It Happened Again, making his first start in more than five months, wore down pacesetter Isthmus to capture the $138,000 Claiming Crown Jewel by 1 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Dec. 3 (VIDEO).
Shane Sellers was aboard Maggi Moss' 5-year-old Proud Citizen gelding for trainer Steve Asmussen. It Happened Again won for the first time in four starts at Fair Grounds, which was hosting the Claiming Crown series for the first time in its 13 editions.
There were fives stakes on this year's Claiming Crown program, designed as a showcase for racing's blue-collar workers.
Racing at the rail in the stretch, It Happened Again had a couple of lengths to make up on Isthmus but rallied under left-handed urging from Sellers after being angled to the outside of the leader approaching mid-stretch.
“It was a typical Steve Asmussen ride,” said Sellers immediately after the race of his ground-saving trip. “That’s the kind he wants -- stay inside and let ’em go when they want to. For a moment there I thought I waited too long, but when I asked him he gave me what I wanted.”
It Happened Again completed the featured Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile test, in 1:51.56 while defeating five rivals.
Winner of Oaklawn Park's Razorback Handicap (gr. III) in March, It Happened Again had not been out since finishing 10th in the Cornhusker Handicap (gr. II) at Prairie Meadows June 25. He had not been in the money in two prior starts at 1 1/8 miles.
Trainer Mike Maker, who won the 2010 CC Jewel with Headache, saddled the next three finishers. The William Butler-owned entry of Isthmus and Al Muhtasib ran second and third, respectively, as the 9-10 wagering favorite, and the late-running Harmonizer was next.
Isthmus, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, held a comfortable advantage over Rein King while carving out sensible fractions of :23.97, :47.33, and 1:11.82. Napravnik went to work on Isthmus in the lane as It Happened Again closed in, but the 3-year-old Flower Alley colt could not keep off the winner in the final sixteenth of a mile.
“He was a fighter,” said Napravnik of the runner-up. “He was pretty sharp around the first turn, wanting to go on and be very eager, but he held on and ran great. He was really trying down the lane.”
Al Muhtasib, unhurried early with Julien Leparoux aboard, ran on for third while 3 3/4 lengths behind Isthmus.
Harmonizer was followed by Rein King and Tutti Buona Gente.
It Happened Again, claimed for $20,000 from trainer Terry Jordan at Woodbine in October 2010, has won four times in nine starts for Asmussen and Moss. Out of the Quiet American mare Quiet Lucky, the chestnut was bred in Kentucky by Dede McGehee.
Winning for the eighth time in 27 starts, It Happened Again paid $7.40, $3, and $2.80 across the board while extending his career earnings to $429,078 with the $82,500 winning purse. The entry returned $2.20 and $2.10 and completed a $16 exacta with the second choice.
A race earlier, 4-5 pick Compliance Officer rallied four wide off the final turn and pulled away late for a 2 3/4-length win in the $93,000 Claiming Crown Emerald on grass (VIDEO). Compliance Officer, a 5-year-old son of Officer racing for La Marca Stable and trainer Bruce Brown, completed the 1 1/16-mile event in 1:44.51 on firm going.
Alex Solis rode Compliance Officer, who was bred in New York by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Compliance Officer had a five-race win streak facing state breds this year snapped when 11th in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 5.
Out of the Dynaformer mare Purple Hills, the gelding improved his career record to 10-4-2 in 24 starts while banking $464,566.
Runner-up Baryshnikov finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Quick Delivery.
Rattlin Gyspy, ridden by Napravnik, rallied from off the pace to get the lead approaching mid-stretch and drew clear for a three-length victory in the $71,250 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper (VIDEO).
John Wainwright trains the winning 4-year-old filly for owners Steven Howell, Ron Pauley, and Stephen Reiker. Rattling Gyspy ($14.80), fourth in the Flashy Lady Stakes at Remington Park in her most recent start Oct. 15, completed the six-furlong test for fillies and mares in 1:11.45.
Stone Farm and Sam Morgan bred Rattling Gyspy, an $18,000 Ocala purchase as a 2-year-old in April 2009. She is by Quest--Louisa, by Menifee.
With her sixth win in 24 races, Rattling Gyspy increased her winnings to $163,765. D'cats Meow ran second, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Right to Rule.
In the $47,000 Claiming Crown Express, Jackie Thacker’s Atthebuzzer produced a $95.40 upset with 17-year-old apprentice jockey C. J. McMahon aboard. Atthebuzzer was well-placed right behind the early leaders and rallied on the outside in upper stretch, drawing clear in the final furlong to tally by 1 1/2 lengths (VIDEO).
Atthebuzzer, a 5-year-old by Even the Score out of the Bold Ruckus mare Francesca's Ruckus, completed the six-furlong dash in 1:10.28. Thacker owns and trains the chestnut gelding bred in Arkansas by McDowell Farm.
The winner upped his career earnings to $123,387 with his 11th win in 39 lifetime starts.
Bombast, who made the pace with splits of :21.91 and :45.41, held down the second spot while finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Plasma Beam. Sherlock, the 2-1 favorite in the field of eight, finished fourth.
John Wade’s Pedrolino and jockey Robby Albarado ran away with the first race of this year's Claiming Crown, the $46,500 Iron Horse at 1 1/16 miles (VIDEO). The 5-year-old gelding, trained by Doug Matthews, had been racing on synthetic surfaces in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, most recently finishing third in a $50,000 claiming route at Keeneland.
Albarado waited patiently behind the pacesetters in the early stages before asking for run on the far turn. Pedrolino opened up by eight lengths in the stretch and was eased up late to win by 7 ¾ lengths in 1:45.13, providing Matthews and owner John Wade with their first Claiming Crown victory.
Bred in Kentucky by Silverleaf Farms, Pedrolino is by Distorted Humor out of Bold Burst, by Dahar. The victory, his sixth in 18 starts, boosted his earnings to $147,038.
Pedrolino, the 5-2 second choice in the field of seven, paid $7 to win. Severe Weather was second, five lengths in front of the show horse, Built to Precision, who set the pace (:23.82, :47.39) before being overtaken by the winner. Majhood, the 2-1 favorite, never threatened and ran fifth.