08/01/2007 11:00PM

Claming Crown in fitting location


HENDERSON, Ky. - If Ellis Park were a racehorse, it might well be a claimer, considering the scrappy and durable reputation the track has earned in more than 80 years of existence. Fiercely proud of that heritage and of the new trails being blazed under rookie owner Ron Geary, Ellis will be a fitting partner Saturday with the $600,000 Claiming Crown on the richest afternoon in track history.

The Claiming Crown, a seven-race series for the unsung heroes who make up the vast majority of races in North America, is highlighted by the $150,000 Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile race that drew 10 older horses. Restricted to horses who have competed for a $35,000 claiming price or lower within the last year, the Jewel is the 10th race, and the last of seven consecutive Claiming Crown races, on a 12-race card that starts at 12:40 p.m. Central.

Jeff Mullins, one of the dominant trainers on the Southern California circuit, will be here with two starters in the Jewel: Semi Lost, who will start from post 4 under Jesus Castanon, and Soupy, who will break from post 6 with Victor Lebron aboard. Both horses have flown under the radar back home, but that's pretty much the point of the Claiming Crown: to pay tribute to the blue-collar ethos of everyday runners.

As much as any of their eight rivals, Semi Lost and Soupy stand a chance at victory in what is an extremely well-matched running of the Jewel. In fact, track oddsmaker Luke Kruytbosch made a 4-1 favorite in the race, with Mining for Silver getting the slight nod.

Beginning with the fourth race, the supporting Claiming Crown races are as follows: the $50,000 Iron Horse, the $50,000 Express, the $75,000 Glass Slipper, the $100,000 Tiara, the $100,000 Rapid Transit, and the $100,000 Emerald.

Geary, the Louisville businessman who purchased Ellis last September, has been prominent in local marketing efforts and was highly instrumental in landing the Claiming Crown as a showcase event. Ellis will be trying to surpass the Claiming Crown records of $999,719 in ontrack handle, set in 2000, and $4,025,716 in all-sources handle, set in 2004. Officials are looking for an ontrack crowd of about 8,000.

Both HorseRacing TV and Television Games Network will televise the Claiming Crown in its entirety.