Claiming Crown Hopes to Build on Foundation

Claiming Crown organizers hope a series of preview days at racetracks around the country generate more interest in the $550,000 series of races set for Aug. 4 at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

Last year, Philadelphia Park and its horsemen held a preview day in June that produced three winners in the Claiming Crown championship at Canterbury in early August. This year, more tracks are expected to schedule preview races, the winners of which automatically earn a berth in their respective Claiming Crown events.

This year, six races will be held -- the $150,000 Jewel (for horses that have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less), the $125,000 Emerald ($20,000 or less), $100,000 Rapid Transit ($16,000 or less), the $75,000 Glass Slipper ($12,500 or less), the $50,000 Express ($7,500 or less), and the $50,000 Iron Horse ($5,000 or less). Last year, there were seven events.

"The added race diluted the purses, which will be the same as last year," said Nat Wess, the director of live racing operations at Canterbury who has been active in the Claiming Crown since its first running in 1999. The race that was scrapped was an event for fillies and mares on the grass.

In key changes this year, a horse must have started only once, instead of twice, in a claiming event since July 31, 2000. Also, the high weight for the stakes with starter allowance conditions has been dropped to 124 pounds.

Regular nominations close May 1 at $100 per horse, or June 15 at $500 per horse. Open nominations -- a horse need not be specified until June 15 -- close May 1 at $250 per horse. Supplemental nominations close July 17 at 5% of the given purse. Pre-entries will be taken July 20, and entries on Aug. 1.

Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas have been mentioned as possible locations for preview days. Lone Star Park president Corey Johnsen said the Grand Prairie, Texas, track intends to host a preview day, "and hopefully someday will be in the running to host the event."

The Claiming Crown must be held at Canterbury its first three years, and six of its first 10 years. Philadelphia Park horsemen have expressed a strong interest in hosting the event in 2002.

On-track attendance and handle have been strong for the Claiming Crown, but the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, partners in Claiming Crown Ltd., would like to see an increase in nominations and a jump in simulcast handle on the races.

Last year, the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, a group of more than 20 Thoroughbred and Standardbred tracks, refused to pay the 4% fee to take the Claiming Crown, so none of the tracks in the region offered wagering on the event.