‘Crown' Fields Big; Mid-Atlantic Tracks Won't Bite

The second Claiming Crown has lured 78 pre-entries for seven races to be run Aug. 6 at Canterbury Park, and as of Monday, it appeared more outlets had agreed to simulcast the races. Organizers hoped to build on the $1.8 million wagered nationally on six Claiming Crown races last year.
The Claiming Crown package is again being offered at a fee of 4%, higher than the standard 3% charged for simulcast signals. Del Mar has been tabbed to handle the sale of the signal.
“I’ve been told the number of sites should be up this year,” said Dan Metzger, president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, a Claiming Crown sponsor. “Of course, it’s fairly fluid until the very end.”
The MidAtlantic Cooperative, a group of 13 racetracks, hasn’t signed on, reportedly because of the 4% fee. One of those tracks is Philadelphia Park, where the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association staged a $200,000 Claiming Crown preview day in early June. The track will be represented by eight horses in the finals.
The PTHA recently joined the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, one of the sponsors of the Claiming Crown.
“We’re encouraging both sides to settle it,” said Mike Ballezzi, executive director of the PTHA. “I know that (Philadelphia Park) wants to simulcast the races to continue the momentum after our successful Claiming Crown day. We’ve been told they’re working to resolve it.”
“It’s regrettable we’ve not been able to reach an agreement,” said Martin Lieberman, chief executive officer of the MidAtlantic Cooperative. “Claiming Crown, through its representative, made a proposal, then the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative made a counterproposal, which was rejected by Claiming Crown. Their request was unrealistic.”
Sources close to the matter said the Mid-Atlantic tracks are attempting to show some muscle so they can better deal with other importers in regard to simulcast fees. The cooperative has member tracks in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Two Delaware harness tracks—Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway—recently joined, Lieberman said, and other tracks have expressed interest in membership.
Organizers said they’re pleased no Claiming Crown race had less than nine pre-entries. The $50,000 Iron Horse lured 13, followed by the $75,000 Rapid Transit and $100,000 Tiara (each with 12), the $60,000 Glass Slipper and $100,000 Emerald (each with 11), and the $50,000 Express (10). The $125,000 Jewel drew nine pre-entries.
Almost a quarter of the pre-entries are based at Canterbury, where administration and horsemen have committed purse money to the series.

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