07/12/2006 12:00AM

Canterbury turns up the heat

Benoit & Associates
Sandburr is one of six horses entered in the richest Claiming Crown race, the $150,000 Jewel.

SHAKOPEE, Minn. - A total of 63 horses were entered Wednesday morning in the seven races comprising Saturday's Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park, and non-sweaters need not apply.

With some national focus on Canterbury, the local forecast is for swelter. Temperatures on the track's biggest day should approach 100 degrees out here on the Minnesota prairie Saturday afternoon. And while a late 4 p.m. Central first post for the 12-race card helps, even when the day's richest race, the $150,000 Jewel, is run at dusk, the theme of the day may be heat.

Still, no horseman comes to Canterbury this time of year expecting frost.

"My horse was raised and grew up in Texas; do you think 100 degrees scares him?," said Mike Stidham, trainer of Sandburr, one of the favorites in the featured $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel. "He's not worried about heat."

Sandburr, who already has won on a very hot day this summer at Arlington Park, was one of only six horses entered in the Jewel. Sandburr, East Coast shipper Sinners N Saints, and California-based Me My Mine figure to be the top choices in the Jewel, shortened 110 yards this year to 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Sinners N Saints was installed as the 2-1 favorite by Canterbury linemaker Mark Stancato, and probably will be the chalk since his connections- trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. and jockey Rafael Bejarano- are well known.

Two other Claiming Crown races drew short fields: the Glass Slipper, for female sprinters, also got six horses, while the Rapid Transit, another sprint race, drew seven. There are 10 horses in the Iron Horse, carded for 1 1/16 miles on dirt; 13 in the six-furlong Express; 10 in the Tiara, a filly and mare turf route; and 11 in the Emerald, the male two-turn turf race, and perhaps the day's most competitive event. Al's Dearly Bred, who won the 2001 Emerald, was installed as a tepid 4-1 favorite.

Distinct Vision, a winner of seven straight races, is the strong favorite in the Iron Horse, and the Glass Slipper also has two short-priced chances, Funny Woman, made the 7-5 favorite, and Da Svedonya, the 8-5 second choice. Both Distinct Vision and Funny Woman are trained by Scott Lake, the leading trainer of Claiming Crown winners. Lake entered four horses in Claiming Crown races this year.

A flight carrying East Coast-based shippers arrived here midday Wednesday, and all Claiming Crown horses save those traveling by van north from Arlington and Prairie Meadows are assembled at Canterbury, which also has carded the $100,000 Lady Canterbury on Saturday.