Locals broke the bank early Saturday evening at Minnesota's Canterbury Park with upset victories in three of seven races that comprised the Claiming Crown, but it was an Eclipse Award-winning owner who took home the top prize in the featured $138,000 Claiming Crown Jewel.
The six-horse Jewel at 1 1/16 miles went to Me My Mine, who was claimed by trainer John Martin on behalf of owner Richard Englander for $40,000 in early June. Englander paid a $15,000 fee to supplement Me My Mine to the Jewel, and watched as the 6-year-old gelding led all the way and held on to defeat favored Sinners N Saints by a nose. Sandburr was third.
"I'm not going to say I'd do this every year," Englander said of supplementing his three Claiming Crown starters. "I knew (the Jewel) would be a competitive race. If it had been a $25,000 starter, it would have been real easy, but they raised it to $35,000."
"We come here every year and have the greatest time," said Englander, who is in the process of rebuilding his operation in a more streamlined fashion. He once had more than 200 horses. "It's the most horsemen-friendly track in the country. We'll come back full blast next year."
Englander's other starters finished fifth and seventh in their respective races. For the Jewel, however, he collected $82,500.
Me My Mine set even fractions on a fast track under Roberto Gonzalez and covered the distance in 1:43.37. Me My Mine, by Belong to Me
, was bred in Florida by Jacks or Better Farm. He paid $8 to win as the second choice.
The biggest upset of the day was registered by Gary McCloud's Castello d'Oro, who motored home on the far outside to take the $50,000 Claiming Crown Express
at six furlongs. The winner, claimed for $12,000 at Turf Paradise in Arizona in January, paid $71.80 to win in an 11-horse field with no standout in the wagering.
McCloud is from Minnesota and said to be a strong supporter of Canterbury. Trainer Randy Rarick and jockey Helen Vanek are based at Canterbury for the meet.
"This is by far the biggest win I've ever had as an owner," said McCloud, who fought back tears after the race. "It goes beyond my vocabulary. The horse has been sick and had an infection. It's the first time he has been healthy since he got to Canterbury (in May). It's the first time he really had a chance to run."
McCloud, accompanied to the track by more people than he could count, ordered 30 winner's circle pictures. He also produced an envelope with more than a few $100 win tickets on his horse.
"I guess we're going to have a party," he said.
Castello d'Oro, a 4-year-old Stolen Gold gelding bred in Washington by Ray and Charlotte Holmes, has six wins in 16 career starts. The final time was 1:10.12. Texmckay was second, Cicero Grimes third, and Runnin' the River fourth.
In the previous race, the $100,000 International Horsemen's Wagering Assurance Committee Claiming Crown Tiara
, trainer Ruth Cook was brought to tears after Tens Holy Spirit rallied from off the pace to win the 1 1/16-mile turf event for fillies and mares and pay $28.20. It was the first stakes win for Cook, who summers at Canterbury and winters at Tampa Bay Downs.
Tens Holy Spirit is owned by Bill Law, Bob Leninger, and Charles Rowe and was ridden by locally based jockey Paul Nolan.
"It's wonderful," Cook said. "I'm elated, and I don't really know how to talk right now. She's a really nice horse--getting better all the time."
Tens Holy Spirit, a 4-year-old Holy Mountain filly, was bred in Florida by Dr. Myron Wilson. She covered the distance in 1:42.84. Spy Aly was second, Moorebella third, and Secret Lies fourth.
The $100,000 Claiming Crown Emerald
went to another local, Al's Dearly Bred, a 9-year-old gelding that won the 2001 edition of the race at Canterbury. Al's Dearly Bred went from 11th and last at the three-quarter-mile mark to fly home and nail the victory by a head over Nooligan. Bodgiteer was third and Fred and Me fourth.
Al's Dearly Bred, who covered the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.58, has local connections in owner Larry Cronin, trainer Marvin Johnson, and rider Derek Bell. Al's Dearly Bred (by Waquoit) was bred in Kentucky by Beverly Green. He has won 18 of 49 career starts, with 17 wins on the grass.
