12/01/2016 2:26PM

Deep, competitive fields for Claiming Crown Tiara, Emerald

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Four-Footed Fotos
Cammack had a six-race losing streak snapped last out.

Claiming Crown races invariably are deep and competitive, but on an annual basis, none more so than the turf twins, the Tiara and Emerald.

Purse-wise and perhaps otherwise, these two 1 1/16-mile grass races tend to be a cut above, offering slightly higher purses of $125,000 apiece while also regularly teasing horseplayers with fields bordering on the ridiculous. They’re essentially a testament to the overall popularity of turf racing among horsemen and fans.

True to form, 14-horse lineups (plus also-eligibles) are set for Saturday at Gulfstream Park for both the Tiara, for fillies and mares, and the Emerald, its male counterpart. Both are contested under $25,000 starter conditions, and to no one’s surprise, neither race has an overwhelming favorite.

The Tiara (race 9, post 4:03 p.m. Eastern) figures to unfold with a fast pace, given the presence of Daddy’s Boo, a gray mare who has gone 6 for 9 this year while employing front-running tactics. However, there are plenty of others to keep her honest out top, most notably Kasuga and Stormin Charlotte, and a real scramble could ensue if things get too hot.

Northern Smile, third as the favorite in the Maryland Million Ladies on the Laurel Park turf, is a prime candidate to surge into contention under such a scenario.

“She’s a really big, late closer, so it has to set up perfectly for her with the speed in front,” said trainer Kelly Rubley.

Another Maryland invader, Marabea, earned a southbound ticket by winning the Tiara prep on the Nov. 6 Preview Day card at Laurel.

“She ran a great race that day,” said trainer Lacey Gaudet. “She was training great going into the race. She’s a little bit of a difficult filly to be around, but it ended up working out.”

The Emerald (race 11, post 5:05) might have Class and Cash as the pacesetter, although it doesn’t appear to set up quite as predictably as the Tiara.

Whoever gets the lead, Cammack and jockey Julien Leparoux can be expected to be close after breaking from post 13. A winner of six straight races from April to September for trainer Chris Block and his family, the Illinois-bred homebred only tasted defeat when pitted against rugged allowance horses at the Keeneland fall meet.

Alongside Cammack in post 14 is another of the main contenders: Aire Bueno, who like so many Claiming Crown runners struggled earlier in his career – hence the reason they once were claimers – before finally getting his act together.

“He was a disappointment for a while,” said trainer Chuck Simon. “For whatever reason, he’s adapted well now, and he gives a big effort every time. Even when he loses, a lot of times it’s not necessarily his fault. He gets behind a slow pace, or he gets in traffic trouble or something like that.”

Others worthy of mention in the Emerald are Musik Critic, a last-out Preview Day winner at Laurel; Flashy Chelsey, who exits difficult allowances in Kentucky for Rob O’Connor; Dream Man, a highly consistent performer on the New York circuit; and Riviere Du Loup, a decent sixth in the Grade 1 United Nations in July.