A record 314 horses were nominated to the 16th annual Claiming Crown, the $1 million Dec. 6 day of racing for the country's top claiming horses being hosted by Gulfstream Park for the third consecutive year.
Created in 1999 to honor blue-collar horses that comprise the largest segment of horse racing, the eight-race Claiming Crown will help launch Gulfstream's 76th "Championship" meet and will feature nominations from 128 trainers throughout the East Coast and Midwest.
"We're very happy with the record response from horsemen to this year's Claiming Crown," said Gulfstream vice president of racing P.J. Campo. "Nominations have grown in the three years since the Claiming Crown has been held at Gulfstream by nearly 100. With the Claiming Crown being held on the opening day of our Championship meet, we expect an exciting day of racing and a great crowd."
Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the event's all-time leading owners with 12 Claiming Crown victories, nominated 12 horses. The Ramseys captured two races last year with Deanaallen'skitten in the Tiara and Major Marvel in the Emerald.
Mike Maker, whose 12 victories lead all trainers in the Claiming Crown, has 28 horses nominated, 11 of those for the Ramseys, who teamed up to win four Claiming Crown races in 2012. Maker saddled Major Marvel to victory in last year's Emerald.
Other trainers to nominate horses include Hall of Famer Nick Zito, Todd Pletcher, Chad Brown, Wesley Ward, Eddie Kenneally, Marty Wolfson, Eddie Plesa Jr., Tom Amoss, David Jacobson, Dale Romans, David Fawkes, and Brad Cox.
Two changes were made to this year's Claiming Crown. The Iron Lady has been replaced with the $110,000 Canterbury, a five-furlong turf sprint for horses that have been entered to be claimed for $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2013. The $110,000 Glass Slipper for females 3 and up was changed from seven furlongs to a one-turn mile for horses entered to be claimed for $12,500 rather than $16,000.
"I want to thank all the owners and trainers that nominated horses for the 2014 Claiming Crown," said Phil Hanrahan, chief executive officer of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "I also want to thank the fans and handicappers who have supported the Claiming Crown in the past. With 314 nominations this year, Claiming Crown 2014 promises to offer an exciting day at the races."
Anchoring the Claiming Crown card is the $200,000 Jewel for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles on Gulfstream's main track for horses that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2013. A total of 39 horses were nominated for the Jewel including Catholic Cowboy, one of four horses nominated by Zito, who won last year's Jewel with Nevada Kid.
The most popular race among horsemen was the $125,000 Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for horses that have raced for a claiming price of $25,000 or lower, which received 69 nominations. Among them are North Star Boy and Best Actor, who ran 2-3 behind Major Marvel last year.