Fields Set for Next Saturday's $1-Million Claiming Crown at Fair Grounds

Therapist | Sarah Andrew

A total of 90 horses spread over eight races were entered Saturday for next Saturday's 25th Claiming Crown, to be held for the first time since 2011 at New Orleans' Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Trainer Mike Maker–whose all-time record 21 Claiming Crown victories include two last year at Churchill Downs–and Robertino Diodoro lead the way with seven entries apiece. For Maker, that includes four in the 12-horse $150,000 Claiming Crown Emerald at 1 1/16 miles on turf, headed by GI United Nations winner Therapist (Freud). Diodoro's trio in the $200,000, 1 1/8-mile Jewel's field of nine includes Lone Star Park's GIII Steve Sexton Mile winner Frosted Grace (Mark Valeski).

Conceived to be a Breeders' Cup-style event for claiming horses, the Claiming Crown was created in 1999 by the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA).

“My owners like the Claiming Crown,” Maker said. “When we see a horse we think about claiming and they're eligible, that's a factor for sure. The Claiming Crown is great. I like the idea, too, that they're moving it around, drawing attention to different tracks and the event.”

Saturday's eight Claiming Crown races all are for horses 3 years old and up, with two of those restricted to fillies and mares. Headlining the card is the Jewel for horses that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less in 2022-23. Three other races–all on turf–offer a $150,000 purse and have a $25,000 claiming requirement. Those races are the Emerald; its filly and mare counterpart, the Tiara; and the Canterbury Tom Metzen Memorial at 5 1/2 furlongs.

The other Claiming Crown races are the $100,000 Rapid Transit ($16,000 claiming requirement) at six furlongs; $100,000 Glass Slipper ($12,500 claiming requirement) at a mile for fillies and mares; $75,000 Iron Horse Kent Stirling Memorial ($8,000 claiming requirement) at 1 1/16 miles, and $75,000 Ready's Rocket Express ($8,000 claiming requirement) at six furlongs. Each race has another $25,000 available in purses for accredited Louisiana-breds.

“We're thrilled with the response to the first Claiming Crown in New Orleans in 12 years,” said National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback. “The Kentucky horsemen really hit the entry box. There's good representation from all over the Midwest, Louisiana, the Mid-Atlantic and Florida. These races offer full fields and promise to be entertaining and provide challenging handicapping. One thing's for sure: Win or lose, everyone will eat well down there in the Big Easy. Without question, this would not have been possible without the support of the Louisiana HBPA.”

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