07/13/2004 11:00PM

Bejarano making whirlwind trip


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - Surely it is a route rarely traveled, if not a scheme never tried.

Rafael Bejarano will be here Saturday from Evansville, Ind., to ride in all six of the Claiming Crown events at Canterbury Park, then leave soon thereafter from a small nearby airport to ride in one race Saturday night at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Ill.

"They're telling me we can get it done," said Steve Elzey, Bejarano's agent, who will accompany the jockey on the trip.

After Bejarano rides Seventh Inning in the 10th race at Canterbury, he and Elzey will make a dash for Flying Cloud Airport, which is located some 20 minutes away in Eden Prairie, Minn. They will complete their trip by flying on a Cessna 340 into a tiny airport in Collinsville and then will be driven just a few miles to Fairmount.

Canterbury's 10th race, a turf allowance that directly follows the final Claiming Crown race, the Jewel, is scheduled to be run at 6:19 p.m. Central. (Bejarano also is named to ride Worland in the 11th race but Elzey said he may have to take off Seventh Inning, and surely Worland, because of time constraints.) The Fairmount race in which Bejarano is named to ride favored Beau Watch for trainer Eric Reed - the $30,000 Genuine Risk Stakes for 3-year-old fillies - is scheduled for 10:50 p.m. Central.

Land mileage from Eden Prairie to Collinsville is 651 miles. The projected flight time is about 2 1/2 hours, according to Paul Routin, owner of the charter company, Air Ops Inc., of Louisville, Ky.

Bejarano, the 22-year-old Peruvian who leads all jockeys in North America in wins this year, has become one of the hottest - and most well-traveled - jockeys. On the heels of winning the riding title at the recently ended Churchill Downs spring meet, he rode Suave to a second-place finish behind Rock Hard Ten in the Swaps Stakes last Saturday at Hollywood Park in California.

Besides Rize, one of the top contenders in the Jewel, Bejarano also has the following mounts in the Claiming Crown: Rough Draft in the Iron Horse, Cherokee Prospect in the Express, Moving Fever in the Glass Slipper, Quote Me Later in the Rapid Transit, and He Flies in the Emerald. All figure among the wagering favorites.

Elzey said a main reason for trying to ride at Canterbury and Fairmount in the same day is because he got his start in racing about 30 years ago at Fairmount and wanted to help the track "in some small way by having one of the hottest jockeys in the country" make an appearance.

Bejarano will be back riding Sunday at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., near Evansville.

An event Lake loves

Of course Scott Lake is happy to be here. Besides having established an annual tradition of sending a half-dozen or so horses from his East Coast base halfway across the continental U.S. to Canterbury, Lake himself also is here for the entire duration, typically arriving on a Tuesday and staying through Sunday.

"It's a phenomenal event," said Lake, whose enjoyment of the Claiming Crown has been substantially enhanced by the fact that he is easily the leading trainer in the event's history. "The people at Canterbury make it a first-class event for everybody."

Lake said he continues to be confounded as to why there is not a greater push among owners and trainers to run their horses in the Claiming Crown. "The dream for some owners is to make it to the Breeders' Cup, and this is like that, although obviously on a smaller scale," said Lake. "I think the concept is great."

Lake is one of four trainers in the top 10 in the current North American earnings standings to have at least one horse entered here Saturday. Steve Asmussen, Jeff Mullins, and Doug O'Neill are the others.

Funny Cide's half-brother entered

Although the Claiming Crown obviously pales in comparison to the Kentucky Derby, there are a few sideways connections to Derby winners to be found in the Claiming Crown this year.

Coincide, a longshot in the Emerald, is a 5-year-old horse by Cozzene out of Belle's Good Cide, which makes him a half-brother to 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide.

Frank "Bobby" Springer, who runs Distorted Power in the Emerald, trained War Emblem before the horse was sold by owner Russell Reineman two weeks before winning the 2002 Derby.

The most direct link to the Derby belongs to trainer Lynn Whiting, who runs Quote Me Later in the Rapid Transit. Whiting saddled Lil E. Tee to win the 1992 Derby.

* The Canterbury press office released some interesting statistics relating to the 62 horses entered in the Claiming Crown this year. Among them: total wins, 514; total earnings, nearly $11.65 million; horses entered off at least one win, 15; different tracks where horses last raced, 13; and out-of-town jockeys traveling here to ride, 16.