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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, November 11, 2022 – We love the Claiming Crown, having its 24th renewal Saturday. Admittedly, we didn’t pay that much attention in those early Shakopee days, our bad.

The Claiming Crown concept was created by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association back in the day when it was for something, not against it, and horseplayers have voted with their dollars wherever the event was held.

Gulfstream Park resuscitated the interest and those programs were fun, as handle showed on these large-fields programs.

It was challenging looking at the form and trying assess how those horses got in. In essence these are glorified starter allowance races with names attached.

The Stronach Group discontinued the program at Gulfstream but thankfully it has been picked up by Churchill Downs, where it will be renewed tomorrow.

There are eight races offering purses worth an aggregate $1.05 million that have attracted 95 entrants, a lofty 11.87% horses per race, just under the 12-entrant per-field limit.

Bring money. With horses shipping in from all over the country–nine states to our count–these events came up wide open, very wide open, each pools providing value to prescient handicappers.

And that will be further added by those few extra shekels that penny breakage has made possible, which is one of several things Kentucky racing has been getting right.

Because the races are defined as starter-allowances rather than stakes, trainers must heed a new Kentucky regulation precluding anyone from running multiple horses in a race at the exclusion of another trainer, common ownership or not.

Pity that all tracks don’t institute similar constraints.

The time has come for handicapping X’s and O’s. We will take a look at three Claiming Crown events and will visit Laurel Park and a pair of graded stakes north of the border, Woodbine’s Maple Leaf and Bessarabian


CLAIMING CROWN RAPID TRANSIT                                         Race 9

The Skinny: Twelve entered and am having a difficult time separating a half-dozen of them which qualified at some point at the $20,000 level. But not only is this program a chance for selling platers to race for big money but provides claiming trainers with a chance to run for six-figures.

The three early line favorites, 5-No Burn (3-1), 6-Family Man (7-2) and Ragtime Blues (4-1)are fastest on the Thoro-Graph scale and it will be interesting to see if any fall between the cracks. I will key-around with a few potential price shots.

DESERVING FAVORITE: No idea, too wide open

EARLY LINE VALUE: 2-Divine Leader (8-1), 3-First Glimpse (12-1)

STRAIGHT WAGERS and EXOTICA: Will key one or both, price dependent, with three favorites above, and including 9-Lt. Junior Grade (6-1). Straight wager: price, parade, and bias dependent.

CLAIMING CROWN JEWEL                                                Race 10

The Skinny: Same story, different race. Ten entrants, six look best and value likely assured anywhere: 1-Benevengo (7-2) is a talented 3YO with speed, the pole and Luis Saez. He’s 2-for-2 vs. his elders. 5-Intrepid Heart (5-2) is an obvious contender with three straight placings, with fast TG figures; Tyler and Sharp always tough to beat. 4-Keystone Field (10-1) reportedly purchased privately with this in mind.

6-Digital (15-1) has improved since Hiles’ claim. 7-Tiz Rye Time (10-1), 9-Twelve Volt Man (8-1) and 10-Ournationonparade (9-2) are all fast enough and appear forward-looking.

DESERVING FAVORITE: Pass again, there are several

EARLY LINE VALUE: Keystone Field

STRAIGHT and EXOTICA: At the moment, Keystone Field at anything close to early line. Exotic keys with all the above in some pool, in some fashion. Any more definition and I’d be lying. At minimum, Exacta Box: 1-4-5

CLAIMING CROWN EMERALD                                      Race 11

The Skinny: At last, an easy one. The three favorites in the body of the race have the edge; one might fall through the cracks. 4-Onenightstandards (5-2), claimed for this, already has rewarded new connections, and has plenty of bottom given the 12-furlong turnback. 9-Big Agenda  (7-2) is 1-for-1 at CD, Sharp using Saez this time, had super blowout at Belmont before shipping in. 11-Freedom Matters (3-1) is well spotted at this level, dynamics suit despite wide draw, Zayas shipping in for Saffie.

