08/02/2007 12:00AM

Lots to choose from on Claiming Crown undercard


HENDERSON, Ky. - Everyday racing fans frequently say they prefer large fields of horses, regardless of their value, as opposed to short fields of big-name stakes horses. Those fans will get their wish, and then some, during the seven-race Claiming Crown series Saturday at Ellis Park, especially when field size maxes out with the $100,000 Emerald.

Fourteen horses, the most in Ellis history, will traverse the turf course in the Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile race that lacks a clear-cut favorite. General Charley, trained by Mike Stidham, enters off a minor stakes win at Canterbury Park and is ideally drawn in post 2, sufficient reasons for him to have been installed as a lukewarm choice on the Ellis morning line. But there are plenty of attractive alternatives, including a fellow Arlington Park shipper, Great Bloom, a veteran campaigner who brings solid recent form into this race.

Other plausible challengers include Self Made Man, winner of a Churchill Downs turf allowance two starts back, and Zappa, a Southern California shipper who must overcome the No. 14 post.

The Emerald is the penultimate Claiming Crown event, and the ninth of 12 races on the Saturday card.

* $75,000 Rapid Transit (race 8): If the Claiming Crown were being run in Minnesota, as was the case in seven of the last eight years, Lookinforthesecret surely would be a sentimental choice among the ontrack crowd. Since Canterbury Park-based Jamie Ness claimed the 5-year-old horse for $12,500 on behalf of owner Balkrisna Sukharan, Lookinforthesecret has been a terror, posting 6 wins and 2 seconds from 8 starts while consistently earning Beyer Speed Figures in the 90s.

Lookinforthesecret figures as a slight favorite in a field of 10 in the six-furlong race. Other main players include Korbyn Gold, Neverbeendancin', and Tocqueville.

* $100,000 Tiara (race 7): The female counterpart to the Emerald, the Tiara also goes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf - and it also lacks a standout among the 10 fillies and mares entered.

Unplugged, in from Delaware Park, and Heathersdaddysbaby, in from Charles Town, look like effective challengers to several horses who have been showing solid recent form in Kentucky. Those locally based charges include Scotland Place, an easy recent winner over the Ellis turf, and Westward Miss, a two-back winner for a $40,000 tag on the Churchill Downs turf.

One interesting longshot could be Halfkarat, who awoke in her last start at Arlington Park when prevailing for trainer Andy Hansen, the former longtime assistant to the late Gene Cilio.

* $75,000 Glass Slipper (race 6): Trainer Tom Amoss would seem to have his bases covered with the uncoupled duo of Mama's Temper, the slight morning-line choice, and Sumneytown, one of the secondary picks. Both 4-year-old fillies were winners at the Churchill spring meet, and both have effective speed and closing punch to loom as threats from flagfall to finish.

Other considerations among the field of 11 in this six-furlong race include Chicago shipper Sole of the City, who earned an 87 Beyer in a recent allowance win at Arlington, and Showmethegreatone, a decent longshot play off several solid efforts.

* $50,000 Express (race 5): The six-furlong Express figures as the domain of the heaviest favorite of the series: Golden Hare, who drew post 1 in a field of nine. Claimed nearly a year ago by Scott Blasi, the longtime assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, Golden Hare has won 11 of his last 12 starts while racing exclusively in starter-allowance company.

Corey Lanerie, one of a handful of jockeys in from Chicago to participate in the Claiming Crown, has the call on Golden Hare.

* $50,000 Iron Horse (race 4): The series starts at 2:04 p.m. Central with one of the more aptly named races: the Iron Horse, for horses that have started for a claiming price of $7,500 or less within the last year.

Kenai River, a winner in four of five starts since being claimed by trainer John Fahey III, brings the best recent form into the one-mile Iron Horse.

"He's really come to hand since I turned him back to a sprint at Churchill," said Fahey. "We're shipping into Ellis with a lot of optimism."