07/21/2010 2:04PM

Emerald outshines Jewel at Claiming Crown draw


SHAKOPEE, Minn. – The nominal high point of the annual Claiming Crown series is the $150,000 Jewel, the richest race in the $500,000 series. But when entries were drawn Wednesday for the six Saturday races at Canterbury Park, it was quite evident that the top supporting feature, the $100,000 Emerald, shapes up as the most compelling event in the 12th running of the so-called “blue collar” showcase.

Inca King and Gran Estreno, both multiple stakes winners with combined earnings of nearly $1.1 million, head a remarkably deep field of 12 in the Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that serves as a prototype of what the Claiming Crown is about: big fields of in-form horses with lingering traces of class.

Julien Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award-winning jockey, will be in from Saratoga to ride for the second straight year in the Claiming Crown. Leparoux, who has the call from trainer Mike Maker on Inca King in the Emerald, is one of about 15 out-of-town jockeys named to ride here Saturday.

The Jewel, run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, drew a field of six, with Racing Bran the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a well-matched group. Trained by Scott Becker, Racing Bran most recently ran second in the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

The Claiming Crown will be held as races 4 through 9 on an 11-race card that also includes the $100,000 Lady Canterbury (race 10), which also drew a terrific field, with Closeout and Danzon the likely favorites in a field of 11 filly-mare turf runners. First post is 1:30 p.m. Central, with the first Claiming Crown race, the $50,000 Iron Horse, going at 3:06.

At least some, and perhaps all, of the Claiming Crown races will be on the simulcast menu in California, as well as most other racing jurisdictions in North America. Past performances for the races will be published in all Saturday editions of Daily Racing Form .

Ken Rudulph will be here on a remote setup for TVG, which also will have its on-air personalities at Saratoga, Del Mar, Monmouth and elsewhere Saturday.

Unlike some previous runnings of the Claiming Crown held amid oppressive heat, the forecasted high temperature for Saturday is 80.

This is the 10th time that Canterbury will host the Claiming Crown. In the past four held here (2005-06-08-09), all-sources handle has averaged nearly $2.7 million and ontrack attendance averaged nearly 11,000.