07/12/2004 11:00PM

Lake has triple threat for Jewel


When entries are taken Wednesday for Saturday's Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park, participants are expected to include Rafael Bejarano and Steve Asmussen - who lead the nation in wins for a jockey and trainer, respectively - and Scott Lake, the leading trainer in Claiming Crown history.

The Claiming Crown, a group of six stakes restricted to horses that have raced for claiming prices of $5,000 to $25,000 in the past year, is also expected to have an imposing list of equine participants. A record 88 horses were pre-entered last week for the sixth annual event.

Large fields are anticipated for many of the six races, including the $150,000 Jewel, the richest race. In total, the Claiming Crown is worth $550,000.

"I don't know if we've had a group as contentious as this," said Nat Wess, the Claiming Crown's coordinator.

Lake, who has six Claiming Crown victories, said Tuesday that he would start seven horses in this year's races, including three in the 1 1/8-mile Jewel: Polish Times, winner of a $75,000 claiming race at Belmont on June 11; Rize, an earner of more than $681,000; and Spooky Mulder, a winner of more than $140,000 in 2004 alone.

Lake called his Jewel starters a "three-pronged attack." He envisions Spooky Mulder being on the pace, and Polish Times and Rize rallying from stalking positions.

Lake's Eastern-based trio is expected to face runners from across the country, including one - Musique Toujours - who is being shipped from California. He last won a $50,000 claiming race at Hollywood Park on May 22, earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure. Given seven weeks off, he is being brought in fresh.

"I wanted to make sure he didn't bounce," said his trainer, John Sadler.

The other Crown races are the $125,000 Emerald, $100,000 Rapid Transit, $75,000 Glass Slipper, $50,000 Express, and $50,000 Iron Horse. Saturday's pick six at Canterbury links all six of the stakes.

Wess anticipates a large handle for the Claiming Crown, spurred by more simulcast outlets, in the States and abroad. Australian bettors will be wagering on the Claiming Crown for the first time this year, Wess said.

Canterbury's 11-race card Saturday will also 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 Champ-ionship in Las Vegas in January.