Updated on 09/17/2011 9:50PM

High-quality Jewel

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Benoit & Associates
Habaneros, a graded stakes winner, is among six entrants expected for the Claiming Crown's richest race.

Prospects for the seventh annual Claiming Crown have begun converging this week from all across North America to compete Saturday in the seven-race, $650,000 series at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn.

Claiming Crown coordinator Nat Wess said Tuesday that flights transporting horses from California and New York were scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, respectively, and that horses from Kentucky, Chicago, and elsewhere "are coming in one, two, and three at a time."

The richest race in the series, the $150,000 , drew 11 pre-entries, but Wess said as few as six horses were expected to pass the entry box when all seven races were drawn Wednesday at a media breakfast at the track.

"We have three graded winners in the Jewel," said Wess, referring to Lord of the Game, Desert Boom, and Habaneros, "and another horse who has won his last six starts," Morine's Victory. "It's the most quality in any Claiming Crown race we've ever had by far - sadly for some people, and not so sadly for some others. Obviously these good horses have scared some of the others away."

The Claiming Crown races are run under starter-allowance conditions, with eligibility open to horses that have started for claiming prices ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 within the last year. Besides the Jewel, the other races are the $125,000 Emerald, $100,000 Tiara, $100,000 Rapid Transit, $75,000 Glass Slipper, $50,000 Express, and $50,000 Iron Horse. Each race is limited to 14 starters.

The Claiming Crown normally has been made up of six races, but the Tiara, a $100,000 grass route for fillies and mares, is being held for the second time this year, having been part of the 2000 series.

The Claiming Crown is one of the most popular events of the year for handicappers trying to earn a spot in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at Bally's in Las Vegas in January. An online handicapping contest will be held on Saturday's entire 11-race card at Canterbury, with expense-paid berths in the championship going to the top three finishers. For more information, go to ntra.com.

Live television coverage of the Claiming Crown will be provided for the first time by HRTV. First post Saturday is 1:30 p.m. Central. The long-range weather forecast for Saturday in the Minneapolis area calls for mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of 90.

First run in 1999, the Claiming Crown has been an annual event at Canterbury except for 2002, when it was run at Philadelphia Park.