07/31/2008 11:00PM

Canterbury welcomes Claiming Crown back home


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - In the case of Canterbury Park and the Claiming Crown, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Skipped over last year when the Claiming Crown was effectively borrowed by Ellis Park in Kentucky, the racing fans of Minnesota have eagerly awaited their next chance to grab a few rays of the national racing spotlight.

In all, this will be the eighth time in the 10-year history of the Claiming Crown that Canterbury will have played host. As a place never mentioned among the great American racetracks, its fans, horsemen, and officials are only too proud to accept the proverbial 15 minutes of fame that come with staging a $600,000 event.

"It's an event we're very proud of," said Canterbury president Randy Sampson. "It's always been a huge day for us, both in attendance and handle."

Modeled somewhat after the Breeders' Cup, albeit for so-called "blue collar" horses, the seven-race Claiming Crown showcases and rewards the claimers who perennially are overshadowed by horses in the far more glamorous stakes ranks. Run under starter-allowance conditions, the races carry far bigger purses than normal, from $50,000 for the Iron Horse and Express to $150,000 for the Jewel. The races are carded consecutively, as the third through ninth, with first post for a 12-race program set for 1:30 p.m. Central.

The Saturday card also will include the richest open stakes of the Canterbury meet, the $100,000 Lady Canterbury (race 10) for fillies and mares at a mile on the turf.

Like most of the Claiming Crown events, the 1 1/8-mile Jewel shapes up as a very competitive race. Coyoteshighestcall is a tepid morning-line favorite at 7-2 but figures to be given all he wants by the likes of Sensational Score, R Clear Victory, Stratostar, and Canela.

Of the 64 horses entered this year in the Claiming Crown, Coyoteshighestcall has the most starts (64) and earnings ($422,682).

"He's not much to look at, kind of a scrawny little thing," said his trainer, Scott Lake, who is by far the all-time leading Claiming Crown trainer with eight victories. "But he's a horse; when you run him, he just tries. He's a running machine. He's doing great right now, so I give him a real big shot Saturday."

Coyoteshighestcall, with Kendrick Carmouche to ride, will break from post 2 in a field of nine in the Jewel.

The series will start at about 2:35 with the Iron Horse. The other races, in order, are the $75,000 Glass Slipper, the Express, the $100,000 Tiara, the $75,000 Rapid Transit, the $100,000 Emerald, and the Jewel.

TVG will provide exclusive live coverage of the Claiming Crown, with Ken Rudulph and Matt Carothers manning a trackside set. All major account-wagering networks are scheduled to offer the races. Three pick fours (races 1-4, 5-8, and 9-12) are being offered on the card, as well as a $10,000 guaranteed pool on the pick six (races 4-9).

After a heavy rain here early Thursday, the weather was supposed to turn more pleasant, albeit warmer, with a high temperature of 93 forecast for Saturday.

Besides its 2007 foray into Ellis, the only other Claiming Crown not run at Canterbury since its 1999 inception was in 2002 at Philadelphia Park.

The Claiming Crown is jointly sponsored by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the national Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.