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Claiming Crown News; MN Bred Debut; and Paul Nolan

Weekend stakes winners could be headed back to Claiming Crown
Two former Claiming Crown runners won stakes races this past weekend. Under the new Claiming Crown conditions, both would again be eligible to compete in Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park on August 2.
Zappa, a 6-year-old gelding by Afternoon Deelites, won the Grade 2 $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita on Saturday over the all-weather surface at a distance of 1 1/16th miles. In 2007, Zappa was claimed from four consecutive races, finally landing in the barn of trainer John Sadler. By running for a claiming price of $25,000 or less, he was eligible for the Claiming Crown Emerald. A rough trip over the Ellis Park turf course resulted in a fifth place finish. Since that effort he has run in six races in Southern California, winning four and finishing second once. Zappa is owned by Gary and Cecil Barber. Sadler hinted earlier this week that the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap is a possibility.
Also on Saturday, Lookinforthesecret won the $65,000 Pelican Stakes at six furlongs over the Tampa Bay Downs main track. Lookinforthesecret lost the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit last year by a head. He was claimed by trainer Jamie Ness for $12,500 on January 5, 2007 at Tampa Bay Downs for owner Balkrisna Sukaran of Blaine, MN and has since won eight races, including four stakes, from 13 starts and more than $220,000 in purse money. As Ness is based at Canterbury during the summer it is expected that Lookinforthesecret will be nominated to the Claiming Crown.

Known nationally as thoroughbred racing’s day for “blue collar” racehorses, the 10th annual Claiming Crown will consist of seven races, five on dirt and two on turf, and will offer a total of $600,000 in purse money. To be eligible to compete in a specific designated Claiming Crown event a horse must have started once at the claiming level associated with that Claiming Crown event, or at a lower claiming level, since January 1, 2007. Eligibility information and nomination forms can be found at
Minnesota bred debuts at Sam Houston
Remember McKenna Beach? She was the freakishly fast filly bred by Dahlberg Ranch that won the MN Juvenile Sprint and the Northern Lights Debutante in 2003. Bred to Tactical Cat by Dahlberg Ranch, the homebred weanling out of McKenna Beach sold for $6,500 at the Keeneland November sale in 2005. Named Normandy Shore, the now 3-year-old colt debuted on Sunday at Sam Houston Race Park in a 5 ½ furlong maiden special weight. Facing a rather lackluster field other than another firster from the Steve Asmussen barn that was a $100,000 yearling purchase by Indian Charlie, Normandy Shore was sent to post as the second wagering choice at 4-1. In a roughly run race, the Minnesota bred was prominent from the start, taking a half-length lead that diminished to a head at the top of the lane. The Asmussen runner went on to grind out a neck victory over Normandy Shore who was more than six lengths in front of the third place finisher. Paul Nolan was aboard Normandy Shore for trainer John Locke and owner April McCurry.
Nolan enjoying success
Paul Nolan has never ridden better than he has in the past 18 months. In 2007 he was one of the top 75 riders by wins. He is off to a good start in 2008 having won 10 of 32 starts. The fact that he has remained healthy for a long stretch has been a factor and success breeds success. “I’ve been riding better horses,” Nolan said. “I have had better opportunities.” Based at Sam Houston for the winter, Nolan is currently tied atop the jockey standings with 32 wins from 158 starts. His purse winnings of $412,956 are nearly $125,000 more than any other Sam Houston top 10 rider. He won three stakes on the Texas Champions race card and is 4 for 9 with stakes mounts. Aptly nicknamed Sod Surgeon, Nolan is winning on the Texas turf at a 32% clip.
Other Canterbury jocks are also doing well. Ry Eikleberry is having a good meet at Turf Paradise and Tanner Riggs was a regular visitor to the Hawthorne winners’ circle. “The Canterbury jockey colony is very strong,” said Nolan. And the fans seem to appreciate that fact. “Nothing compares to riding at Canterbury.”