Claiming Crown Kicks Off Gulfstream Park 2018-2019 Championship Meet

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

November 28th, 2018

The 2018-2019 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park will kick off with a bang on December 1st with the 20th running of the Claiming Crown, a series of nine races restricted to current or former claiming race competitors.

With total purse money of $1.1 million, the Claiming Crown races have attracted deep and competitive fields that should be very appealing from a handicapping standpoint. Let’s take a quick look at what to look forward to in each event…

Race 2: Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes

Cautious Giant won this race last year and has remained in fine form since then, most recently recording a narrow victory in the Trinniberg Stakes at Gulfstream three months ago. But he’ll likely face stiff challenges on Saturday from Uno Mas Modelo, who has won four of his last five starts including the Bet On Sunshine Stakes, and also the up-and-coming Magnifier, who has won two straight since being claimed by the always-dangerous Jorge Navarro.

Race 4: Claiming Crown Express Stakes

In this huge field, defending winner First Growth will break from post fourteen, a tricky draw for a horse who otherwise appears best on paper. If his wide post proves problematic, the consistent allowance competitor Appealing Future could be poised to strike, while Leadem in Ken is an interesting newcomer shipping in from Turf Paradise in Arizona.

Race 5: Claiming Crown Distaff Dash Stakes

Sprinting five furlongs on turf is definitely Blue Bahia’s strong suit—in fact, she crushed this race last year by 2 ¾ lengths and took her game on the road to finish a good second in the Turf Amazon Stakes at Parx Racing last time out. She’s the horse to beat, though the wickedly fast Oxford Comma—2-for-2 sprinting five furlongs on turf—could give her a serious run for the money.

Race 6: Claiming Crown Iron Horse Stakes

In another event with a full field, Moon Gate Warrior looms as a standout based on consistency and BRIS speed figures; he’s won five of his last six starts (missing by a half-length in his lone loss) while posting speed figures between 90 and 105 on each occasion. The only other horse with really comparable figures is Twocubanbrothersu, who romped to a gate-to-wire victory in the 2017 Claiming Crown Iron Horse, but he’s lost his last four starts and will need to bounce back in order to contend.

Race 7: Claiming Crown Tiara Stakes

There are many stakes-experienced fillies and mares in this 1 1/16-mile turf test, but none can boast the same level of peak form as Starship Jubilee, decisive winner of the Canadian Stakes (gr. II) and most recently fourth by just 1 ½ lengths in the E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. I). Starship Jubilee will look to improve on her third-place finish in the 2017 Claiming Crown Tiara, in which the capable Peru beat her to the wire by a length, but in turn missed victory by a nose.

Race 8: Claiming Crown Glass Slipper Stakes

In one of the most wide-open races on the card, Starship Reina boasts some of the best BRIS speed figures, but she’s yet to win a stakes race of any kind and will have to be sharp to beat the fast and consistent Bella Vincenza, who counts Gulfstream’s Added Elegance Stakes among four wins from her last five starts.

Race 9: Claiming Crown Canterbury Stakes

Rocket Heat is a flat-out fast and classy gelding who could take this five-furlong sprint a long way on the front end, but Dowse’s Beach might be just as fast and is in great form, having won three straight turf sprints on the New York circuit for trainer Jason Servis. If a speed duel unfolds, the late-running Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup Stakes winner Oak Bluffs could be the main beneficiary.

Race 10: Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes

The ten-year-old veteran Slim Shadey, a three-time graded stakes winner in 2012 and 2013, has finally regained winning form with five victories dating back to August 2017, and he might just prove best on Saturday. Otherwise, the 2017 Tropical Park Derby winner Durocher and the remarkable eight-year-old Montclair (with a four-race win streak under his belt) are among the runners to keep an eye on.

Race 11: Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes

Aztec Sense, unbeaten in seven starts this year for trainer Jorge Navarro, is absolutely the horse to beat in the Claiming Crown Jewel after crushing a strong field by four lengths in the Pa Derby Champion Stakes at Parx Racing. If he brings his A-game, he’ll be tough to beat, though the veteran Diamond Bachelor, the up-and-coming Race Me Home, and last year’s Claiming Crown Jewel victor Flowers for Lisa could potentially make a race of it.

Post time for the first race of the day is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.