LAUREL, Md. – All five of Laurel Park’s Claiming Crown preview race winners as well as several Maryland-based horsemen are among the nominees for the 23rd Claiming Crown to be held Saturday, Dec. 4 at Gulfstream Park.
Laurel played host to Claiming Crown Preview Day Oct. 10, where preview race winners each earned an automatic berth to the Claiming Crown as well as a $2,500 stipend toward travel costs to South Florida.
Stablemates Belgrano and Aequor, trained by 79-year-old Frank Russo, were respectively nominated to the $90,000 Canterbury for 3-year-olds and up which have not started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2020-21 sprinting five furlongs on turf and $75,000 Express for 3-year-olds and up that have run for a tag of $8,000 or less lifetime going six furlongs.
Peace Sign Stables’ Belgrano has strung together three consecutive wins including the Rainbow Heir Aug. 28 at Monmouth Park in his preview day prep. The 7-year-old gelding ran seventh in last year’s Canterbury. Also, among the 33 nominations is Winning Stables, Inc.’s Xy Speed, neck winner of the Oct. 2 Laurel Dash for trainer Gerald Bennett.
Morning Moon Farm’s Aequor edged Sevier by a neck in the Express preview, his second straight win. Formerly based at Gulfstream, the 6-year-old gelding ran ninth in the 2019 Claiming Crown Jewel. Sevier, from the barn of trainer Jamie Ness, is also one of 24 Express nominees.
Travin Stables’ Lookin At Roses rebounded from a fourth behind Magic Michael in the Greenwood Cup (G3) to win Laurel’s preview for the $85,000 Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2020-21. Ness-trained Magic Michael is nominated to the $125,000 Claiming Crown Jewel as well as Laurel’s $100,000 Richard W. Small Nov. 27, both going 1 1/8 miles.
Other Rapid Transit nominees include Silent Malice and Grade 3 winner Tusk. Silent Malice is one of three horses nominated to Claiming Crown races by Laurel-based trainer Rodolpho Sanchez-Salomon, along with Foggy Dreams ($95,000 Tiara) and Calypso Ghost ($80,000 Glass Slipper). Trainer Mary Eppler, based at historic Pimlico Race Course, also nominated Tusk to the Jewel and $95,000 Emerald, Seranade a Kitten to the Tiara and Heza Kitten to the Emerald.
Bruno Schickendanz’s Mandate, trained by Robert J.W. Johnston, is among 50 nominees to the 1 1/16-mile Emerald on turf for 3-year-olds and up which have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2020-21. The 4-year-old Blame gelding won Laurel’s Emerald preview by 3 ½ lengths and followed up with a victory in the one-mile Artie Schiller on the grass at Aqueduct Nov. 13.
You Must Chill and Just Whistle, respectively third and fifth in Laurel’s Emerald preview for trainers Ness and Michael Matz, are also nominated, as is Ten Strike Racing’s Caribbean, a 7-year-old Australia-bred gelding claimed for $40,000 out of his most recent start Marc 19 at Oaklawn Park by Laurel-based trainer Lacey Gaudet. Caribbean is also nominated to the Jewel.
Team Valor International’s Beantown Baby, from the Fair Hill, Md. barn of trainer Arnaud Delacour, was a popular neck winner of Laurel’s Distaff Dash preview, her third win from five 2021 starts. The $90,000 Distaff Dash at five-furlongs on turf is for fillies and mares 3 and up that have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2020-21.
Notes: Bobby G, a 7-year-old gelding owned and trained by David Mohan, made a triumphant return in Saturday’s seventh race, rallying on the far outside in the second-level optional claiming allowance. It was the first win in more than a year and 16th career win from 47 starts in his first race since Feb. 7. He is nominated to the $75,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse Dec. 4 at Gulfstream Park, where he ran second in 2020 and fifth in 2019 … Post time for the first of nine races Sunday at Laurel is 12:25 p.m.
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo: Belgrano handily wins a starter allowance at Laurel Park under Jorge Vargas, Jr., on Oct. 10, 2021. (MJC)