07/26/2010 1:47PM

Claiming Crown handle plunges at Canterbury

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. – While ontrack attendance on a day of pleasant weather held steady, and the brand of racing was solid, the all-sources handle was down considerably Saturday at the 12th annual Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park, where the dominant performers were the familiar owner-trainer-jockey team of Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Mike Maker, and Julien Leparoux.

The turnout was 11,473, typical for the Claiming Crown at Canterbury in recent years, but total handle on the 11-race card was just $2,180,222, down 24 percent from 2009 and well off the $3.6 million high in 2004 for the event at Canterbury.

For the six Claiming Crown races, total handle was $1,593,203, down a whopping 34 percent, while ontrack handle on those races was down 20 percent.

Canterbury president Randy Sampson said he was “disappointed” with the numbers but said the eventful racing helped to partly offset that sentiment. Indeed, Canterbury fans were treated to an exciting day, with Headache rallying late to nail Smarten Destiny in the anchor event, the $138,000 Jewel, and Inca King living up to favoritism with a hard-earned score in the secondary feature, the $94,000 Emerald.

Leparoux, in from Saratoga, was aboard both for Maker, while Ken Ramsey, here with two teenage grandsons, reveled in the day as his stable swept both of those races.

“Winning is winning,” Ramsey said. “It’s fun wherever you are.”

The wins were the sixth and seventh in the Claiming Crown for Maker, putting him just one behind Scott Lake, the all-time series leader.

This was the 10th time that Canterbury has held the Claiming Crown, with the other two times having been at Philadelphia Park in 2002 and Ellis Park in 2007. Dan Metzger, president of one of the co-sponsoring organizations, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, said there has been “preliminary interest” expressed by at least one other track in hosting the event in 2011, although Canterbury is the traditional front-runner as host. Announcement of the next year’s site typically comes in December.

The all-sources handle at Ellis in 2007 was $4.9 million, easily a Claiming Crown record.

Sampson noted that with the large ontrack crowd and intractable scheduling commitments to TVG, which showed all six races, Canterbury “shut out quite a bit of money” ontrack, but he conceded that was only a minor factor in the overall plunge in handle.

◗ Because of a travel delay from Chicago, jockey Shane Sellers was replaced on two winners early on the card – King A.J. in the HBPA Sprint Stakes and Moralist in the Claiming Crown Express. But Sellers arrived in time to ride Never Retreat to win the 10th race of the day, the $100,000 Lady Canterbury, for Chicago trainer Chris Block.

Chris Emigh also was delayed from Chicago, allowing Daniel Centeno to pick up the winning mount on Roaring Home in the Claiming Crown Iron Horse.

◗ The winner’s circle was never more crowded and boisterous Saturday than after Moralist scored as an odds-on choice in the Express. About 60 people had their photo taken with Moralist, a 5-year-old gelding who overcame a serious bout with colic last year to become a terrific feel-good story for several local partners and their supporters.

◗ Gran Estreno, second choice on the morning line for the Emerald, was an early scratch because he was medicated for colic, trainer Mike Stidham said. His defection left Inca King the 1-2 favorite.

◗ At 2-5, Sea Gaze was the shortest favorite on the day but went down to defeat in the Iron Horse. At least he finished second, saving a bridge-jumper who bet $60,000 on him to show. From $97,648 in the show pool, $82,178 was on Sea Gaze. The win pool was only $38,406.

◗ Final tallies for the six Claiming Crown winners: Two each from Kentucky and Iowa, one each from Chicago and Delaware; three on the lead, one stalker (turf), and two closers; and three favorites and three second choices, with the highest win mutuel being a mere $8.60. A total of 49 runners started.