Prolific owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey have emerged as a major players in Thoroughbred racing with their red and white colors prominent at all levels of the sport from the Breeders' Cup down to the claiming ranks.
The Ramseys will show their support and enthusiasm for the latter on Saturday's opening day program of Gulfstream Park's 2012-2013 meeting, represented by contenders entered in all seven Claiming Crown races worth a total $850,000.
The 14th edition of the event will be run for the first time at Gulfstream Park after previously being held at Canterbury Downs, Philadelphia Park, Ellis Park and Fair Grounds.
"I think Gulfstream is a wonderful place to have the Claiming Crown," Ken Ramsey said. "Sometimes when they've run it other places, all the races didn't even fill. We'll have at least one horse in all seven races and another horse or two in other races on the card if the right races fill."
Ramsey goes into Saturday's renewal as the leading owner of Claiming Crown winners with six, two more than Richard Englander.
"We've won the six races with just nine starters," he noted.
Trainer Mike Maker sends out all of the Ramsey runners and will bid to overtake trainer Scott Lake on that leader board as the latter leads 8-to-7 going into Saturday. Lake does not have any horse entered Saturday.
"I'll be coming down on Friday with my farm manager Mark Partridge," Ramsey said from his Nicholasville, Kentucky, farm. "Then back home to Kentucky through the holidays until after the first of the year, before coming down for the whole meet through early April. We have a winter home in Sunny Isles Beach. It doesn't take long to get to Gulfstream from there."
The $200,000 Jewel at 1 1/8 miles is the richest race on the Claiming Crown menu with four-year-old gelding Private Tale among the likely choices in a wide-open field of 12. The Tale of the Cat bay just made his stakes debut on October 27 in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park where he finished fourth at 29-1.
Javier Castellano gets the call on Private Tale, who broke his maiden for a $25,000 claiming tag at Parx in mid-February and went on to win four more races, for trainer Michael Trombetta.
Another with a chance in the Jewel is Flatter This, a five-year-old son of Flatter who captured a starter allowance at Calder on October 27, just 14 days after a third-place run in the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap.
The Ramsey-Maker team will be represented in the Jewel by Parent's Honor, a son of Elusive Quality who will be ridden by jockey Alan Garcia.
The Jewel will have to share the spotlight atop the marquee with the $125,000 Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile turf race with lots of star appeal.
Maker will send out Ramsey's six-year-old gelding Major Marvel in the Emerald as well as probable favorite King David, who is owned by Scarlet Stable. That three-year-old son of Hat Trick was claimed for $35,000 out of a winning race at Belmont Park on September 13 and wheeled back to post a 28-1 upset in the Grade 1 Jamaica Handicap over the Belmont turf course on October 6.
King David, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado in the Emerald, returned after the Jamaica to finish a fast-closing second in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs on November 17.
Castellano will be aboard Major Marvel, a close-up second in a high-price optional claimer/allowance last out over the Churchill turf on November 4. Claimed for $10,000 at Keeneland in April, the son of Bernstein won his next four starts, including the West Virginia Speakers Cup on turf at Mountaineer Park in early August.
Finishing a solid second in the Jamaica behind King David was the three-year-old gelding King Kreesa, who will come back in the Emerald with jockey Joel Rosario in the saddle for trainer Jeremiah Englehart. The New York-bred son of King Cugat broke his maiden at Aqueduct in early April in his second career start while racing for a $25,000 claiming tag with no takers.
King Kreesa set the pace in the nine-furlong Jamaica as a 24-1 longshot before giving way grudgingly to be beaten a half-length by King David. He subsequently finished fourth as the favorite in the Monserrat Stakes at Aqueduct on November 4, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths for it all.
Another solid contender in the Emerald who will get plenty of support is the five-year-old gelding Nicki's Sandcastle, who'll be ridden by Corey Lanerie for trainer David Kassen. The Kentucky homebred raced for a $25,000 tag early in his career with no takers but has emerged this season as a solid stakes performer, most recently finishing a game second in the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack October 27.
The Rudy Rodriguez-trained Silver Screamer looms as the horse to beat in a full 14-horse field entered in the $125,000 Tiara for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on turf. The four-year-old Cozzene filly is highly consistent with an 5-3-2 record in 11 starts on turf, including a win in the Grade 3 Eatontown Handicap at Monmouth Park over the summer. She finished third in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont and captured the Lady Baltimore at Laurel Park in her past two starts.
The $100,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares at seven furlongs features Tamarind Hall. The five-year-old Graeme Hall mare has been a solid sprint stakes performer the last two seasons, winning the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses at Belmont in 2011 and most recently finishing an even fourth in the Classy Mirage at Belmont. Trained by David Fawkes, the chestnut mare breaks from the far outside post 13 under jockey David Cohen.
Cover Price rates high in the field of 10 drawn for the $100,000 Express sending three-year-olds and up six furlongs. The five-year-old gelded son of D'Wildcat romped in a Calder allowance on October 18 by 10 3/4 length for trainer Luis Ramirez and will get a jockey switch to Paco Lopez this time around.
Homeboykris, who won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont as a two-year-old, enters the 14-horse, $100,000 Rapid Transit for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs in winning form for trainer Ron Moquette. The five-year-old gelded son of Roman Ruler won a starter allowance at Churchill Downs just 17 days ago after being claimed for $30,000 at Delaware Park in his previous start.
He's Spectacular has gotten good at the right time for trainer Humberto Toledo and should be well-backed against 13 rivals and one also-eligible in the $100,000 Iron Horse for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles. The Alphabet Soup sophomore won three straight early in the fall at Calder, finished second in the Carl Rose Classic in November and fourth in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper Handicap last Saturday.
The Claiming Crown will highlight Gulfstream's opening day on Saturday, and racing fans will have the opportunity to take part in a special wager to celebrate the occasion.
The 10-cent Claiming Crown Pick 7 will offer a $100,000 guaranteed pool and a mandatory payout on the first of 90 racing programs of the Thoroughbred season that will run through April 5. Offered on the last seven races of a 10-race program, which will include all seven Claiming Crown races, the 10 cent-base wager will require bettors to pick the winners off all seven races. A bettor or bettors with the most winners will hit or share the jackpot.
For opening day only, the 10-cent Claiming Crown Pick 7 will take the place of the popular and innovative 10-cent Rainbow Pick 6. For the remaining 89 programs, the Rainbow Pick 6 will be offered on the last six races each day. Bettors must pick all six winners to have a chance to hit the jackpot. A bettor must hold the only ticket with all six winners to be eligible for the jackpot. If there are multiple ticketholders with six winners, they will split 60 percent of that day's wagering pool, while 40 percent will be added to the jackpot carryover. Like the Claiming Crown Pick 7, the Rainbow Pick 6 will have a 20-percent pari-mutuel takeout.
In addition to the Rainbow Pick 6, as well as win, place and show wagering, a full menu of multi-race wagers will once again be available to Gulfstream players. In addition to rolling Daily Doubles and Pick 3s throughout the program, exactas, trifectas and superfectas will be offered on every race. Two Pick 4 wagers will also be offered each day. The Daily Double and exacta will have a $1 base wager. The trifecta and Pick 4 bets will have a base wager of 50 cents, while the superfecta will be a 10-cent base bet.
Along with the 10-cent Rainbow Pick 6, the 50-cent Pick 5 and the $1 Super Hi 5 will once anchor the daily programs this year. The 50-cent Pick 5 will require bettors to pick the winners of the last five races, while the Super Hi 5 requires bettors to pick the first five finishers of the last race in exact order.