Four defending champions are among 294 nominations to the 19th running of the $1.11 million Claiming Crown, set for Saturday, Dec. 2, opening day of Gulfstream Park’s 2017-2018 Championship Meet.
This year marks the sixth consecutive year Gulfstream Park will serve as host to the nine-race Claiming Crown, created in 1999 by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association to reward and pay tribute to horses and horsemen that provide the foundation for day-to-day racing programs at racetracks throughout the U.S.
“We’re thrilled to be kicking off our Championship Meet once again with the Claiming Crown,” said Gulfstream’s General Manager Bill Badgett. “We’re happy with the increase in nominations and grateful for the support from horsemen throughout North America. Our partnership with the National and Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Associations and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association continues to grow, as does interest in the race from the betting public. We’re looking forward to the kickoff of our Championship Meet with the Claiming Crown.”
Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker, who hold their respective records with 15 Claiming Crown wins apiece, are well-represented in 2017 with 29 total nominations. The Ramseys have seven nominees, all trained by Maker, who also has 22 nominations for other owners.
Total handle for the Claiming Crown has topped $10 million each of the past three years, with a record $11.1 million in 2016, when the event attracted 281 nominations.
“The National HBPA once again looks forward to the Claiming Crown being held at Gulfstream Park with our partners from TOBA. This event continues to gain momentum as a premier day in Thoroughbred racing,” said Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National HBPA. “We are pleased with the increase number of nominations, and the overwhelming success we have seen from entries in qualifying races. Special thanks again to the Florida HBPA, all of the racing management at Gulfstream Park, the great team at TOBA and to horsemen from all around, for having an even stronger commitment to the Claiming Crown in 2017.”
“We are very appreciative of the support from the participating owners and trainers with the increase in nominations,” said Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. “The Claiming Crown's position on the racing calendar has been solidified as a ‘can't miss’ event by horsemen from across the country and, with the expected large and competitive fields, this year's races promise to deliver an exciting day of racing for our entire sport.”
The richest event on the Claiming Crown program is the $200,000 Jewel at nine furlongs for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2016. Among the 27 nominees are three from Maker – Capital Letters, 2016 Rapid Transit runner-up Flashy Jewel and Futile – along with Diamond Bachelor and multiple stakes winner John Jones, who ran 2-3 behind Royal Posse last year, and Gigantic Breeze, twice G3-placed at Woodbine this summer.
Two-time G2 winner Starship Jubilee, G1 Delaware Handicap and G1 Spinster runner-up Martini Glass, multiple stakes winners Dynatail and Gianna’s Dream and G3-placed Cuddle Alert are among 29 nominees to the $125,000 Tiara at a mile and a sixteenth on turf for fillies and mares and up that have run for a tag of $25,000 or less.
Most popular among horsemen with 52 nominations is the $125,000 Emerald for 3-year-olds and up that have started for $25,000 or less going a mile and a sixteenth on turf. Cammack and Laythatpistoldown, separated by a nose when fourth and fifth respectively in a five-way photo finish during last year’s race, are nominated, as are Gigantic Breeze, John Jones and stakes winners Black Tide, D’craziness, Special Ops, Spring Up, Swagger Jagger and Threeohtwocassie.
G3 winner Doctor J Dub, Bull Dozer, a winner of 21 of 79 career starts and $632,663 in purse earnings, stakes winners Bass RiverRoad and Helloitsme, and Proper Freud and Express Bet, second and third respectively in last year’s race, are among 37 nominees to the $110,000 Express at six furlongs.
Nominated to defend their 2016 victories are Super Spender in the $110,000 Canterbury at five furlongs on turf, Tormenta De Oro in the $110,000 Glass Slipper at one mile, Chepstow in the $110,000 Iron Horse at a mile and a sixteenth and Shaft Of Light in the $110,000 Rapid Transit at seven furlongs.
New to the Claiming Crown program last year, the $110,000 Distaff Dash at five furlongs on turf for fillies and mares three and up that have run for $25,000 or less, returns with 23 nominations, led by My Sister Caro, Lady Coventry and Eila, who ran second, third and fourth respectively in 2016.