Claiming Crown kicks off Gulfstream Park Championship Meet

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TwinSpires Staff

December 1st, 2016

Edited Press Release

Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet kicks off Saturday with the 18th edition of the $1.1 million Claiming Crown, a nine-stakes showcase for horses that started for a claiming price at least once.

This is the fifth straight year in South Florida for the Claiming Crown, created in 1999 to honor the blue-collar horses that are the foundation of the racing industry nationwide.

Highlighting the event on Saturday is the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel sending three-year olds and up nine furlongs on Gulfstream’s main track. The contest drew nine runners, including 7-5 morning-line favorite and defending champion Royal Posse.

Royal Posse was claimed on May 31, 2015, and has gone on to win seven races, including six stakes, and finish second six times in 13 starts for New York-based trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

“He’s been very, very consistent. I’m very blessed having him around. He’s as game as they come and he does everything right. He’s had a very good season,” Rodriguez said. “It’s hard to describe how he’s been for us. He’s been a horse come true.

“He’s been one of the best horses in the barn for a long time. He’s a nice horse to be around. He’s a very good horse. We’re just happy to be in the position to go back to Gulfstream.”

The five-year-old gelded son of Posse enters the Jewel with three straight New York-bred stakes scores, including a 3 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont Park last out.

Luis Saez is slated to ride Royal Posse for the first time in the Jewel.

Among those lining up against Royal Posse is John Jones, who has gone undefeated since being claimed for $25,000 at Laurel Park on July 17.

“The main goal was: here’s a Maryland-bred and there’s a Maryland-bred stakes coming up. His breeding shows he might be a little better on the grass, so let’s go with that angle,” Maryland-based trainer Lacey Gaudet said. “We had a plan with him. Plans usually don’t work out that well.”

John Jones made an instant return on his new connections’ investment by capturing the $75,000 Mr. Diz Stakes by two lengths over the Laurel turf course at 43-1, defeating popular Ben’s Cat who finished third.

“It wasn’t his best distance, but we really wanted to get him on the grass. He was (43-1). It wasn’t until 10:30 or 11 o’clock the day of the race that we said, ‘Let’s go for it. At least we’ll see if he likes the grass. If not, we won’t try it again,’” Gaudet explained. “He was a rocket out of there. He surprised us all running that big going three-quarters on the grass.”

Although he won on turf, Gaudet ran John Jones on dirt in his three subsequent starts, each resulting in victory.

“I don’t think it was necessarily a fluke that he got the race that he did going three-quarters on the grass, but his numbers and past performance did show that he really liked to go a mile on dirt,” she said. “He showed us that we really did the right thing.”

In his most recent victory in the “Win & You’re In” Jewel Preview at Laurel Park, John Jones won an automatic berth in the Jewel and free shipping to Gulfstream Park while stretching out to 1 1/8 miles to score by 4 3/4 lengths.

“He did a lot of things in that mile-and-an-eighth race. It was a bit slower than he would have wanted but he rated great going into the first turn. It’s something he’ll probably have to do here. There will be more speed down here. He laid off them and then he just overtook the field,” Gaudet said.

Maryland-based Luis Garcia, who has been aboard all four of his victories, has the return mount for John Jones’ clash with Royal Posse.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who have a record 14 Claiming Crown victories to their credit, are slated to be represented by two Mike Maker-trained runners, Bigger Picture and Homespun Hero, in the Jewel.

Goodtimehadbyall will attempt to recapture past Claiming Crown glory in the $110,000 Iron Horse for trainer Jorge Navarro.

The bay son of Quiet American captured the 2013 Rapid Transit before finishing second in the seven-furlong contest one year later. The eight-year-old gelding, who was claimed away for $62,500 out of a Gulfstream optional claiming allowance on February 25, 2015, missed last year’s Claiming Crown.

Goodtimehadbyall returned to Navarro’s barn through the claiming box at Parx in June and is set for a return to the Claiming Crown in the Iron Horse, a 1 1/16-mile event for horses that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or lower at least once during their careers.

“He won (the seven-furlong Rapid Transit) the first time and then came back and ran second, and now he’s back at it again,” Navarro said. “I lost him for $62,500 two years ago. I took him back at Parx for $5,000, and since I’ve had him he’s been doing good. He’s a cool horse to have around. He’s an eight-year-old; he’s won a bunch of races; and you know what, he’s pretty happy.”

Goodtimehadbyall finished second in three straight photo finishes before breaking through with a dominating 6 1/2-length starter allowance victory going 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park on September 18.

“He’s always given me his all. We’re looking to do the right thing with him. The owner took him back and told me straight out, ‘Jorge, if you think he’s not going to make it as a racehorse, let’s find him a home,’” Navarro explained. “So I claimed him back. He was pretty clean and he’s training really, really, really good. I think he’s going to be tough. He loves Gulfstream Park, too, so we’ll see.”

Jose Ortiz has the mount aboard Goodtimehadbyall, who drew the outside post in a field of 14 entered in the Iron Horse.

Racetrack Romance rates as the horse to beat in the Iron Horse based on his photo-finish win over Goodtimehadbyall in a Monmouth starter allowance on August 26. The Jamie Ness-trained gelding, who was claimed for $6,250 at Gulfstream last February, has won five of his last six starts and gets Paco Lopez aboard Saturday.

This year’s $125,000 Rapid Transit drew a field of 11 while the other Claiming Crown dirt sprint, the $110,000 Express at six furlongs, features 14.

There are a pair of five-furlong turf sprints, the $110,000 Distaff Dash and $110,000 Canterbury, while the $125,000 Tiara for distaffers and $125,000 Emerald for three-year-olds and up also take place on the grass but at 1 1/16 miles.

The $110,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares, three-year-olds and up, is scheduled for a mile on the main track.

Royal Posse photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography
Goodtimehadbyall photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography

Claiming Crown Cash Back Saturday at Gulfstream: The Breeders’ Cup for the blue collar ranks, The Claiming Crown, kicks off the Championship meet at Gulfstream Park this Saturday, and if claiming races are in your wheelhouse, you’ll want to bet with both fists to Win this Saturday on Twinspires.

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