11/30/2016 2:06PM

Ramsey well-stocked for Claiming Crown

Barbara D. Livingston
Homespun Hero, claimed for $50,000 earlier this year, will run in Saturday's $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel for owner Ken Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Ken Ramsey has been the Claiming Crown’s biggest supporter over the past 10 years. And the well-known and gregarious owner-breeder will be putting both his horses and his money where his mouth is once again on Saturday when the Claiming Crown returns to Gulfstream Park for a fifth consecutive season as the focal point on opening day of the 2016-17 championship meeting.

Ramsey and his trainer Mike Maker have won a record 14 Claiming Crown races since 2007, although they were shut out here a year ago. The duo will have seven starters in the nine Claiming Crown events on Saturday, including Homespun Hero in the afternoon’s feature, the $200,000 Jewel.

“We support the event and set the bar high every year,” said Ramsey, who will be bringing a party of nine to Gulfstream Park to attend the races over opening weekend. “We come to have a good time, and it would be the icing on the cake if we could win a couple of those races. And I wouldn’t bet against us winning at least one of the Claiming Crown races on Saturday.”

Ramsey said planning for the Claiming Crown is an ongoing process, and that it’s not the lucrative purse money that spurs him on year after year.

“Winning the money is nice, but I’ll tell you like it is: With me, it’s an ego thing,” Ramsey admitted. “It’s a sense of accomplishment, a pride thing being the leading owner in the Claiming Crown – just like winning the Barbados Cup two years in succession or my 28th owners’ title at Churchill Downs last Sunday. In fact, we may have sacrificed one of our potential Claiming Crown horses for next year to do so when we dropped More Than Shirl in for $14,000 on Friday and lost her to win another race.”

Along with Homespun Hero, Ramsey and Maker’s other Claiming Crown participants on Saturday are Great Lou in the Express, Creaky Cricket and Partly Mocha in the Canterbury, Xaverian and Keystoneforvictory in the Emerald, and Littlemissperfect in the Tiara. Three of the seven – Xaverian, Great Lou, and Creaky Cricket – were haltered out of their previous start with the Claiming Crown in mind.

Ramsey took Homespun Hero for $50,000 near the end of the Saratoga meeting and won a conditioned claiming dash with him for the same price seven weeks later. He’s coming off a second-place effort against entry-level allowance company at Churchill Downs.

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“We claim horses that are eligible and we think fit for the Claiming Crown,” said Ramsey. “Sometimes we drop one of our own down to get them eligible, hoping they don’t get claimed by someone else. It’s the reason I got into this business. I have enjoyed the ride, the risk taking, the ups and downs, the challenge of making payroll each week. No matter whether the horses win or lose.”

The field for the 1 1/8-mile Jewel is topped by the New York-bred Royal Posse, who owns a three-race winning streak which includes an easy victory in the Empire Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 22. He’ll face Diamond Bachelor, who’ll switch back to dirt after winning a pair of turf stakes here earlier in the year. Other members of the Jewel lineup are the Maker-trained Bigger Picture, We’re All Set, Mr. Kisses, My Point Exactly, and Enders Cat.

Lezcano has new agent

Mike Sellito has taken over as agent for jockey Jose Lezcano beginning with the opening of the Gulfstream meet on Saturday. Sellito also has Junior Alvarado’s book in New York.

Lezcano, who has won 2,290 races in his career, was the 11th-leading rider during the 2015-16 championship meet with 35 victories from 216 mounts.

“I think Jose is a world-class rider and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be working with him here this winter,” said Sellito. “It may take a few weeks to get some momentum going, but I’m confident once we do, that we’re going to have a very successful meet.”

Curlin’s Approval works fast

Curlin’s Approval, fourth making her graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland on Oct. 22, sizzled four furlongs in 45.90 seconds at Gulfstream on Friday for trainer Marty Wolfson. Curlin’s Approval, a 3-year-old daughter of Curlin owned by Alter’s Racing Stable, won the Added Elegance Stakes here on Aug. 28 and could return in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl on Dec. 17.