BY JIM WELLS
Scott Lake has been to Canterbury Park for all nine editions of the Claiming Crown held here, and has missed only one of the 11 since it debuted in 1999 in Shakopee.
He was at Philadelphia Park for the 2002 running, missing only the Claiming Crown hosted at Ellis Park in 2007. He has said several times since that he would not have skipped that one had it been at Canterbury.
Lake annually is among the top trainers in the country and likes to include the Claiming Crown as part of his hyper-active schedule. He considers this festival for claiming horses a working vacation, and hasn’t changed his mind on the significance of the event as part of his yearly racing calendar.
“It’s just a great concept,” he said. “A bunch of claiming horses get to run for good pots and they really promote it well.”
Lake won three races the second year of the event and leads all trainers with eight overall. He hopes to add to that total in today’s event with entries in three of the seven races: Met A Miner, the 3-1 favorite in the Glass Slipper, Divine Master, an 8-1 third choice in the Emerald and Fancy Runner, a 5-1 fourth selection in the Jewel.
Can he duplicate the triple of 2000?
“Well, I’ll be happy with anyone one of them winning,” he said. “Any one of the three.”
His analysis of the three horses in their respective races:
Met A Miner.
“She’s been a dream in the barn, just does everything right,” he said. “She’s coming into this race as good as I’ve seen her. She’s trained well the last couple of weeks. She doesn’t have to be on the lead and has one of the outside posts, so she can sit and stalk.”
“A real hard knocker who loves being on the lead. The faster they go, the harder he runs,” Lake said. “That race came up the most competitive. There are probably eight in there who could win it and I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Lake won the $150,000 Jewel in 2000 with B Flat Major and will send Fancy Runner after the big prize this time.
“We claimed him specifically for this race,” Lake said. “The first time we ran him a little short. We couldn’t get a race to go for him and when we did it was a longer time between races than we wanted. But he’s coming into this one on top of his game.”
Lake is currently fourth in the nation in money earned with $4,063,811 and second in wins to Steve Asmussen (who has 366) with 198.
How has the Claiming Crown changed over the years?
“Well, I think some of the tracks that have gotten slots have improved purses for some of the middle-range horses. It makes less sense for them to ship if they can run for the same money in their backyards,” Lake said.
Racing in general needs what?
“We have to figure out how to get more people to the racetrack,” Lake said.
“Some of the places with slots concentrate on slots and the horses become secondary. We need to emphasize the racing and get people back watching it. We have to figure out how to do that.”
Lake gave a rundown of the horses who’ve won Claiming Crown races for him since 2000.
Spit Polish, the 2000 Express winner. “I have no idea where he is,” Lake said. “I lost him at the claim box and then lost track of him.”
The Maccabee, 2001 Express winner. “I lost him at the claim box and think he ended up in Michigan. Last I heard, somebody was using him as a riding horse.”
Ruskin, the Iron Horse winner in 2002. “The owner who had him at the time still has him,” Lake said. “He’s since been turned into a field horse.”
Distinct Vision, the 2006 Iron Horse winner. “He died of pnemonia shortly after the claiming crown that year,” Lake said.
A Lot of Mary, the 2000 Glass Slipper winner. “I’m pretty sure she’s a broodmare,” Lake said.
French Teacher, the 2001 Glass Slipper winner. “I lost her at the claim box. I heard she had colic and needed surgery a few years later. I don’t think she made it.”
Funny Woman, the 2006 Glass Slipper winner. “She’s a broodmare in Pennsylvania.
B Flat Major, the 2000 Jewel winner. “I lost him for $75,000 after the Claiming Crown. I took him back for $35,000 and won two stakes with him. Then he started back down the ladder. Somebody claimed him. He was running around Philadelphia Park for a couple of years, then made into a riding horse.”
Lake hopes he’s asked a similar question some day about the horses he’ll saddle for the 11th Claiming Crown. At least one of them.