Claiming Crown a Big Deal for Both G1 Winners and Small Outfits

November 11, 2022

Jack Abrams with Powerfully Built (Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation)

Kentucky HBPA Press Release

LOUISVILLE, Ky.— As with the Breeders’ Cup, on which it’s loosely patterned, the Claiming Crown brings together horsemen from all over and different backgrounds.

Among the hometown team will be trainer Eddie Kenneally, who had the Claiming Crown Emerald on turf in the back of his mind when he claimed the 7-year-old gelding Carom for $25,000 last March at Turfway Park. But Saturday’s $150,000 race at 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs will be only his second start with Carom and his first on grass. In his one start so far for his new barn, Carom finished fourth in a $32,000 claiming race on dirt at Keeneland.

“He was ready to run and there was no place for him to run at Keeneland on grass,” said Kenneally, who owns Carom with Matthew Warnock. “So I ran him on the main track, trying to get him ready for the Claiming Crown. He has back class. We had to put him on the shelf, because he needed some time (after being claimed). He ran OK on the dirt at Keeneland, but he’s a grass horse.”

Kenneally is in the Claiming Crown one week after running Shoplifter in the $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland. He applauds the Claiming Crown concept – and also having it at Churchill Downs for the first time.

While the purses for the eight races at Churchill Downs are significantly higher than a year ago at Gulfstream Park, Kenneally sees the potential for even more growth for the event.

Carom with Hannah Sandwick, an exercise rider for trainer Eddie Kenneally (Gwen David/Davis Innovation)

“It’s an opportunity for those horses not stabled in Kentucky to come in and run for a good purse,” Kenneally said. “Some of these horses running in Kentucky already are running for good purses. So we’d like to see the Claiming Crown take off and maybe offer even larger purses going forward. It’s good to have it here, for sure. The fields are pretty full, so that shows it’s working. The Midwest is more central to more people. I think this would be a nice permanent place for it, frankly.”

Kenneally is a long-time staple in Kentucky, a multiple Grade 1 winner and Breeders’ Cup veteran. For the father-son training team of Ron and Jack Abrams, Saturday is their Breeders’ Cup.

Based at Monmouth Park and Parx much of the year and in Florida for the winter, the Abrams keep about a dozen horses, most of which they own. Two are at Churchill Downs with Starship Mallomar in the $150,000 Tiara for fillies and mares on turf and Powerfully Built in the $100,000 Ready’s Rocket Express at six furlongs.

One sign the horses are live in their races: Tyler Gaffalione, who has dominated Churchill Downs’ riding standings in recent years, will be aboard both.

The Abramses claimed Starship Mallomar for $20,000 in January at Gulfstream Park.

“Ever since we put blinkers on her, she really hasn’t run a bad race,” Jack Abrams said. “It took us a little bit to get going with her. When we brought her back north at Monmouth, she was running really well in the (second-level allowance), and she won that. She went to the Belmont meet at Aqueduct and finished a really good third. It was like the best race of her life, and now we’re here.”

Powerfully Built is the 4-1 co-second choice in the Express behind 5-2 favorite Beverly Park, a 12-time in 2022. A $16,000 claim the prior race, Powerfully Built won his only start for the Abramses on Sept. 28 at Delaware, earning a career-best 102 Bris speed figure.

“We got pretty lucky with Powerfully Built and won a seven-way ‘shake’ for him,” Jack Abrams said. “When we ran him back, he ran great, in 1:09 flat. So both are coming in with pretty good form.”

The younger Abrams said it was those last races that convinced them to come to the Claiming Crown.

“They really showed they could have a good chance in here,” he said. “This is our first time (in the Claiming Crown). We’re a pretty small stable, so it’s a huge accomplishment for us to even be here. We only have like 12 horses, so we’re happy to be here.

“It’s great. It gives claiming guys like us a chance at nice purses. This is my first time at Churchill Downs. It’s pretty amazing.”

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