The Claiming Crown series, hosted by Gulfstream for the first time, was dominated by Ramsey-owned runners trained by Mike Maker, who eclipsed Scott Lake as the all-time leading trainer with 12 total Claiming Crown wins, three more than Lake's previous record.
Thanks to the well-supported Claiming Crown, Gulfstream set opening day records for its new facility for on-track and overall handle. Total handle was $12.2 million, up 66% from last year's opening day. On-track handle was $1.44 million, up 84% from the previous year.
Claimed for $35,000 at Saratoga Race Course this summer, Parent's Honor raced fifth and ninth in his past two outings in ungraded stakes at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort and Louisiana Downs. Trailing the frontrunners in the 1 1/8-mile Jewel, he had only two in the 11-horse field beaten early on under jockey Alan Garcia.
Willy Elliott set the pace in the Jewel, going a quarter in :23 flat and ticking off a quick half in :45.91. Garcia waited to make his move after three-quarters were run in 1:10.55, and was poised to find an opening as the field turned for home. The lead had been taken by Private Tale, who looked as if he might engage in a slugfest with Dominant Jeannes with a furlong left. But Parent's Honor split horses to get the advantage at the sixteenth pole and went on to win by three quarters of a length. He completed the distance in 1:50.03.
Bred in Kentucky by Rabbah Bloodstock out of the Dynaformer mare Dami, Parent's Honor now has a 7-2-3 record from 19 starts.
Brother Bird, a half brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird and multiple grade I winner Dullahan, started things off on the right foot for the Ramseys when he took the Iron Horse under Joel Rosario. Going 1 1/16 miles from the difficult outside post in a field scratched down to 12, the 5-year-old Yonaguska gelding raced third early on as 15-1 shot Jazzit led through fractions of :24.21, :47.99, 1:11.97, and 1:36.93. Brother Bird then ground down the tenacious frontrunner in the final furlong to win by three-quarters of a length, recording a final time of 1:43.58. Follow the Leader was third.
Brother Bird improved his record to 9-5-3 from 25 starts while paying $9.80 at odds of 7-2. He was bred in Kentucky by Lamantia, Blackburn, and Needham/Betz Thoroughbreds out of the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own and was claimed by the Ramseys for $20,000 July 8 after finishing second in a one-mile event at Belmont Park.
Ironically, the 3 1/2-length winner of that Belmont claiming race was Bernie the Maestro, whom the Ramseys would claim two starts later for $35,000 in an Aug. 4 optional claimer going seven furlongs on the dirt at Saratoga Race Course, in which he finished eighth. Bernie the Maestro took the seven-furlong Rapid Transit on the Claiming Crown card under Rosariao by a clear 2 3/4 lengths over 10 other runners, looming three wide after tracking pacesetter Off the Jak in third behind fractions of :22.59, :45.22, and 1:09.07. He easily assumed command to draw off in 1:21.60 while Off the Jak held on for the place and Won Fast Bullet completed the trifecta.
The winner paid $7.40. A 4-year-old Bernstein gelding, he improved his career record to 12-7-7 from 47 starts, including multiple ungraded stakes wins at Calder. He was bred in Florida by Sabine Stable out of the Doneraile Court mare Horah for Bailey and was the lone Florida-bred to win a Claiming Crown event dominated by Kentucky-bred runners.
Maker and the Ramseys were back in the winner's circle with Garcia in the $125,000 Tiara, when Starsilhouette came from out of the clouds going 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Last as the field of 11 other fillies and mares turned for home, the 5-year-old daughter of Orientate steadily closed ground into deep stretch and then kicked in with a quick spurt to get the victory by 1 1/4 lengths over Malibu Yankee and Fleur de Lilly. It was a sixth win in nine starts in 2012 for the gray or roan mare, who went the distance in 1:42.85 while paying $15.40 at odds of 6-1.
There were three other Claiming Crown races, headed by Nikki's Sandcastle on the turf in the $125,000 Emerald Stakes at 1 1/16 miles Owned by Richard Sherman and trained by David Kassen, the 5-year-old Castledale gelding rated fourth on the rail in a 12-horse field behind a pace set by Diamondsdiplomat, who went a quarter mile in :24.70 and a half in :48.80 and led the way through three-quarters in 1:12.93 before succumbing in the final stages.
Angled out to the three path by jockey Corey Lanerie, Nikki's Sandcastle hooked up with the Ramsey's Major Marvel coming down the stretch and just got up with a determined outside run. Exclusive Strike ran third. Final time for the distance was 1:43.13 and Nikki's Sandcastle returned $6.80 at odds of 2-1; he was bred in Kentucky by Sherman out of the Sandpit mare Sandtina, and has a 7-9-3 record from 29 starts.
Two races earlier, the 3-year-old Ghostzapper filly Starship Truffles shattered her competition in the $100,000 Glass Slipper, dominating a field of nine other fillies and mares with a four-length triumph for Chasing Tails Stables and jockey Luis Saez.
After dueling between horses up the backside through a quarter in :22.50 and the half in :45.21, the Marty Wolfson-trained runner struck the front turning for home in 1:09.65 and went on to finish in an effortless 1:22.26. Come Sunday closed from far back to get second, with True coming in to show.
Starship Truffles went off at 5-1 and returned $12.20. She has won seven of her last eight starts, has a 9-1-2 record from 16 outings overall. Bred in Kentucky by Sanford and Irwin Goldfarb, Starship Truffles is out of the Not For Love mare Bobbie Use.
The day started with the $100,000 Claiming Crown Express, in which jockey Pedro Cotto misjudged the finish line aboard Pot of Gold. Easing up on his mount at Gulfstream's new 1 1/16-mile pole, he allowed Joey Merritt's Tiban to get the win by half a length under Calvin Borel. County Gun rounded out the trifecta.
Trained by Tim Glyshaw, Tiban got his eighth victory in 14 starts in 2012 alone, and has a 9-6-1 record from 21 starts overall. The 5-year-old gelded son of Flatter was bred in Kentucky by John M. Baker out of the Bianconi mare Bianarma. He was favored at 2-1 in a field of 10 and returned $6.20. The win was number 4,998 for Borel.