07/21/2003 12:00AM

Pioneer Boy outdoes Debonair Joe


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - They are ex-claimers, but the two graded stakes winners in the fifth annual Claiming Crown proved they were in a different class Saturday at Canterbury Park.

Pioneer Boy won the deepest race in the six-race Claiming Crown series, the Rapid Transit, by putting his superior speed to maximum use and finishing 2 1/2 lengths clear of the other graded winner, Debonair Joe.

"This horse ran really hard," jockey Rick Wilson said after Pioneer Boy finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.47 over a fast track. Pioneer Boy returned $6.80.

Although just the third-richest race in the Claiming Crown, the $96,000 Rapid Transit drew easily the most accomplished field. Pioneer Boy, winner of the Grade 3 Maryland Breeders' Cup in May, was the third choice behind Debonair Joe (8-5), winner of the Grade 1 Malibu last December, and the speedy Bensalem (2-1).

A 5-year-old Texas-bred gelding by Pioneering, Pioneer Boy is trained in Maryland by Jerry Robb and owned by Michael Gill, the leading owner in wins this year in North America. Pioneer Boy is the first winner in the Claiming Crown for Gill, who had had only two previous starters in the series but three this year.

Before an ontrack crowd of 10,420, Bensalem went to the lead near the rail, tracked closely by Pioneer Boy. Into the stretch, Pioneer Boy pulled away to a lead that proved insurmountable for Debonair Joe, who rallied from midpack under Julie Krone to finish another 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Bensalem in a field of 10.

The Claiming Crown is designed to honor blue-collar claiming horses. All races are governed by starter-allowance conditions.

Jewel: Daunting takes day's finale

Daunting, in from California for trainer Jeff Mullins, rolled to a 3 1/4-length triumph in the $141,000 Jewel, the richest and last race in the series. The victory on Daunting gave Krone two wins on the day.

Freeze Alert rallied to finished second, another 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Patton's Victory, who raced alongside Daunting most of the way before tiring in the final furlong. Daunting returned $4.80 as the favorite in a field of eight. The final time for 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.17.

Daunting, a 5-year-old gelding by Sea Hero, had finished first in four of his last five starts, although he recently was disqualified from one of those wins for a medication positive. He now has won 7 of 22 career starts and earned more than $250,000.

Emerald: Image sweeps to victory

Image ($6.40), ridden by Krone, benefited from a rapid pace in the only grass race of the series, the $118,250 Emerald, when he swept past a pack of front-runners and held off W W Robin de Hood by three-quarters of a length. Mega Gift, the 3-2 favorite, finished third.

"Any time a horse takes you to the lead like Image did, it makes my job easier," said Krone, who recently returned from a four-month layoff following a back injury.

Image, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Steve Asmussen, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.12 over a firm turf.

Glass Slipper: Mum's Gold over Margarita's Garden

Veteran jockey Nick Santagata looked skyward after his win aboard Mum's Gold ($14.80) in the $71,500 Glass Slipper, the only race in the series for fillies and mares.

"Unbelievable!" Santagata shouted to no one in particular.

Unbeatable, anyway. In all five starts since trainer Chris Landicini Jr. claimed her in March, Mum's Gold has been a winner, capped by her 1 1/2-length Glass Slipper win over Margarita's Garden, the 8-5 favorite. Seventh of nine early, Mum's Gold rallied with a flourish along the rail to finish 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.82.

Mum's Gold, a 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred, is owned by Sweet Heart Stable, a group of Philadelphia-area women.

Express: Landler upsets by a nose

Landler ($11.40) rallied for a nose victory over heavily favored Pelican Beach in the $48,000 Express. Afterward, rival trainers Dale Capuano and Scott Lake greeted each other with smiles and shaking heads.

"Maybe his horse waits when he gets ahead, I don't know," said Capuano, trainer of Landler. "I know my horse does that. But one thing is, he doesn't stop trying."

With a sixteenth-mile to run in the six-furlong Express, Pelican Beach, the 3-5 favorite for Lake, seemingly had put away Landler and had drawn off to a three-length lead. But as Pelican Beach began to shorten stride, Landler cut sharply into his lead and proved best under Ryan Fogelsonger. The final time was 1:09.65.

Iron Horse: Ghoastly Prize best

The series began with Ghoastly Prize ($9) overcoming a stumble at the start to capture the $49,000 Iron Horse by 1 1/2 lengths over Entrepreneurship. Ghoastly Prize, a 5-year-old gelding, is based at Canterbury with trainer Joseph Cheeks.

Ghoastly Prize finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.99. The Iron Horse was his third win in a row and eighth of 35 overall.

* The Jewel ended a pick six that originally was guaranteed at $50,000 but was increased to $200,000 following several days of carryovers. A perfect $1 ticket on the pick six returned $15,083.90, with 5 of 6 winners paying $118.50. The winning numbers were 2-7-4-10-1-5, and only Daunting was favored. The pick-six handle was $233,389.