The winner paid $9.40.
In other action on the $600,000 Claiming Crown program:$50,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse:
Distinct Vision won his eighth straight race since March 5 when he easily wired the field in the 1 1/16-mile event. The time was 1:37.74.
With Philadelphia Park-based jockey Jose Flores in the irons for owner Carl L. Moore Management and trainer Scott Lake, Distinct Vision never had an anxious moment and won in 1:44.66. Distinct Vision finished in front of Wheaty, who broke poorly but rallied for second. Harry Got Happy was third and Coloreado fourth.
Distinct Vision, a 6-year-old Jules gelding bred in Florida by Suzanne Snell Collins, won for the 18th time in 43 career starts. He became eligible for the Claiming Crown when Lake dropped him in for a $7,500 tag March 5 at Aqueduct. Distinct Vision, the heavy favorite in a 10-horse field, paid $2.60 to win.
For Lake, it was his seventh Claiming Crown win since the event began in 1999. Lake is the all-time leading Claiming Crown trainer.$75,000 WinTicket Claiming Crown Glass Slipper:
Lake won his second consecutive Claiming Crown race with Funny Woman, who jumped to the front and never looked back in the six-furlong test for fillies and mares.
Owned by Ben Mondello and Adam Russo and ridden by Nik Goodwin, Funny Woman set a blazing pace with strong tailwind at her back down the backstretch. She finished up in 1:09.93. Da Svedonya rallied from last in the field of six to finish second, with Wine and Spirits third and Show Us the Check fourth.
Funny Woman, a 6-year-old Strike Gold mare bred in California by John and Linda Lee Zamora, was claimed for $16,000 last November at Suffolk Downs and won for the seventh time since the claim. She now has won 12 races in 31 career starts. Flashy Woman paid $3.40 as the heavy choice.
Both Funny Woman and Distinct Vision shipped to Canterbury in June and had prep races over the track. Lake decided to try a different strategy this year.
"They really were a lot stronger this time than last time," Lake said of the two winners. "We come out every year and have an absolute blast. I'm glad we can keep coming back every year."$75,000 Daily Racing Form Rapid Transit:
Toby Roth's Crafty Schemer shipped in from his Maryland base to win gate-to-wire in the event.
With Ryan Fogelsonger riding for trainer Ben Feliciano Jr., Crafty Schemer rolled on the lead through fast fractions, opened up on the far turn, and easily held safe Seneca Summer, who rallied for second. Iron Rogue was third and Edgerrin fourth.
The time for the six furlongs was 1:08.74, about two-fifths of a second off the track record set last year. The winner paid $4.20 as the favorite.
Crafty Schemer, a 7-year-old Crafty Prospector
gelding bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. G.J. Stautberg, won for the eighth time in 35 career starts. He was claimed by Feliciano for $16,000 last October and this April competed and finished eighth in the grade II Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes at Keeneland.
The Canterbury program also featured the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeders' Cup Stakes
, which was won by Apogee Stable's Radiant Avie.
Trained by Richard Scherer and ridden by Derek Bell, Radiant Avie took command from the gate in the one-mile turf stakes and never was headed. She defeated last year's winner, Rue des Reves, by two lengths, with Stretching third and Camela Carson fourth. The final time was 1:35.69. The winner paid $13.20.
Radiant Avie, a 4-year-old Lord Avie filly bred in Florida by Four Horsemen's Ranch, won for the fifth time in 16 career starts. The Lady Canterbury marked her third win on the grass.
Despite temperatures that approached 100 degrees, attendance at Canterbury was reported at 11,644, up from 10,515 last year. On-track handle on a 12-race card was $932,704, up from $743,136 last year.
Total Claiming Crown handle was $2,264,721, up from $1,900,747 last year.
Canterbury president Randy Sampson said he was encouraged enough to probably request to host the event again in 2007. He said officials would have to again look for ways to build off-track handle but noted the number of major races around the country that competed with the Canterbury product.