October 1, 2012
The Claiming Crown is a joint venture between the National HBPA and TOBA that was actually a product of a conversation between then National HBPA President, Bill Walmsley and TOBA President, Drew Couto, that took place after a Jockey Club Round Table meeting in the mid-nineties. It was thought the races could be run in Alabama, at recently closed Birmingham Downs to return live racing to that venue. When that idea repeatedly failed to come to fruition, the Minnesota HBPA stepped up and offered purse money to make the Claiming Crown not only a reality but a success in 1999, its first year of operation. It was then run for many years at Canterbury Park under the guidance of Tom Metzen Sr. along with the Minnesota HBPA and Canterbury Park President and CEO, Randy Sampson, and of course, Dan Metzger and our friends at TOBA.
Recently the Claiming Crown had moved around the country with stops in Kentucky, Louisiana and Pennsylvania interspersed with it returning to its home base of Canterbury Park. The purses for this 6 race showcase for claiming horses had always totaled $500,000 contributed from the purse account of the host HBPA affiliate. The purses for two races were $50,000 with two others at $75,000 and one each at $100,000 and $150,000. The purses were obviously becoming stale at this level as indicated last year when only five of the races could be filled, and then only with 37 horses for a fairly dismal 7.4 starters per race.
The future of the Claiming Crown looked bleak to say the least.
Last year, Gulfstream Park opened their meet in early December for the first time in memory, rather than their historical January 3rd opening date. Gulfstream is the dominant winter track in the United States, but it had no signature race or races for its new opening weekend.
Gulfstream Park, President and former FHBPA Vice President, Tim Ritvo, asked the FHBPA if they would have any interest in Gulfstream Park getting involved with the Claiming Crown.
The FHBPA Board immediately indicated they would very much be interested, but wanted to see the Claiming Crown purse structure increased substantially. The FHBPA Board of Directors agreed to take $800,000 from their purse pool to be used for the new 2012 edition of the Claiming Crown. We told Racing Secretary, Dan Bork that with nominations, start and entry fees deducted before the purses were paid, he could safely announce total purses of $850,000.
The way the Claiming Crown had been originally set up, there were two races for horses that had started for a claiming price of $7,500 or less since January 1,2011, one for the girls and one for the boys. There were also two similar races for horses starting for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in the same time frame, one for each sex. The problem came at the next level where there was just one race for horses that had started for $25,000 or less since January 1, 2011. There was no race for Fillies and Mares. The final race of the Claiming Crown had always had the highest purse, $150,000, and was open to all horses that had started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since January 1st.
Dan Bork immediately created The Tiara for Fillies and Mares that had raced for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since January 1, 2011. Problem solved. Now there were seven races for $850,000 in purses for the inaugural Gulfstream Park Claiming Crown.
The complete lineup of stakes and purses is as follows:
1) The Iron Horse and The Express for Fillies and Mares both had their purses increased from $50,000 to $100,000,
2) The Rapid Transit and The Glass Slipper for Fillies and Mares both had their purses increased from $75,000 to $100,000,
3) The Emerald and The Tiara for Fillies and Mares both now had purses of $125,000,
4) The feature Claiming Crown Race, The Jewel, had its purse bumped from $150,000 to $200,000.
Dan also revamped the nomination system for the new Claiming Crown creating trainer nominations whereby for $100 payable by August 31st a trainer became qualified to nominate any eligible horse of his/her choice at the closing time for regular nominations on November 9, 2012.
Trainers that did not make themselves eligible in August would have to nominate horses by November 9th for 0.2 % of the purse of the chosen race. Supplemental nominations for 5 % of the purse can be made at the time of entry, November 28th for these races which are all to be run Saturday, December 1, 2012.
Claiming horses are the backbone of the thoroughbred industry, and they deserve a special day in the limelight. We expect this year’s Claiming Crown will be the best ever, and will become an opening week fixture at Gulfstream for many years to come.