Triple Crown-tested 3-year-olds Maximum Security, the multiple Grade 1 winner and disqualified first-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and two-time graded-stakes winner Tax are among 261 horses nominated to the 21st running of the $1.11 million Claiming Crown Saturday, Dec. 7 at Gulfstream Park.
Maximum Security is scheduled to make his next start Dec. 7 in the $750,000 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct.
Defending champions Rocket Heat and Salsa's Return are also nominated, and event record-holding trainer Mike Maker is represented with 14 nominations as Gulfstream gears up to host the nine-race Claiming Crown for the eighth consecutive year as part of its Championship Meet.
Created in 1999 by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the Claiming Crown rewards and pays tribute to the horses and horsemen that provide the foundation for day-to-day racing programs at racetracks across the country.
Since Gulfstream first hosted the event in 2012, the Claiming Crown has undergone a stunning revitalization and has seen total handle reach all-time record numbers, steadily growing to a high of $13.612 million in 2018. This year's event is part of an action-packed weekend that includes the Clasico Internacional del Caribe Sunday, Dec. 8.
The 2019-2020 Championship Meet opens Friday, Nov. 29.
“Since 2012, when Gulfstream first played host to the event, the Claiming Crown has become one of the most anticipated days of racing during the Championship Meet,” said Mike Lakow, Vice President of Racing at Gulfstream Park. “We want to thank all the horsemen for supporting this great day of racing as well as the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), and the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA).
“We believe the weekend of Dec. 7-8 will be especially exciting this year with the Claiming Crown on Saturday, Dec. 7 and the Clasico Internacional del Caribe on Sunday, Dec. 8.”
Dan Metzger, President of TOBA, said: “It's extremely gratifying to see the Claiming Crown grow into such a major event since its inception in 1999. We look forward each year to the Claiming Crown and the great hospitality at Gulfstream Park. Once again this year, fans will see competitive racing and great performances by our human and equine athletes. We're looking forward to a great weekend.”
Gary and Mary West's Maximum Security broke his maiden last December at Gulfstream in a $16,000 maiden claimer, winning a pair of starter optional claiming races before his front-running upset of the $1 million Florida Derby (G1). He went on to finish first by 1 ¾ lengths in the Kentucky Derby but was historically disqualified for interference at the top of the stretch and placed 17th. After skipping the rest of the Triple Crown series, the bay colt returned to run second in the Pegasus (G2) June 16 before scoring back-to-back triumphs in the Haskell (G1) and Bold Ruler (G3), the latter Oct. 26 at Belmont Park.
Trained by Jason Servis, Maximum Security is among 28 nominations to the $110,000 Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018. Also nominated are First Deal, a winner of three straight, including back-to-back stakes at Monmouth Park; 2017 Curlin Stakes winner Outplay; and Royal Squeeze, a three-time stakes winner at Gulfstream who was fourth in the Smile Sprint (G3) in June.
The richest event on the Claiming Crown program is the $200,000 Jewel for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a tag of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018. Leading the 26 nominations are R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable's Tax, winner of the Jim Dandy (G2) and Withers (G3) who hasn't raced since finishing seventh in the Travers (G1) Aug. 24 at Saratoga. Tax was 15th, placed 14th in the Derby and fourth in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Other prominent Jewel nominees are Conquest Big E, winner of the 2018 Gulfstream Park Hardacre Mile (G2); Forest Fire, a winner of three straight capped by the Maryland Million Classic Oct. 19; and Ekhtibaar, Guy Caballero and Holiday Bonus from trainer Jorge Navarro, who won three Claiming Crown races last year, including the Jewel with Aztec Sense.
Navarro, who ended Todd Pletcher's 15-year reign as the Championship Meet's leading trainer last winter, has a total of 19 nominations, including Salsa's Return in the $110,000 Kent Stirling Memorial Iron Horse for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less lifetime.
Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Claiming Crown career record holders for wins with 17 and 16, respectively, won last year's $125,000 Tiara at 1 1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares 3 and up that have started for a $25,000 tag or less since Jan. 1, 2018 with Peru. This year, Maker has Three Diamonds Farm's Arabella Bella among the 22 nominees. Arabella Bella has placed in three of five starts since being claimed in May, including a Sept. 8 win at Kentucky Downs.
In all, Maker has 14 nominations in seven Claiming Crown races, six coming in the $125,000 Emerald for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018 going 1 1/16 miles on the grass that proved most popular among horsemen with 46 nominees. Among Maker's sextet are Noble Thought, fifth in the Sword Dancer (G1), and Sun Lover, sixth in the Twilight Derby (G2) this year, and Armchair Jockey, the Ramseys' lone nominee.
Flying P Stable's Rocket Heat, trained by Michael Tannuzzo was a front-running winner of last year's $110,000 Tom Metzen Memorial Canterbury, a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018. The 7-year-old gelding, second to Pure Sensation in the Parx Dash (G3) in June, tops 25 nominees to this year's race.
Rounding out the Claiming Crown lineup are the $110,000 Express for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less lifetime at six furlongs which drew 35 nominations, including Gulfstream Park West's Millions Sprint Preview 21-1 upset winner Travy Boy; the $110,000 Distaff Dash at five furlongs on turf and $110,000 Glass Slipper at one mile on the main track, both for fillies and mares 3 and up that have run for a tag of $25,000 and $12,500, respectively, that drew a total of 46 nominees.
For the complete list of Claiming Crown nominations visit http://gulfstreampark.com/racing/horsemen/stakes
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.