Concrete Glory winning at Gulfstream Park on Oct. 15. (Coglianese Photography)
By Jennie Rees/National HBPA
NEW ORLEANS, La. — Since being claimed for $6,250 in his last start in 2022, the 4-year-old gelding Concrete Glory has won four of five starts for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and new owner Frank Rupolo’s Big Frank Stable. The lone defeat came by a half-length to Caramel Chip, a horse Concrete Glory defeated in their prior two meetings.
The two horses get a rematch in the $75,000 Claiming Crown Ready’s Rocket Express (race 3, post time 1:45 p.m. CT) at six furlongs over the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ main track. Concrete Glory is the 5-2 favorite, with Caramel Chip the 4-1 second choice in the capacity field of 12.
“He’s just a cool horse to be around,” the Florida-based Joseph said. “He shows up every time he runs. We’ve pointed for this race all year. It’s a big thing for Big Frank. He’s going through a tough time the last couple of years. Every time this horse runs, it kind of rejuvenates him. The Claiming Crown to him is huge.”
Concrete Glory and Caramel Chip went separate directions after that March 27 meeting in a $16,000 optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Bianco Stable’s Caramel Chip, trained by Jose D’Angelo, headed to Kentucky and the Northeast, where he won four more races out of eight starts. Concrete Glory got a five-month vacation and has returned with a pair of dominating wins, including earning a career-best Bris speed figure of 100 in his last start.
“We had to stretch him out to a mile last time because we couldn’t get a short race to go,” said Joseph, who also made Concrete Glory eligible to the $100,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit for horses that had raced for $16,000 or less in 2022-2023. “He handled that quite well. But the plan has always been this race. We wanted to give him a break. This is the third race off the layoff, so he’s in good order. Hopefully he’ll show up and run his race.”
The Express is well-populated with front runners, with Concrete Glory setting the pace in his past seven races, resulting in six wins, including the day he was claimed. He’ll be well-positioned from post 5 for new rider Ricardo Santana to play off the speed to his inside.
“He wants to be forwardly placed,” Joseph said. “The key to him is breaking. He’s not the best horse in the gate, as much as we stand him (gate schooling). He always likes to kind of mess around. Sometimes he’ll miss the break, like a step slowly, but he’s fast enough to recuperate. Hopefully Ricardo will get him away from there well. He doesn’t have to lead, but he likes to be forwardly placed.”
Concrete Glory is one of three Joseph-trained horses in the Claiming Crown, the others being second-choice Proverb in the $75,000 Iron Horse Kent Stirling Memorial and Cotton in the $150,000 Canterbury Tom Metzen Memorial at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.
Clay R Sides’ Proverb is the 4-1 second choice behind 7-2 Time for Trouble in the $75,000 Iron Horse Kent Stirling Memorial (race 6, post time 3:15 p.m. CT) at 1 1/16 miles for horses that have run for an $8,000 claiming price or less at some point during their career. Claimed for $8,000 in February at Gulfstream Park, Proverb was third in Caramel Chip’s win over Concrete Glory in his first start for Joseph before rolling off three straight victories.
However, Proverb comes into this race off a 5 1/2-month layoff and drew post 13 in the field of 13. Graded stakes-placed at 3, Proverb ran in allowance races and high-priced claiming races before he began dropping down the claiming ranks. He came in off another 5 1/2-month hiatus the day Joseph claimed him, the only time he ran as cheap as $8,000.
“He has a lot of back class,” Joseph said. “He was in for the $8,000, so for that price we thought he’d be a good starter horse for us. He’s been consistent. He’s obviously drawn pretty wide. That’s not advantageous, but hopefully he won’t lose too much ground around the first turn.
“He hasn’t been freshened by design. I gave him a little time because he’s a horse prone to quarter cracks, but he’s in good order right now.”
Cotton will make his first start for Joseph in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Canterbury Tom Metzen Memorial (race 7, post time 3:45 p.m. CT) at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. The 5-year-old gelding was claimed for $50,000 by owner Ken Ramsey out of his last start in Canada, where Cotton was racing in sprints on the turf and Woodbine’s synthetic main track. He finished fourth the day he was claimed.
Cotton is 8-1 in the capacity field of 12, with two more horses needing scratches to get in off the also-eligible list. The favorite is the Doug Cowan-trained Mischievous Rogue at 3-1 in the race for horses that have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or cheaper in 2022 or 2023.
“It’s a great event,” Joseph said. “Claimers are the backbone of the industry. The majority of the horses are claimers. I’ve got a lot of owners spend the whole year trying to find these kinds of horses for the Claiming Crown.”