By Noah Joseph
1999: a year in pop culture that soon led to reality. From the song by Prince 17 years before the event itself to the Y2K bug scare leading up to it, 1999 was a year thought about before it happened. The year was also a banner one for thoroughbred racing. From the heartwarming story of Charismatic to the super filly Silverbulletday, 1999 was an unforgettable year for the sport of kings. That same year, Canterbury Park introduced an event that still exists to this day and is a major part of the racing year.
Canterbury Park, along with TOBA and the National HBPA came up with the Claiming Crown, a day like the Breeders’ Cup, but for claimers. Claimers are horses that can be entered in a race and be purchased for a certain price before the race runs. They are the backbone of the sport, and without them, racing would not exist. Canterbury decided to have a day to honor them. On August 7th, 1999, the first Claiming Crown was held at Canterbury. Talented horses and jockeys, both local and national, took part. The first race was the Claiming Crown Iron Horse which was won by A Point Well Made. Canterbury Hall of Fame jockey Derek Bell rode the winner for trainer Kelly Von Hemel. Pioneer Spirit then won the Claiming Crown Express under Willie Martinez, but only by a head over Satchmo. Martinez then went back-to-back, guiding You’re a Lady to victory in the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper.
The following race, the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit, was a special treat. Legendary jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. came to Shakopee from California to ride for the day. Pincay guided Aplomado
to victory for trainer Vladimir Cerin in a fast closing finish that fans had grown accustomed to seeing Pincay do so many times.
Despite this incredible moment, there was still more racing to take place. Taffy took the Claiming Crown Tiara with Tim Doocy aboard. And then came the featured race of the day. That was the Claiming Crown Jewel, and it was won by One Brick Shy with current Canterbury jockey Eddie Martin Jr. aboard in a 12-1 upset to cap off an inaugural Claiming Crown.
The Claiming Crown continues to this day at Gulfstream Park, even though Canterbury hasn’t hosted the event since 2010, yet its origins in Minnesota aren’t forgotten. One of the stakes now held is called the Canterbury, named after the track that started this event 20 years ago. In the end, Canterbury was at the forefront of one of horse racing’s most popular days.