07/22/2009 11:00PM

Gran Estreno can rule at Claiming Crown


LOUISVILLE, Ky. There are better races Saturday than the $100,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes at Canterbury Park on Saturday just not any better wagering races. A 1 1/16-mile turf race for horses who have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less in 2008-2009, it drew a full field of 14.

Provided such a large field goes to post, there is value to be found on whomever a bettor ends up backing at the mutuel windows.

As for this horseplayer, that horse is Gran Estreno, a winner of four straight races. That is, if he sticks to his 4-1 morning line or goes higher.

Besides his sharp form, he is well drawn in post 6, an important consideration in such a large field. Jockey E.T. Baird should be able to place him in a stalking position, right behind the first flight of leaders. And with the five horses to his inside being either front-runners or deep closers, a ground-saving or two-wide trip into the first turn looks likely.

From there, it will be up to show what he can do. And if Gran Estreno runs back to the recent form he has displayed over turf and Polytrack at Arlington, he will be a force to deal with in the lane.

This is a horse who loves to win, and who, when called upon for his best, lays down his body and gives his all.

He is the play of the day of the Claiming Crown.

Claiming Crown Jewel

A race later in the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race for horses who have raced for $35,000 or less in 2008-2009, Glamour Guy is an appealing wager also because he figures to get a favorable trip.

Although he is drawn on the outside, there are only seven horses in the field, and only one Repenting who might be considered a threat to go to the front.

Robby Albarado, on Glamour Guy, is in the perfect position. Knowing his horse has tactical speed, he can just let Glamour Guy settle in easy rhythm, and place him wherever he is comfortable, either on the lead or outside Repenting. It s a favorable scenario either way.

Throw in that Glamour Guy is in the best form of his career, and getting a couple of pounds apiece from Furthest Land and Repenting, and he becomes even more attractive.

Claiming Crown Iron Horse

In action earlier on the card, Bright Hall appears ready to return winning form in the $50,000 Iron Horse, race 3.

As he is entering the race off a layoff after a sixth-place finish in a starter allowance at Penn National, my hope is that public won t know what to make of him.

Let s hope so. Because to these eyes, this is a horse who thrives when racing fresh, and he has been known to reverse his form immediately following poor efforts.

A glance at his lifetime past performances in Formulator reveals the point. In the third start of his career, Bright Hall went from losing a maiden claiming race by 15 3/4 lengths to winning a straight maiden race on grass. And this past November, he won a race at Fair Grounds easily after getting beaten by 14 3/4 lengths in his prior start.

Bright Hall is better than what he showed at Penn National in his last start, and should appreciate the return of Jamie Theriot in the irons. Theriot is 4 for 4 riding Bright Hall.

Claiming Crown Rapid Transit

Last but not least, Grand Traverse is a strong play under Theriot in the Rapid Transit, race 5 on the card, despite drawing the inside in the six-furlong race.

Although some players balk at the prospect of playing a horse breaking from the fence in a sprint believing it forces the rider aboard the horse to send the horse or run the risk of traffic problems drawing the fence has not bothered Grand Traverse previously.

Many of his best races have come with inside draws, perhaps because his versatile running style gives his rider so many options.

Grand Traverse starts for a skilled trainer in Tim Glyshaw, who has brought out the best in this horse as evidenced by his 6 for 17 record for Glyshaw in 2008-2009.

Only one of those wins came in a starter allowance, and that race resulted in a seven-length victory and Beyer Speed Figure of 101.