Updated on 09/17/2011 12:09PM

Christmas offers $75K to claimers


With the exception of the annual Claiming Crown, a one-day extravaganza devoted to blue-collar horses, there are no opportunities for claimers to run for a $75,000 purse. That's essentially what is going to happen, however, Friday night at Mountaineer Racetrack.

Nine of the 10 older sprinters entered in the $75,000 Christmas Stakes have run for a tag this year, ranging from $10,000 to $75,000. The lone exception, Crossing Point, stands out as the favorite in the six-furlong race.

Crossing Point, a Maryland-based 5-year-old gelding, has surpassed 100 on the Beyer Speed Figure scale in two of his last three starts. Most recently, Crossing Point was fast enough to set the pace for the first half-mile in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park before stopping badly in the final furlong.

Earlier this year, Crossing Point made two trips to Mountaineer, easily winning the five-furlong Panhandle and finishing third over a muddy surface in the Waterford Park Handicap.

Smashing Beau, the co-highweight with Crossing Point at 121 pounds, appears to have the best chance to play spoiler. Winner of a minor sprint stakes at Colonial Downs during the summer, Smashing Beau regressed following that race, but the drop into $50,000 claiming company late in the Delaware Park meet helped him regain his good form.

All of the other horses in the Christmas will be getting a weight break of between 6 and 12 pounds. That group includes Zavalla Dandy, winner of 2 of 3 starts since coming from Louisiana into the Penn National barn of Harry Thompson; Peace and Joy, a three-time winner this season who earned a career-best 103 Beyer against $16,000 claimers in September; and Duvalier, fresh off a career-high 99 Beyer earned against three-other-than allowance sprinters at Philadelphia Park.

Zavalla Dandy was running against statebred $10,000 claimers at Lone Star Park in Texas as recently as May. But since coming under Thompson's care, Zavalla Dandy has beaten allowance sprinters at Charles Town and Penn National.

Peace and Joy, claimed out of a win against $35,000 claimers in October, flashed speed for a half-mile in the Mountaineer Mile and beat $40,000 claimers in his first two starts in West Virginia.