11/29/2012 2:41PM

Gulfstream: Grade 2 winner Juanita brings class to Claiming Crown Tiara

Jenny Burgos
Juanita won the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs in May.

One of the 13 horses that Mike Maker will start Saturday in the 14th annual Claiming Crown series at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., is a filly named Juanita in the Tiara.

All that Juanita has done is earn more than $500,000 and win the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs in May.

[CLAIMING CROWN: Get PPs, watch Saturday's Gulfstream card live]

“Obviously she’s been running against some of the stiffest competition around,” Maker said earlier this week while still at the Trackside training center in Louisville, Ky. “The one start she had on the Gulfstream turf, I thought she handled it well. We’re looking for her to run a big one.”

Juanita will have Javier Castellano aboard, well drawn in post 2, in the $125,000 Tiara, a 1 1/16-mile turf race run under a $25,000 starter-allowance condition and the filly counterpart to the $125,000 Jewel.

Maker also will saddle Lemons to Lemonade and Starsilhouette for the Tiara, which, with its big field and genuine depth, typifies the 2012 Claiming Crown as an enticing puzzle.

The Tiara goes as the eighth of 10 Saturday races. In the earlier Claiming Crown events:

◗ $100,000 Glass Slipper (race 7): Tamarind Hall (post 13, David Cohen) is winless in six starts this year, but trainer David Fawkes believes her stakes experience, outside post, recent training, and the return of Cohen could end that skein in the seven-furlong Glass Slipper.

“I’ve looked at it, and I think we’ve got a huge shot in there,” said Fawkes. “She has really taken to the Gulfstream track and worked really well over it last week. I expect her to run really well. Plus she’s back with her old jock,” who partnered with her last year to win the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont Park.

Other viable contenders in the Glass Slipper include Starship Truffles, a winner in 6 of her last 8 starts, and the uncoupled Maker-trained duo of Isabelle’s Thunder and Brandys Secret. As many as 13 fillies and mares will start in another terrific betting race.

◗ $100,000 Rapid Transit (race 6): The male counterpart to the Glass Slipper also came up an absolute doozy. Rick Dutrow may have the favorite in Peb Hughes (post 7, Castellano), but there are any number of potential winners. They include Coosada, Clean Shot, Off the Jak, Indio Rooster, Tiz Liberty, and the Maker pair of Won Fast Bullet and Bernie the Maestro.

Peb Hughes earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in June for prior connections and ran well when second in his only attempt since Dutrow assumed his training.

◗ $100,000 Iron Horse (race 5): Maryland shipper Follow the Leader (post 1, Kendrick Carmouche) will take his share of play from the advantageous rail for trainer Kieron Magee. While he is in terrific form, it would not be a surprise if something else jumps up to win this 1 1/16-mile race. He’s Spectacular earned a two-back 95 Beyer in a restricted stakes at Calder; Red Hills seeks his seventh win from his last eight starts, all for trainer Jose Garoffalo, and gets Castellano; and Awesome Mich ships in for the ever-dangerous Jamie Ness stable. The field was oversubscribed and is limited to 14 starters.

◗ $100,000 Express (race 4): The leadoff race in the series got a “mere” 10 entries and one of the more intriguing horses: My Place Anytime (post 6, Elvis Trujillo), who terrorized Monmouth all summer in ascending the class ladder for Yvon Belsoeur. It should be very interesting to see if he can continue that dominance in this six-furlong race when he faces the likes of Kentucky shippers Gibson (for Maker) and Tiban, who will have three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel aboard.