Saturday, July 25, 2009

Claiming Crown 2009 - Wrap Up

The day dawned cloudy and there was the threat of rain early, but invading jockeys Russell Baze and Jamie Theriot brought quite a bit of sunshine to their connections by each capturing two races in the 11th edition of the Claiming Crown. Baze with prices that are unheard of when he is riding.

It’s fairly well known that early speed holds at Canterbury Park. That was certainly true in the $50,000 Iron Horse. The favorite, Calm and Collected, broke a bit slowly. While he moved into contention nicely, he trailed Bright Hall on the engine and that’s how they finished as Bright Hall pulled away in the stretch with Jamie Theriot taking full advantage of the speed going wire to wire. Calm and Collected held on for second while local horse Benson, beaten soundly by our own Fizzy Pop (in third) earlier in the meet, finished third.

Next up was the $100,000 Tiara. I can’t quite say that Mizzcan’tbewrong wired the field because she gave up the lead through the middle portion of the race, but she stormed back to take the race from favorite Love to Tell, prevailing by a neck under Robby Albarado over the turf course.

The first longer shot of the day finally prevailed in the Rapid Transit as You’re My Boy Blue closed steadily from the half mile point to rally past heavily favored Grand Traverse in the stretch. Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze put his mark on this Claiming Crown by defying convention – the Canterbury early speed angle – and winning from off the pace. It appeared that during the card there was a bit too much emphasis put on early speed and folks tended to “overspeed” the races and the experience of guys like Baze, Theriot and Albarado took advantage by seemingly defying the “bias” to win.

In the Express, we had another closer under an out of town jockey claiming a victory. Julien Leparoux rated favorite Chasing the Prize well off the pace set by Stormin Sox, popped loose in mid stretch to win by ¾ of a length. Norjac, who put a head in front heading into the stretch, faltered but held on for second.

The tote board exploded in the Glass Slipper keyed from an unusual source, Thoroughbred racing’s all time winningest jockey Russell Baze. Margie Marie set suicidal fractions with a ludicrous :21.1 first quarter, probably reminiscent of her winning effort in a two furlong stake at Prairie Meadows last out. Closing steadily and then drawing off by three, Baze made it look easy at nearly 12-1. When was the last time you saw a Baze horse at 12-1?! Local rider Derek Bell had the best finish of any local based ride in the Crown with a second riding closer Thunder and Belle. Rounding out the trifecta was 70-1 Cassie D which triggered payoffs of $3,476 for the tri and $13,453 for the super. If someone told you that Russell Baze and Derek Bell would finish 1-2 in a race and key that kind of tri, would you have believed him?

The $100,000 Claiming Crown Emerald was billed as the most competitive race on the card and while it was a great race, it didn’t produce the boxcar payoffs that could have come with a 13 horse field. E.T. Baird rated tepid (7/2) favorite Gran Estreno in a perfect trip around the race course. He was never further back than third, keeping the speed in his sights and pulled away with confidence for the win. A couple of 6-1s in Hard Top and Stormy Surge rounded out the board with jockey’s Jeremy Rose and Baze continuing the dominance of shipping riders in the Crown races.

Sentimental choice Antrim County, who was named 2008 Claiming Horse of the Year earlier in the card, upset the field at 4-1 in the Claiming Crown Jewel under a stellar ride by Theriot, winning his second Crown race of the day. Theriot patiently stalked front runner Glamour Guy through fair fractions. As they hit the stretch, Antrim County opened up a 1 length lead but as the stretch wore on that was whittled away by Fancy Runner who appeared to actually take the lead for a brief moment before Antrim County prevailed by a neck. It was a very game performance by horse that, with that performance, became the first Claiming Crown horse to win two different events in the Crown after capturing the Iron Horse last year. He certainly earned his title and, quite possibly, earned himself the award for the second year in a row.

Though not a Claiming Crown race, the $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeder’s Cup Stakes was also run today at Canterbury Park and featured stellar filly Euphony who was bet down as the even money favorite. While Fabulous Babe set solid fractions early, Happiness Is under Rosemary Homeister, Jr. tracked her up to the head of the stretch where she took the lead. Meanwhile, Euphony who was running toward the middle of the pack early, emerged with a strong challenge and closed steadily throughout but could not get close enough as Happiness Is won by a neck. Euphony still has not finished worst than 2nd in her career.

Attendance at Canterbury for the event was 11,324 (up 11% over last year's Crown attendance). After a brief shower early, the weather cooperated and improved steadily throughout the day. By the last race we were mostly sunny rather than mostly cloudy and the fans were treated to a great show, as usual, by Canterbury Park. All sources handle improved over last year’s event by 11% and in a time when flat is the new up; this was an excellent showing for a great event. The invaders dominated the Crown races with both Jamie Theriot and Russell Baze scoring two wins a piece and the others won by Baird, Leparoux and Albarado. Even the Lady Canterbury was won by outside Homeister Jr. Though the shippers may have dominated, Canterbury itself shined on America's "Blue Collar Breeder's Cup" day.

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