long after any of the Maker fillies. Silver Screamer is another live contender hampered by a disaster of a slot in the gate, and should find life rather difficult trying to steal the race from the outside. I will be using her to try to pull robbery, but this assignment stands as her toughest in a while. Not expecting record payoffs in this year’s Tiara.

Race Six – The Rapid Transit (7 furlongs on dirt; $100,000 purse for colts/geldings that have started for a price of $16,000 or less)

This tricky distance draws some experts. The likely favorites have lofty resumes, as most of them come from the outside. As the prices rise, Calder representatives come out of a lot of the same starter allowances and factor less in this handicapper’s outcome. Peb Hughes should be a tough customer, but won’t provide value given the new connections. He’s been in the Dutrow barn for quite some time but hasn’t hit the track since October. Surely there were suitable spots for him in New York (where he was until a couple of weeks ago), but he was freshened for this spot anyway and comes aboard with only one race since June. Hmmmmm.

Off the Jak draws away from most of the other speed in here, and if anyone could shake away it could be the horse with the connections of BC Sprint winner Trinniberg. A lot of horses want to be in the same spot in this race, stalkers drawn to the outside may be taking a walk on the wide side.

Race Seven – The Glass Slipper (7 furlongs on dirt; $100,000 purse for fillies/mares that have started for a price of $16,000 or less)

Not exactly a field of Cinderellas, the stakes fillies drawn outside should take their share of the action. Tamarind Hall sure has made good since her beginning hasn’t she? The Fawkes trainee has lost touch with the winners’ circle but has taken jabs from tough customers, and should appreciate the company switch. She isn’t all that unlike the rest of the field though, collectively four for thirteen in their last start.

Unlike its male counterpart (the Rapid Transit), the field assembled haven’t entirely aced seven furlongs, though there are some definite standouts at the distance. Tamarind Hall is one of them, with Ann’s Smart Dancer, True and Daddys Vision the other multiple winners at the trip. Brandys Secret just notched her first win, but will have to burn some of her speed to establish early position. Gun to head, Tamarind Hall. I will be watching the toteboard for some clues on the locals, but this could be one to take a stab in.

Race Four – The Express (6 furlongs on dirt; $100,000 purse for horses that have started for a price of $7,500 or less)

The pace appears to be fair in the Express, with a lot of the speed lined up inside and the closers drawn towards the outside. Only two in this field have won at Gulfstream, displaying the nationwide attention that this edition of the Claiming Crown has garnered. Scott Lake holds the CC record with eight wins, and Mike Maker is looking to pass him this year and is taking shots in all available races. His entrant in the Express, Gibson, is a fresh claim from Keeneland. He’s been making most of his living on poly and turf in recent times, but shows a strong morning drill in Hallandale and hasn’t been at the eligible level for a long time.

Many of these qualified for this race around the same time this year (April-June) but an interesting one who hasn’t raced this low in a while is Isn’t She Grand. The filly dances with the boys to try to tab win number eight at the distance (seven of her nine wins thus far have come at ¾) in her first try on Gulfstream dirt. She seems to want the lead alone, though, as well as the other filly My Place Anytime. If these two lock horns, the one who could benefit is either the favorite or Tiban. Tiban has improved since being claimed in May and it appears he likes his new style of sitting just off the lead instead of duking it out.

It’s a good edition of the Express and I’ll be using all of them in a combination of sups and tris. Gibson I’m sure is going to go favored, but let’s see if he likes the dirt as much in the afternoon as he does in the morning.

Race Five – The Iron Horse (1 1/16 on dirt; $100,000 purse for horses that have started for a price of $7,500 or less)

How well can He’s Spectacular run on a week’s rest? He’s already run fifteen times this year, and was rubbing elbows with the claimers that put him here just two months ago. It’s hard to fault the years on a lot of these combatants, with the 0-12 animal trained by the king of the claiming ranks these days, Jamie Ness. Keep an eye on the early running for bias inside or out, but barring any extremely dead rail I’ll be using Follow the Leader. He’s a versatile sort that’s politely gone about his business in the Northeast, over doubling his earnings in 2012 from 2011. He doesn’t reach out of his comfort zone very often (only one stakes try in the past year) but it works for him, and his favorite pilot Kendrick Carmouche comes along for the ride. They’ve posed for pictures in four out of their last five efforts together. Take out the turf experiments in the past year and he’s a solid, blue-collar horse that fits very well.

Despite his mark for the year, Awesome Mich (the aforementioned Ness trainee) should garner a little action off his last effort. It nearly equaled his lifetime best beyer. The barn still usually gets a win out of their claims by now, and without that on the resume backers must hope that this race has been the long-term goal. The Ramseys bring another strong runner to the table, but the post stinks as do the recent Beyer declines. Watch for some scratches to help him out.

Best of luck in the 2012 Claiming Crown! Don’t forget to watch and wager at Canterbury.

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann just completed her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.