It took nearly all afternoon for it to happen, but trainer Michael Maker and jockey Miguel Mena stole the show on Claiming Crown Day at Ellis Park Aug. 4.
Maker and Mena teamed up to take the two most lucrative events in what is sometimes called, “The Breeders’ Cup for Claimers,” both the $100,000 Emerald Stakes and $150,000 Jewel Stakes, the first one in longshot fashion.
In the Emerald, Mena steered One Eyed Jack through traffic problems and skimmed the rail to overtake 6/5 favorite General Charley and the rest of his tiring rivals. The Maryland-bred colt paid $44.40 to win in a competition for 3-year-olds and up on the turf.
In the series finale, Mena guided Miami Sunrise, a 5-year-old gelding by Wheaton, from off the pace to steal the Jewel Stakes, which was open to contenders that had not started for a claiming price of more than $35,000 in their careers. Miami Sunrise, who had won two straight races at a $10,000 allowance level, paid $13.40 to win and covered the 1 1/8-mile on the dirt in 1:50.83.
Race favorite Semi Lost led most of the way, going the opening six furlongs in 1:12. The Lost Soldier gelding hit the top of the lane and was joined by Demagoguery for the drive to the wire. But Miami Sunrise, coming from well off the pace, found another gear and crossed the wire two lengths in front.
In all, there were seven Claiming Crown races at Ellis Park, with purses totaling $600,000. It is the first time that the series has been held at a Kentucky racetrack. To be eligible, a horse must have run for a minimum claiming price, which varied by race.
In the opener, the $50,000 Iron Horse Stakes, Bargainwiththedevil pulled away from favorite Kenai River in the stretch to win going away. The son of Southern Halo paid $6.40 on top.
The $50,000 Express Stakes, as expected, was taken by 3/5 favorite Golden Hair in wire-to-wire fashion. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the eight-year-old gelding won for the fourth straight time and 10th time in his last 11 tries.
The upset of the day came in the $75,000 Glass Slipper Race, as longshot Adore You shook off rivals in the stretch to score in the six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. The five-year-old Tactical Storm mare had hit the board in eight of nine efforts this year, but was sent off at odds of 49-1 and paid $100.60.
The $100,000 Tiara Stakes brought about the best finish of the afternoon, with jockey Corey Lanerie getting up just in time to nip Heathersdaddysbaby in a photo finish. The 5-year-old mare by Untuttable paid $8.80 on top.
In the $75,000 Transit Stakes it was the 4-year-old son of Pine Bluff, Neverbeendancin’, who took the money. Trained by Steve Margolis, the dark bay colt paid $11.60 to win.