08/28/2002 11:00PM

Claimers get to be king for a day


Claimers take the spotlight in the fourth annual Claiming Crown Championships at Philadelphia Park on Saturday.

The Claiming Crown features six stakes worth a total of $550,000. Each race is for 3-year-olds and up and are run under starter allowance conditions.

The richest event, the $150,000 Jewel, is for horses who have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Aug. 31, 2001. Nine entered the 1 1/8-mile Jewel.

Prince Iroquois, a Louisiana shipper, and California-based Truly a Judge are the main contenders.

This year, Prince Iroquois has blossomed into a quality runner. In his last start, the 5-year-old Prince Iroquois won the Ark-La-Tex Handicap. In May, he finished second behind Congaree in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Derby.

Truly a Judge, claimed for $20,000 in October 2001, won back-to-back allowance races in January at Santa Anita. In his last start, at Del Mar on Aug. 15, the 4-year-old Truly a Judge finished a sharp second in a $100,000 optional claimer.

Jose Valdivia, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile aboard Val Royal last year, rides Truly a Judge.

Valdivia has another live mount, Nowrass, in the 1 1/16-mile, $125,000 Emerald, the only turf race. A New York shipper, Nowrass won back-to-back grass races at Belmont Park this summer for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The Emerald may not be long enough for Nowrass, whose wins this year came at 10 furlongs and longer.

Sir Echo, an 11-year-old who is 2 for 2 in claimers this year, will be a local favorite in the Emerald. If Sir Echo is allowed to steal away to the lead and set a soft pace, which he did in his latest wins, he will be dangerous.

Churchill Downs shipper Brown Eyed Major puts his four-race winning streak on the line in the 6 1/2-furlong, $100,000 Rapid Transit.

Brown Eyed Major's Beyer Speed Figures have risen dramatically since earlier this year, and he earned a career-best 95 in each of his last three wins. The 6-year-old Brown Eyed Major has enough speed to get the lead, but also has demonstrated the ability to stalk, which could come in handy here with the speedy Go Rail Go and Only Pioneering in the field.

The $75,000 Glass Slipper, a 6 1/2-furlong race and the one Claiming Crown race for fillies and mares, features a hometown favorite, Final Dispersal.

Final Dispersal has won 6 of 7 starts this year, all at Philly Park. Final Dispersal is trained by Scott Lake, who has won five Claiming Crown races in the past two years. Lake, the runaway leading trainer at Philly Park this year, is in a tight battle with Steve Asmussen for the most wins by a trainer in the nation.

Lake also has Ruskin, the horse to beat in the $50,000 Iron Horse. A 9-year-old, Ruskin has won his last two starts at Philly Park in allowance company, including a 10 1/4-length romp on June 29. Other contenders in the

1 1/16-mile Iron Horse are Entrepreneurship and Regal Tour.

Danny E, 5 for 9 this year, merits plenty of respect in the six-furlong Express. Danny E was an easy winner of his last two races at Philly Park, including his last start on Aug. 11 when he beat three of his Express rivals.

Thanks to Lake, Philly Park-based horses dominated the last two Claiming Crowns, held at Canterbury Park. The 18 Philly horses who ran produced five wins, two seconds, and three thirds.