07/14/2004 11:00PM

Lake has strong threesome in Jewel

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. - They call them downtrodden claimers. They call them overshadowed and forgotten. They call them blue-collar workers, horses who put on the show day after day at racetracks across America while earning little more than hay and oats.

"They" are wrong - at least for one day in one place.

Saturday at Canterbury Park, claiming horses will take the national racing spotlight in the Claiming Crown, a $550,000 series that endeavors to reward and recognize the lesser lights of Thoroughbred racing.

The anchor of the six-race program is the $150,000 , a 1 1/8-mile race in which Scott Lake has three of the 11 entrants: Polish Times, Rize, and Spooky Mulder. All three have shown highly effective speed in recent starts, a fact that may seem to undermine their collective chances, but Lake says he sees the situation quite differently.

"Spooky Mulder is the only one that really should be in front at this distance," said Lake, easily the leading trainer in the five-year history of the Claiming Crown. "Polish Times has shown me he's willing to take back and do whatever needs to be done, and Rize is the same way. They're all fast, but they have different styles, too."

Of the three Lake horses, all of whom will race as separate wagering interests, Polish Times is most likely to be favored. A 7-year-old gelding owned by his trainer, Polish Times posted Beyer Speed Figures of 101 and 100 in winning his last two starts against high-priced claimers at Belmont Park.

The main challenger to the Lake trio is probably Musique Toujours, a California-bred who earned a 104 Beyer in his last start in May at Hollywood Park. Musique Toujours, trained by John Sadler, will try to give California its fourth straight victory in the Jewel, following Sing Because (2001), Truly a Judge (2002), and Daunting (2003).

Other contenders in the Jewel include Bada Bam Bada Boom, a winner of two allowance races this year, and Irish Colony, a late-running Maryland invader trained by veteran Ron Cartwright. The rest of the field is Heir D'Twine, Torch the Halls, My Kind of Town, Ghoastly Prize, and Intelligent Male.

As the sixth and final race in the Claiming Crown series, and ninth of 11 overall races Saturday at Canterbury, the Jewel is the last leg of a pick six and a pick four wager. Both bets are available for $1 minimums. Post time for the Jewel is 5:48 p.m. First post is 1:30.

The race conditions of the Jewel, and the other five Claiming Crown events, essentially are "starter" conditions, wherein eligibility is determined from among horses who have started for a specific claiming price within a certain time frame. In the case of the Jewel, horses must have started for $25,000 or lower since July 15, 2003.

The other races in the program are the $125,000 Emerald, $100,000 Rapid Transit, $75,000 Glass Slipper, $50,000 Express, and $50,000 Iron Horse.

Since its 1999 inception, the Claiming Crown has been run every year at Canterbury except 2002, when it was run at Philadelphia Park. The series will be run here again next year, but there has been no determination whether it will return or go elsewhere in 2006.

The weather forecast for Saturday calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 79.

The entire Canterbury card will be used for the Claiming Crown Day Handicapping Contest, a free online contest in which players compete to earn three berths in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas in January. More details are available at ntra.com.

Claiming Crown races

Race No.Race NamePurseClaiming LevelDistancePost Time
4Iron Horse$50,000$5,0001 1/16 miles3:09
5Express50,0007,5006 furlongs3:41
6Glass Slipper*75,00012,5006 1/2 furlongs4:13
7Rapid Transit100,00016,0006 1/2 furlongs4:45
8Emerald125,00020,000 1 1/16 miles (T)5:16
9Jewel150,00025,0001 1/8 miles5:48

Post times are Central *Restricted to fillies and mares
$1 Pick 6: races 4-9 $1 Pick 4: races 6-9