The racing world is forever on the lookout for the emergence of
Thoroughbred stars that possess the talent and charisma to attract the
public’s attention to the “Sport of Kings.”
Gulfstream Park’s $10.1 million stakes program, highlighted by the
$1 million Florida Derby (G1) on March 30, will produce a good number of
rising stars that will generate heightened interest and wagering during
the 2012-2013 meeting.
Yet, it is fitting that the launch of the 61-race stakes program
will pay homage to the unsung hero of the racing industry – the claimer,
the everyday warrior that provides the foundation for every racetrack’s
racing program. While the racing world waits for their stars to emerge,
the claiming horse provides the uninterrupted daily action in relative
Some of the biggest stars in Thoroughbred racing history had roots
in the claiming ranks, including the legendary Seabiscuit, who had raced
in a $2,500 claiming race, two-time Horse of the Year John Henry, who
had raced for a $25,000 claiming tag, and Hall of Famer Stymie, who was
claimed for $1,500 and went on to become a multiple Grade 1 stakes
The $850,000 Claiming Crown, a program of seven races for horses
that have competed at least once in claiming races, will be held for the
first time at Gulfstream Park Saturday, Dec. 1, the first day of the
90-date meeting that will run through April 5. More than 200 trainers
throughout the country have nominated their respective stables to the
Claiming Crown to make their claiming stock eligible for such rare
"We're ecstatic to play host to the 14th running of the Claiming
Crown on our opening day," said Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo. "Horses
competing in the claiming ranks are many of the toughest in the world.
They're game and they build loyal followings within the Thoroughbred
community, whether with fans, owners or trainers. I think this is a
great opportunity for Gulfstream to help showcase these Thoroughbreds.
It's also a great way to kick off what we believe will be a memorable
When Gulfstream Park Racing Secretary Dan Bork inquired about the
possibility of hosting the Claiming Crown at the South Florida
Thoroughbred showcase, the Thoroughbred Owners And Breeders Association
(TOBA) and Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the
co-founders of the series, quickly explored their options. With the
enthusiastic support of Gulfstream management and the South Florida
horsemen, the Claiming Crown had found a new home.
“Gulfstream recognizes that the claiming horses are the backbone of
industry,” said Dan Metzger, the President of the TOBA. “It’s a great
way to pay back to those owners who have a hard-knocking claimer and
gives them a chance to have a special day in the sun.”
Gulfstream had too much too offer the 14-year-old series not to
pursue a venue switch, notably a strong horse population from which to
“You have the South Florida trainers that are there year-round and
you also have the Eastern trainers, the New York-based trainers and the
Midwest-based trainers who go to Gulfstream for the winter. And you also
have Tampa Bay Downs,” said Metzger said.
Gulfstream represents the most high profile venue that has ever
staged the Claiming Crown, which had previously been held at Canterbury
Downs, Parx, Ellis Park and, last year, Fair Grounds.
“To hold it on Opening Day puts it into a spotlight it’s never been
in before,” Metzger said. “ The move to Gulfstream Park this season has
resulted in dramatic purse increases, as well as an expansion from five
to seven races over a year ago.
The $200,000 Jewel will anchor the program of seven stakes that
carry a minimum purse of $100,000. Horses that have started for a
claiming price of $35,000 or lower will clash at 1 1/8 miles.
The Claiming Crown provides lower-priced horses to compete for big
bucks, as well. The $100,000 Iron Horse (1 1/16 miles) and $100,000
Express (6 furlongs) will be open to horses that have started for a
claiming price of $7,500 or lower. Horses that have raced for a $16,000
claiming tag or lower are eligible for a pair of $100,000 seven-furlong
stakes, the Glass Slipper (fillies and mares) and the $100,000 Rapid
Transit. A pair of $125,000 1 1/16-mile turf races – the Tiara (fillies
and mares) and the Emerald – are open to horses that carried claiming
prices of $25,000 or lower.
The Claiming Crown brings together horses that have blossomed in the
claiming ranks, many becoming allowance and stakes competitors who are
still eligible to take part in the special program. Furthest Land, who
finished fourth in the Claiming Crown Jewel in 2009, went on to win the
$1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile later that season.