07/13/2003 11:00PM

Respect this local in Crown

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While favorites in the Claiming Crown invariably are shippers from regions other than where the event is held, the series occasionally attracts local horses who rate decent chances as longshots.

That appears to be the case again this year for the fifth annual Claiming Crown, the $550,000, six-race series to be run Saturday at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn. One of the locals, a 4-year-old gelding named Misty Wager, will face more heralded rivals in the fourth - and quite possibly the deepest - race of the series, the $100,000 Rapid Transit, a six-furlong contest in which graded-stakes winners Pioneer Boy and Debonair Joe figure as the top choices.

Misty Wager was claimed from three straight races last winter in south Florida, with octogenarian owner-trainer Harold Rose ultimately keeping him. After racing and winning once with Rose listed as trainer, the gelding was shipped north in the care of trainer Judy Seltrecht, who will saddle him Saturday.

"Wouldn't it be nice if I could win a Claiming Crown race for Mr. Rose?" asked Seltrecht.

Rose has a long-standing business relationship with Seltrecht, who is stabled at Canterbury for the first time after some two decades of remaining year-round in the Tampa area. Having sold her horse-rehab business several years ago, her stable was doing so well at Tampa this year, said Seltrecht, "We thought, 'This is a real shame if we just turned them out.' "

Misty Wager is one of the record 88 horses pre-entered last week for the Claiming Crown. Besides the Rapid Transit, the races are the $150,000 Jewel, $125,000 Emerald, $75,000 Glass Slipper, $50,000 Express, and $50,000 Iron Horse.

Meanwhile, as horses have begun to arrive at Canterbury, entries for all six Claiming Crown races were to be drawn Wednesday at a press breakfast at the track.

The Claiming Crown races essentially are starter-allowances that allow claiming-level horses a rare opportunity to compete for stakes-level purses. The first three Claiming Crowns (1999-2001) were run at Canterbury, and the 2002 series was held at Philadelphia Park.

Television Games Network will have a crew broadcasting live Saturday from Canterbury and will feature the Claiming Crown races throughout the day.

The 11-race card also is the focus of a free online handicapping contest that will yield four berths in January's National Handicapping Finals.