DESERVING FAVORITE: Onenightstandards

EARLY LINE VALUE: 10-Carom (12-1)

STRAIGHT and EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 4-9-11. Would need 5-2 on Onenightstandards, otherwise overlays on either of the other two would be an option

LAUREL PARK                                                   


The Skinny: If handicappers would look at the appropriate video from the most recent races of the obvious contenders, they would in all probability reject the wise guy dictate about basing future results off one big, big margin win—on a wet track, yet. But that’s what we did, too.

The Union Rags filly broke maiden by 9-1/4 lengths and that progeny is not known for success on wet tracks. 8-Dissolute (7-2) took command easily and was under a pull the entire race, widening on her own, And there was no slowing down on the gallop out. 4-Bound By Destiny (3-1) has had four starts and has won them all 5-Twice As Sweet (7-2) was a good but only second best in her last at Keeneland with likely better rivals. But we’re trusting our lying eyes on this one.



STRAIGHT and EXOTICA: Exacta Key Box: 8 with 4-5. Trifecta Key: 8 // 4.5 // 1.4.5 [1-Chickieness, 5-1]. Dissolute to win, no price restrictions.

THIRTY EIGHT GO GO                                               Race 9

The Skinny: Several fillies looking for stakes credentials appears a battle of favorites: 1-Malibu Beauty (5-2) and 8-Hybrid Eclipse (3-1). The former, coming off a sharp 7F placing, has speed, the rail and has won two restricted stakes. Hybrid Eclipse’s last was a distant third, but that came in the G2 Beldame behind Nest—no Nest’s in this lineup.

3-Berate (9-2) is forward looking, deliberately seeking stakes creds, and Feargal Lynch takes a call from Shug McGaughey, very effective shipping into Laurel Park. 7-Baby Man (5-1) has good ship-in connections and worked strongly at Belmont.


EARLY LINE VALUE: 5-Champagne Toast (15-1)

STRAIGHT and EXOTICA: Hybrid Eclipse to win at 2-1 or greater. Trifecta Wheel: 8 // 1.3 //  Trifecta Wheel 1.3 // 8 //



The Skinny: Even with formidable favorite 11-Transient (3-1), this 10-furlong Tapeta test offers an opportunity to score, but one needs to beat Saffie Joseph shipper to do so. Proven over the surface, her best run came here last fall going turf to synth, as she does here.

Given two preps for her stakes debut following the barn change, she comes in 48 days fresh after an 11-furlong win on Aqueduct turf, so the conditioning is there on the turnback. And it’s notable that Jose Ortiz, not normally associated with this outfit, is in the boot.

Money making chances lay with Mark Casse’s 1-Crystal Glazier (15-1), returning to her best surface with a switch to hot-riding Eswan Flores for her LAY-2 return, forward-looking 6-Moneyfor Ro (6-1) for Team Attard/Stein, and surface loving 10-Silent Causeway (15-1) who has all the pedigree needed for the added trip.


EARLY LINE VALUE: Crystal Glazier and Silent Causeway

STRAIGHT and EXOTICA: Exacta Box: 1-6-10-11. Superfecta Key: 11 over [9-Creative Cairo (7-2)]. Price dependent, straight win on Crystal Glazier or Silent Causeway, possibly both.


The Skinny: An interesting All-Weather 7-furlongs has attracted nine fillies and mares with four who class-up very nicely: 1-Artie’s Princess (5-2), with Jose[h and Ortiz back for more, won the G2 Presque Isle Masters last out–always a top notch Tapeta test, Classy 6-Our Flash Drive for the old reliable team of Casse and Patrick Husbands, a graded winner here, whether she’s (3) 2-1-0 and 2-for-10 doing anything else, and 9-Allworthy (8-1), the other Saffie, who is exiting a key race, working strongly, and attracts prolific winner Kazushi Mura. Add win machine 3-Hazelbrook (7-2), a multiple graded WO winner with a career slate of (9) 6-1-1 and you’ve got quite the horse race.


EARLY LINE VALUE: 4-Lorena (15-1)

STRAIGHT and EXOTICA: Exacta Box: Superfecta Wheel: 1.6 // // // Allworthy to win at 5-1 or greater.

Per usual, all recommended exotics would be at minimums available with straight wagers in $2 units or greater

this is a live column throughout the weekend

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the two claiming day trifecta box tickets yesterday John. Race 10 at CD and Race 9 calls both moved the chains forward. Another first down for HRI.

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