12/04/2014 2:15PM

As usual, Maker dangerous in Claiming Crown Jewel

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Barbara D. Livingston
Cerro comes into the Claining Crown Jewel following three straight wins at Laurel.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Mike Maker has won more Claiming Crown races, 12, than any other trainer in series history. So, it’s no surprise that Maker will send out two of the 14 starters in the $200,000 Jewel, the richest of eight Claiming Crown races Saturday, opening day of the 2014-15 Gulfstream Park season.

The Claiming Crown, which began in 1999, has become a fixture on opening day at Gulfstream, a tradition that started three years ago. Maker and his principal owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, dominated the inaugural Claiming Crown at Gulfstream, combining to win four of the eight races on the card.

“It’s a great event to showcase your good claims throughout the years and one of the factors we consider among the pros and cons we look at whenever claiming a horse,” said Maker.

Maker will send out Eriugena for the Ramseys in the nine-furlong Jewel, along with Bill of Rights, who was recently claimed for $16,000 by Skychal Racing LLC.

:: CLAIMING CROWN: Get PPs, watch Saturday's Gulfstream Park card live

“When we initially claimed Eriugena, he was racing on the turf, but we decided to put him on the dirt on Louisiana Derby Day and haven’t looked back since,” said Maker.

Eriugena, who competed in a couple of graded stakes this year, is coming off a second-place effort in a third-level optional $80,000 claimer at Keeneland.

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers on Saturday

Bill of Rights was haltered for $16,000 out of a winning effort at Keeneland on Oct. 16 and returned five weeks later to finish second, beaten a head, following a race-long pace duel under a $25,000 claiming tag at Churchill Downs.

“Bill of Rights is a horse we’ve had a couple of other times,” said Maker. “But we were never able to keep him around long enough to really get to know him that well. When he dropped back in for $16,000, we decided to take him again and give him a shot in this race.”

The Jewel, as did five of the other seven Claiming Crown races, drew a full field of 14. And with the short run to the first turn in races decided at
1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park, post position could play a major factor in the outcome. Maker was happy with his draw, post 5 for Eriugena and 9 for Bill of Rights. Among the major contenders who did not fare as well at the draw were Viramundo (10), Cease (11), and Page McKenney (12).

Cerro and Dawly figure to be major factors after breaking from posts 1 and 2. Cerro brings a three-race win streak into the Jewel, while Dawly, haltered for $80,000 on Oct. 11, is coming off a third-place finish in the Mountaineer Mile.

Claiming Crown Jewel, race 10

KEY CONTENDERS

Cerro (Last 3 Beyers: 94-90-90)

Has never been better and figures to set the pace from the rail. He has proven his mettle at the distance, having won two of three starts at 1 1/8 miles.

Dawly (Last 3 Beyers: 97-97-99)

He just fits under the starter-allowance conditions of the Jewel, having raced under a $35,000 claiming price back in January 2013. Although off the board in both previous starts at 1 1/8 miles, he did earn a 98 Beyer in finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Excelsior.

Eriugena (Last 3 Beyers: 92-90-85)

He won a high-priced conditioned claimer going nine furlongs by nearly five lengths this past spring at Churchill Downs with a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

He’s So Fine (Last 3 Beyers: 87-99-98)

Much improved from a Beyer standpoint since joining the Ramon Preciado stable but unproven at nine furlongs.

Viramundo (Last 3 Beyers: 95-96-100)

Grade 1-placed this year in the Donn, he was in peak form when stopped on last winter but might need one off the bench while having to overcome a very difficult post.

Cease (Last 3 Beyers: 93-101-75)

He appeared to have tailed off at age 7 until joining Jason Servis’s barn via the claim during the summer, but he also drew a poor post.

 Page McKenney(Last 3 Beyers: 98-100-93)

A model of consistency who owns the top recent Beyers of the bunch; would likely be favored if breaking inside, but like several others, he faces a Herculean task working out a trip from the outside post.