The 2011 edition of the Claiming Crown, a partnership between the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeder's Association, will be held at the Fair Grounds, or more accurately these days, Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, in Louisiana, leaving Canterbury Park for the only the third time in its thirteen year history. Past editions have also been contested at Ellis Park and Philadelphia Park.
If the Breeder's Cup was set up for the rarefied gentry of thoroughbred racing, then the Crown was set up to honor the heroes that make up the meat of every day race cards in North America, the claiming horse and connections. I know for my humble band of enthusiasts it was a goal for us last season until Tabby Lane faltered after moving north. It's an exciting event to be a part of and for the work-a-day owners and trainers it could very well be the culmination of their season with the ability to race for more money than they ever have before.
While the event is tremendous, I can't say that I'm sad to see it go. Without "alternative gaming" as slots are euphemistically called, Canterbury has had to cut dates and purses (albeit to a lesser extent than many places). Because the Crown isn't self sufficient, Canterbury has also had to fund the balance of purses and I can't imagine that the day is particularly profitable given the outlay. Having TVG on site is great and it really is hard to put a price tag on being the center of the North American racing world for a day - especially when we really would not be otherwise. But with the economy only slowly rebounding and still no slots at the track, I am a bit selfishly glad that this money will go back into local racing.
At least for this season.