07/26/2007 12:00AM

Series attracts pre-entries from 86


A total of 86 horses have been pre-entered in the ninth annual Claiming Crown, the seven-race, $600,000 series that will be run next Saturday, Aug. 4, at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky.

This will be the first time that Ellis Park has hosted the Claiming Crown, which since its 1999 inaugural had been run annually at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, with one exception, when the event was held in 2002 at Philadelphia Park. Pre-entries were taken Wednesday at Ellis for the Claiming Crown, which is expected to be one of the most notable events in the track's 85-year history.

Last year, 83 pre-entries were taken for the Claiming Crown, which essentially is run under starter-allowance conditions, meaning the races are restricted to horses that have been risked for a claiming tag within the last year.

"We are ecstatic with the way the Claiming Crown has been received here in Kentucky," Claiming Crown coordinator Nat Wess said. "We are all looking forward to a great day of racing."

The richest race in the series is the $150,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, a 1o1/8-mile dirt race with a $35,000 starter condition. The Jewel drew 10 pre-entries, the fewest of any of the races. Likely favorites for the Jewel include a pair of shippers from Southern California, Semi Lost and Soupy, both of whom are stabled at Del Mar with trainer Jeff Mullins.

Semi Lost is owned in partnership by Bob Bone, who won the 2005 Jewel with Desert Boom, while Soupy is owned by Richard Englander, who won the 2006 Jewel with Me My Mine.

The highest number of pre-entries for any Claiming Crown race this year is the $100,000 Emerald, which drew 15 (only 14 can start). The other five races drew from 11 to 13 pre-entries. They are the $50,000 Iron Horse, $50,000 Express, $75,000 Glass Slipper, $75,000 Rapid Transit, and $100,000 Tiara.

According to Wess, pre-entered horses have made their respective last starts at 21 different tracks, from Hollywood Park and Belmont Park to Great Lakes Downs and Fort Erie. Predictably, Kentucky is the most heavily represented state, with 22 horses having last raced at Ellis and another 18 having last raced at Churchill Downs.

Three pre-entered horses became eligible for the series only after their owners paid supplementary fees last Friday: Soupy for the Jewel, Mellowes for the Emerald, and Royal Medal for the Iron Horse.

All seven Claiming Crown races have corporate sponsors. Old National Bank, headquartered in Evansville, Ind., is the title sponsor of both the Jewel and the entire series.

The full rosters of pre-entered horses, along with other related information, is available at claimingcrown.com.