Trainer Mertkan Kantarmaci netted the most points and the $18,000 top prize for winning the New York Racing Association's 'Under 20's Claiming Challenge' during the Aqueduct winter meet.
A concept launched last April at the Belmont spring/summer meet, the Under 20's Claiming Challenge was open to trainers with 20 or fewer horses. Trainers earned points based on their horses' performances in all winners' claiming races at Aqueduct through the end of the winter meet, which closed March 31.
Kantarmaci registered 97.5 points, topping second-place finisher Bruce Brown by 32.5 points. The 27-year-old Kantarmaci came to the United States in 2016 from Turkey. As a conditioner in one of the country's most challenging circuits, Kantarmaci saddled 11 total winners in 36 starts during the Aqueduct winter meet, tying for the 11th most.
In Turkey, Kantarmaci worked for his father Tuncay, a successful trainer, where he served as an exercise rider as well. With his father and brother, Ilkay, working with him in New York, Kantarmaci said the family is looking forward to continuing the momentum into the Belmont spring/summer meet, which starts April 26.
“It feels great. It's been hard work and we haven't been in New York long,” Kantarmaci said. “Here, I work together with my family. It's not a surprise for us. Our goals are to continue and improve. In our country, we won all kinds of stakes races. So, we knew we could be all right over here. Right now, our goal is to be better. We'll always try our best.”
Brown, whose 65 points was two more than third-place finisher Greg DiPrima, earned $15,000, while DiPrima earned $13,000.
Rounding out the top-eight was Randi Persaud [$11,000], whose 62 points were good for fourth, followed by David Cannizzo [58 points, $9,000], Ed Barker [56.5 points, $7,000], Alejandro Maymo [40 points, $4,000], and James Ryerson [38 points, $3,000]. The awards will be paid out April 21.
The contest point structure was 6-5-4-3-2 for top-five finishes for the dirt races. That format will be modified slightly when the contest resumes for the Belmont spring/summer meet, where turf claiming races will have points distributed on a 5-4-3-2-1 scale, with the point structure remaining the same for dirt races.
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