12/06/2014 5:38PM

Saffron Hall gives Maker, Ramseys record 14th Claiming Crown victory

Lauren King
Irad Ortiz Jr. guides Saffron Hall to victory in the Claiming Crown Emerald, giving trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey a record 14th win in the series.

Saffron Hall closed fastest of all for the richest victory of his career Saturday in the $125,000 Claiming Crown Emerald at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

One of four horses trained by Mike Maker in a full field of 14, Saffron Hall returned $13 under Irad Ortiz Jr. The victory allowed Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey to extend their records for most Claiming Crown wins in their respective categories, with both having won 14 races since the Claiming Crown was inaugurated in 1999.

Another Ramsey/Maker runner, Longhunter, held the lead into deep stretch of the Emerald before being passed by Rose Brier, who then was overtaken in the last 20 yards by Saffron Hall, who finished the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.19 over a firm turf.

Saffron Hall, a 7-year-old Ontario-bred gelding by Giant’s Causeway, was claimed for $25,000 in January 2013. He rallied from midpack for his 10th win from 19 career starts.

“He’s usually near the front, but there was a lot of other speed in there and I just told Irad to ride his race,” said Maker, who earlier Saturday won his 13th Claiming Crown race, the Tiara, with 13-1 shot St. Borealis, also owned by the Ramseys.

The wide-open nature of the Emerald was reflected on the tote board: seven of the 14 starters were between 9-2 and 6-1.

The Emerald was the second-to-last of eight races in the 16th annual Claiming Crown series. In some earlier races:

$110,000 Rapid Transit: A terrific year on the south Florida circuit for Jacks or Better Farm and trainer Stanley Gold got even better when Grande Shores ($11) outkicked Goodtimehadbyall in completing seven furlongs in 1:23.19 under Edgard Zayas.

Stallwalkin’ Dude finished third but was disqualified to fourth for stretch interference.

Grande Shores, a homebred 6-year-old horse by Black Mambo, now has run first or second in his last 10 starts while steadily ascending the class ladder. Jacks or Better, owned by Fred Brei, already has won multiple stakes this year with standout 2-year-olds Sing Praises and Leap Year Luck.

$110,000 Canterbury: Buster Rose ($16) and his eponymous jockey, Jeremy Rose, outdueled favored Mr. Online down the stretch after both angled very wide from off the pace to narrowly prevail among a field of 14 turf sprinters.

Trained by Steve Dunn over a synthetic surface at the HighPointe training center in Kentucky, Buster Rose finished the five-furlong distance in 55.96 seconds over firm going. A 6-year-old Indiana-bred gelding, Buster Rose is owned by his breeder, Michael Ball, and now has won five of his last six starts and 10 of 29 overall.

“As good as he moved over the Polytrack, I thought he might be even better on turf,” said Dunn. “He’s taken us on a wonderful ride.”

$108,900 Glass Slipper: Best Behavior ($7.80), stretching out to a mile for the first time in 19 career starts, surged ahead in the far turn after shaking off pressure down the backstretch and steadily drew away to an unchallenged 2 1/4-length score as second choice in a field of 13 fillies and mares.

Claimed in August for $62,500 by Miller Racing LLC and trainer Marty Wolfson, Best Behavior finished in 1:37.80 under Edgard Zayas. Don’tcallmecharley, a 15-1 shot, was up late to narrowly get second over Pebble Beach Baby.

$105,600 Express: Trainer Jorge Navarro opened the Claiming Crown by sweeping back-to-back races in almost identical style when Loverbil ($16.80) was up in the last jumps to defeat 15-1 shot Quiz Whiz in the six-furlong Express.

Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Loverbil finished in 1:10.07 for his eighth win in 31 career starts. A 5-year-old New Jersey-bred gelding, Lovebil is owned by White Wabbit Wacing LLC.

$110,000 Iron Horse: Francois, the 5-2 favorite, pulled away at the top of the stretch, only to be nailed in the final stride by J B’s Unc ($8.40) in the series opener.

With Paco Lopez riding for Navarro, J B’s Unc finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.66 for his 14th win from 33 career starts. Owned by High Point Thoroughbred Partners, the 6-year-old J B’s Unc was claimed for $5,000 in May 2013.