08/02/2001 12:00AM

For a day, 'For Sale' sign comes down


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - As far as horseplayers are concerned, the third time is a charm.

The Claiming Crown, a six-race series designed to honor Thoroughbred racing's blue-collar warriors who otherwise toil in obscurity, comes to life again Saturday at Canterbury Park. Full fields and intriguing handicapping are hallmarks of this third running of the Claiming Crown, which offers a whopping $550,000 in purses for horses who normally compete for far lesser sums.

The richest race is the $150,000 Jewel, which, like all Claiming Crown events, is run under starter-allowance conditions. To be eligible for the Jewel, a horse must have raced at least once in the last year for a claiming price of $25,000 or less; thresholds in the other Crown events are lower, in accordance with purse size.

Owner Richard Englander, who last year won two Crown events with horses trained by Scott Lake, is represented in four races, including the 1 1/8-mile Jewel with Sing Because. A California invader trained by Nick Canani, Sing Because is fairly typical of the type of horses who have convened here: from 36 career starts, he has 10 wins, nine seconds, and earnings of nearly $275,000.

More extreme examples of the indomitable spirit of so-called downtrodden claimers are evident throughout the card. There is Bucnasty, a 10-year-old gelding making his 111th career start. There is Fearless Pirate, a 7-year-old California-bred who has earned nearly $500,000 the hardest of ways. There is The Maccabee, who has been posting triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures after having been claimed for a mere $7,500 this winter.

First post for the 11-race card is 1:30 p.m. Central. The Claiming Crown runs from races four through nine, beginning with the Iron Horse (2:53 post). A pick six linking the Claiming Crown races is being offered with a minimum pool guarantee of $50,000.

All or parts of the Saturday card will be simulcast to many North American outlets that otherwise do not offer Canterbury, including California, Kentucky, selected ontrack outlets in New York (not OTB), and several mid-Atlantic states.

All but one of the Claiming Crown races is open to 3-year-olds and upward; the Glass Slipper is restricted to fillies and mares. Virtually all of the races can be fairly termed as wide-open betting events, except for the Express, in which The Maccabee figures as a heavy favorite.

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

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