12/02/2015 12:52PM

As usual, Maker well-stocked for Claiming Crown

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Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Defending champion St. Borealis would prefer that Saturday's $125,000 Tiara remain on turf.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Mike Maker and his principal owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey have been the dominant force in the Claiming Crown for many years, combining to win 14 races in the series, and once again they are primed for a major assault on the event Saturday at Gulfstream Park. Maker entered 14 horses in the nine races on this year’s Claiming Crown program, most of them for the Ramseys. Among the Maker contenders are Lieutenant Seany O, owned by Three Diamonds Farm, in the $200,000 Jewel on dirt and the Ramsey-owned St. Borealis in defense of her title in the $125,000 Tiara on turf.

“We plan for this event every year,” said Maker shortly after his arrival in south Florida on Wednesday.

The weather forecast calls for thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday and a possibility of showers on Saturday, which could result in the scheduled turf races being switched to the main track.

St. Borealis rallied from far back to win the 2014 Tiara, decided at 1 1/16 miles on turf, by 1 3/4 lengths. She has captured two of eight starts this season, although she has not started since finishing third in a starter allowance race at Churchill Downs on Sept. 19. Her status would certainly be in question if the race were moved to the main track. She finished off the board in her only try on dirt, and all seven of her wins have come on grass or synthetic surfaces.

“I think she’s coming into the race as well as she did last year – a mile and one-sixteenth is her best distance – and I’ll be pretty confident in her chances if the race stays on the turf,” said Maker. “We actually claimed her for a broodmare, so to be able to pick up a stakes win with her last year in this race was of great importance to us.”

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Maker claimed Lieutenant Seany O for Three Diamonds Farm for $32,000 this summer at Saratoga. The 4-year-old Lieutenant Seany O did not take long to return dividends on the investment, capturing an entry-level allowance race at Belmont Park two starts later.

“He’s been getting better with every race since we’ve had him, and I think he has a big chance on Saturday,” said Maker. “We obviously took him with the Claiming Crown in mind. But he had plenty of conditions left, too, as well as starter eligibility, and we got lucky to already have won an allowance race with him at Belmont Park.”

Royal Posse, winner of the Evan Shipman for New York-breds this summer at Saratoga and more recently runner-up in the Empire Classic for New York-breds at Belmont, will likely be favored in the 1 1/8-mile Jewel. His trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, also entered Mr Palmer in the race. Other key contenders include Freestyler, Mal Guapo, and Indycott.

St. Borealis is one of three defending Claiming Crown champions who will be back Saturday, weather permitting, along with Grande Shores and Loverbil. Grande Shores won the seven-furlong Rapid Transit here a year ago, while Loverbil captured the six-furlong Express.

Grande Shores, a model of consistency for the past two seasons, squeezed out a nose decision over Old Times Sake under starter-allowance conditions at Gulfstream Park West on Oct. 14. The win was his second in eight starts this year. Grande Shores held off Goodtimehadbyall by a neck in the 2014 Rapid Transit. Defending his title will not come easily in a strong field led by Trouble Kid.

“People were expecting him to blow them away in his last start, but you’ll never see him blow anyone away,” said Stanley Gold, trainer of Grande Shores. “All his wins are nail-biters. I think he needed the race and he seems to be doing just as well coming into the race this year as last. I like the whole idea of the Claiming Crown, especially being able to run over our home track, and it’s really been nice that he’s been able to stay in good form for a year and is able to come back to defend his title. It sounds from the forecast like it could be a mess out there Saturday. But as long as the track’s not a concrete road where speed keeps carrying, we should be fine.”

Loverbil rallied to a neck victory over Quiz Whiz in the 2014 Express. Trained by Jorge Navarro for owner Richard Ravin, Loverbil opened his 2015 campaign winning five of his first seven starts but has been off the board in his last two outings and has not raced since finishing fifth in the New Jersey Breeders’ Handicap at Monmouth Park on Sept. 12.