As organizers of the Claiming Crown gear up for the sixth edition of the event in 2004, the focus will be on obtaining sponsorships and getting the races into more wagering outlets around the country. Meanwhile, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association has signed on as a sponsor of the event.During a meeting in Tucson, Ariz., this week, Claiming Crown supporters mapped out a strategy. The event is scheduled for July 17 at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.The National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which helped inaugurate the Claiming Crown in 1999, is working to develop sponsorship packages, as is Canterbury. The racetrack and the Minnesota HBPA supply most of the $550,000 in purse money needed to fund the six Claiming Crown races.Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing and industry development for the NTRA, said the organization assisted with the Crown this year but will increase that support in 2004."We'll promote the event like this year, but also will be a full-fledged sponsor of the event and use it as a means to promote our NTRA Purchasing partners," Chamblin said. "It's a terrific vehicle for reaching the grass-roots, and also draws a good on-site crowd. It's an event worthy of supporting."The NTRA also has been looking for ways to garner more support from horsemen's associations, and the Claiming Crown is a good fit. The Crown is a joint venture of the National HBPA and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.Organizers said last year's event was strong from a racing standpoint, but the signal didn't get widespread support in major markets such as Kentucky, New York, and Texas even though the standard 3% is charged for the signal. On-track reception has been strong at Canterbury."All of us need to be thinking about how we can get over that hump," National HBPA executive director Remi Bellocq said of the push for more betting outlets.Daily Racing Form officials said they would consider printing a supplement that would contain past performances and editorial content. The TV Games Network plans to promote the Claiming Crown and cover the event live.Nat Wess, who oversees the racing product at Canterbury and has served as the Claiming Crown point man, said more horsemen have become aware of the event. He also suggested organizers consider bringing back a seventh race, one for fillies and mares on the grass.The Claiming Crown features races run under starter allowance conditions for horse that have raced for claiming prices of $5,000 or less to $25,000 or less. Purses range from $50,000 to $150,000. Some of the high-end races on the program have lured horses that have competed in graded stakes.