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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kentucky Downs Officials and Horsemen Excited About Claiming Crown Preps

Seneca Destiny (No. 8, white blinkers, green silks) winning a starter-
allowance race last Sept. 16 at Kentucky Downs. Seneca Destiny
went on to finish second in the Claiming Crown Tiara
at Gulfstream Park. Photo by Reed Palmer/Kentucky Downs.
Kentucky Downs, in its never-ending mission of enhancing its lucrative all-grass racing program, will stage two $75,000 starter-allowance races on Sept. 11, with the winners automatically qualifying for the $1.1 million Claiming Crown program Dec. 3 at South Florida’s Gulfstream Park.

“To be part of the Claiming Crown is great for us,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “Kentucky Downs is continually trying to move our racing program forward. It’s not just stakes and not just allowance races. We have a great turf course, and this is our way of showing the racing fans and horsemen around the country that we aren’t just about the big races but we support the claiming races as well.”

Claiming Crown Limited announced Monday that Kentucky Downs and Laurel Park will conduct automatic qualifying races for the program designed to serve as a Breeders’ Cup-style championship for claiming horses, which are the backbone of American racing. The Claiming Crown is a partnership between the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association to give these important blue-collar horses and their owners and trainers their own special day in the sport’s limelight.

Kentucky Downs, which offers the richest maiden and allowance purses in America and the country’s only European-style turf course, will run official qualifiers for the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald and $125,000 Claiming Crown Tiara. The Claiming Crown races are held under starter-allowance conditions, meaning they are restricted to horses that raced at a certain claiming level or cheaper during a designated time frame.

The $75,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep At Kentucky Downs is for 3-year-olds and older horses that have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2015. The $75,000 Claiming Crown Tiara Stakes Prep At Kentucky Downs has the same conditions but is restricted to fillies and mares. The Kentucky Downs preps will be held at a mile and 70 yards; the Claiming Crown distance is 1 1/16 miles.

The full $75,000 purse for each automatic qualifier race is available to every horse in the field, with no money coming from Kentucky-bred purse supplements. Kentucky Downs also will pay the $100 nominating fee for the Claiming Crown and up to $1,000 for travel expenses for the prep winners.

The news certainly got the attention of Ken Ramsey, the three-time defending Kentucky Downs champion owner and whose 14 Claiming Crown wins are the most in the program’s 17 years. Ramsey vowed that if he doesn’t have a horse that fits Kentucky Downs’ Claiming Crown preps that “I’ll claim one at Saratoga. We’ll be claiming horses at Saratoga for the Claiming Crown and also for  Kentucky Downs.

“I want to take my hat off to Corey Johnsen and his crew down there for the remarkable job they’re doing,” Ramsey said, referring to Kentucky Downs’ co-owner and president. “I’m delighted they’re putting in those starter-allowance races. They’re trying to put the money back in the industry, where it belongs. I plan on going for my fourth owner’s title. In fact, I’m not even sending as many horses to Saratoga as I normally send. You’re almost prepping at Saratoga to win a race at Kentucky Downs.”

In its 18th edition, the Claiming Crown will be held for the fifth straight year at Gulfstream Park, its nine races with starter-allowance conditions totaling $1.1 million.

Nicholson said Kentucky Downs hopes that owners and trainers sending horses to the Claiming Crown prep races will bring others along. The 2016 Kentucky Downs meet will feature 12 stakes totaling a record $3.95 million. But the claiming races also are lucrative, with $24,000 being the minimum purse.

Kentucky Downs condition book link: http://bit.ly/1rwSnn4

“In any kind of shipping situation, you’re always hoping that the trainer throws a few more on the van, absolutely,” Nicholson said. “Those trainers could have horses that aren’t eligible for the Claiming Crown races, but they might bring a travel buddy to take a shot at a $300,000 stakes or an allowance race, because those purses are $145,000.”

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