The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association is working with Gulfstream Park and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association to secure a three-year contract for the Claiming Crown.
Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling, speaking during the National HBPA board of directors meeting Feb. 24 in Clearwater, Fla., said the 2012 Claiming Crown held at Gulfstream for the first time shattered records when almost $10 million was wagered on the seven Crown races. The Claiming Crown is a partnership between the National HBPA and TOBA.
"The contract isn't written but the parameters have been outlined," Stirling said. "The Claiming Crown is alive and kicking."
Stirling said plans call for at least one race to be added to the Claiming Crown schedule, with purses approaching $1 million. Most of the money comes from the purse account; Stirling said horsemen may have lost about $100,000 on last year's event, but the Florida HBPA and Gulfstream see room for growth.
The event, a series of starter allowance stakes, has moved around but has mostly been held at Canterbury Park. Track management and the Minnesota HBPA kept the event alive by contributing almost all the purse money–$550,000 to $600,000.
Last year's purses totaled $850,000.
"The boys from Minnesota really made it go," Stirling said. "There have been a few bumps in the road, but last year it was successful beyond our hopes. It blew every record out of the water."
Stirling said Gulfstream embraced the Claiming Crown in part because it was looking for an "anchor" for its opening day program in early December. If the deal is approved, the event most likely would remain on the same weekend.
Stirling, whose group negotiates contracts with Gulfstream and Calder Casino & Race Course, said the proposed contract includes language preventing a ban on the race-day anti-bleeding drug furosemide, also known as Salix or Lasix, in Claiming Crown races.
The 2011 event at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots was a major disappointment with the smallest fields ever and canceled races.
During the National HBPA board meeting a few affiliates inquired about the extent of TOBA's involvement and why it is part of the Claiming Crown. National HBPA executive director Phil Hanrahan said TOBA handles all the nominations-related business, including collection of fees, and suggested that continue.
"Phil spends a lot of time interfacing with other organizations (in the industry)," National HBPA president Robin Richards said. "I would not want to alienate our organization. It's hard enough now with issues such as Lasix. If this industry is going to do well, it will do it by everyone getting along."