Shane Wilson with “Mom’s favorite horse”, Mau Mau. (Jennie Rees photo)
By Jennie Rees/National HBPA
NEW ORLEANS, La. — Louisiana mainstay Shane Wilson will represent the home team in Saturday’s 25th Claiming Crown, which returns to the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for the first time since it hosted a truncated version in 2011. The trainer will saddle High Cruise in the $75,000 Ready’s Rocket Express at six furlongs and Mau Mau in the $75,000 Iron Horse Kent Stirling Memorial at 1 1/16 miles, both for horses that have have run for a claiming price of $8,000 or less at any point of their career.
This will be Mau Mau’s first race since Wilson claimed him for $7,500. But he’s very familiar with the 6-year-old gelding. Wilson had Mau Mau for only two races last fall after claiming him for $10,000. But that was long enough for owner Kevin Roberts’ wife, Pam, to fall in love with the horse.
“We won a starter-allowance race with him here at the end of the meet but wound up losing him in a claiming race,” Wilson said. “It was Kevin Roberts’ wife’s favorite horse that they’d had. So when they dropped him in at Remington, he called me and said, ‘I’m looking at a picture of him in our living room on the wall and my wife wants her horse back.’ So, we went and claimed him…. When he got claimed, he called me and said, ‘Man, I’m in the doghouse right now. We lost Mom’s favorite horse.’”
Mau Mau is royally bred, being by 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Tokyo Time, whose 5-year-old son is Grade 1-winner and $3 million-earner Olympiad, whose career ended with a second place in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic won by Horse of the Year Flight Line.
“He’s not that type of horse,” Wilson said, comparing Mau Mau to Olympiad. “But he acts like it. He’s very, very classy.”
This will be Wilson’s second start with the 6-year-old High Cruise, an 11-time winner that in his last start set the pace until weakening to seventh in a seven-furlong optional claiming race at Delta Downs.
“They gave him a break during the summertime,” Wilson said. “I think he needed the last race. He only had three works going into it. Delta is a deep, deep surface, and we ran him two turns first time back, which probably not a good idea. But he got pretty tired. Since then, he’s worked really sharp.
“He’s not eligible for starter races (which often have a one-year or two-year restriction) anymore, but with the Claiming Crown he is. We looked at it as an opportunity to run against starter-allowance horses again. And being here at home, we just walk right up front, don’t have to ship. He won a starter-allowance over this track last year. There’s no reason not to run. He’s been training great, really working strong since his last race. That race should really have him tight.”