07/21/2009 11:00PM

Baze to ride in 5 of 7 Claiming Crown races


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Created as a novel way to honor the unsung heroes of Thoroughbred racing, the Claiming Crown will begin its second decade of existence when it is renewed Saturday at Canterbury Park.

The usual melting pot of across-the-continent shippers will once again characterize the Claiming Crown, for which entries were drawn Wednesday. A total of 62 runners were entered in the $600,000 seven-race series, with the $100,000 Claiming Crown Emerald being easily the deepest and the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel the richest.

An exceptional roster of jockeys will be in for the day, including Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux, Jeremy Rose, E.T. Baird, Jamie Theriot, Rosemary Homeister Jr., Cliff Berry, and, for the first time, Hall of Fame rider Russell Baze.

Baze, the world's all-time winningest jockey with more than 10,500 career wins, has five Claiming Crown mounts, including Stormy Surge in the 14-horse Emerald. Four of his mounts are for trainer Lloyd Mason, who, like Baze, works primarily on the Northern California circuit. Baze long has been noted for a willingness - no, eagerness - to ride horses at the lowest claiming levels.

"It's nice to see these guys get the recognition they deserve," said Baze.

The Claiming Crown comprises races 3 through 9 on a Saturday card that starts at 1:30 p.m. Central. The first Claiming Crown race, the $50,000 Iron Horse, is set for 2:35 p.m. TVG will have on-site coverage of all the races, with Ken Rudulph and Matt Carothers providing commentary.

All Claiming Crown races are run under starter-allowance conditions, with eligibility open to horses that have started for claiming prices ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 since Jan. 1, 2008.

The anchor event, the Jewel (race 9), drew only six starters, albeit closely matched ones with sharp form. Antrim County, with Theriot to ride, was assigned post 5 as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile race. He will be trying to become the first horse in Claiming Crown history to win a second event in the series, having captured the Iron Horse last year. Other horses have repeated in the Claiming Crown, but only in the same event.

The Emerald (race 8), a 1 1/16-mile turf race, is the kind of wagering jumble that most horseplayers revel in. With the full gate of 14, the program favorite, Gran Estreno, is listed at a lofty 4-1, with eight other starters pegged at either 10-1 or 12-1.

The other Claiming Crown races are the $100,000 Tiara (race 4), the $75,000 Rapid Transit (race 5), the $50,000 Express (race 6), and the $75,000 Glass Slipper (race 7).

The Saturday card also will include the $100,000 Lady Canterbury, a filly-mare turf race carded as race 10. Euphony, with Berry riding from post 2, is the likely favorite in a field of seven.

Saturday will mark the ninth time that Canterbury, a publicly traded company operated by the family of Curtis and Randy Sampson, has hosted the Claiming Crown. Other runnings were held in 2002 at Philadelphia Park and in 2007 at Ellis Park in Kentucky.

The weather in this area has been unusually cool this summer. The forecasted high for Saturday is just 75 degrees.

The Claiming Crown is a cooperative effort of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.