07/30/2008 11:00PM

On your mark, get set, play the undercard


SHAKOPEE, Minn. - The Claiming Crown may not deserve an apples-to-apples comparison to the Breeders' Cup, for obvious reasons, but in at least one respect there is striking similarity: the races come at you in rapid-fire succession.

At 2:35 p.m. Central, the Claiming Crown procession will begin in earnest. The first of seven straight Claiming Crown races, the $50,000 Iron Horse, will kick off more than three hours of frantic action, with the anchor event, the $150,000 Jewel, culminating the series as the day's ninth race at 5:43 p.m.

Working backward, here is a rundown of the supporting events leading to the Jewel:

* $100,000 Claiming Crown Emerald (race 8): With four victories from six starts this year, including a score in the Tejano Run Stakes at Turfway Park, Self Made Man clearly appears to be the horse to beat in the Emerald, which goes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

"You hate to say it, but this looks like it might be one of the easier races he's been in this year," said Mike Maker, who trains the Ken Ramsey homebred. "He's been very consistent."

Self Made Man, one of several live mounts for Miguel Mena, will break from post 3 in a field of nine. Other contenders include Gallo Del Bar, who will have the New York-based Channing Hill aboard, and Por Favor, who has Kentucky-based Corey Lanerie named.

* $75,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit (race 7): As possibly the deepest race in the series, the six-furlong Rapid Transit is precisely the type of bettors' delight that Claiming Crown officials are always seeking. A world of speed is entered among the field of 13, with veterans such as Eagle Storm, John Hennessy, and Fearless Anthony liable to set things up for any number of pace stalkers or closers.

Two horses drawn to the inside, Tempo Five and Forest Attack, both come out of tough allowance races and look like logical favorites, while Ruby's Red Socks, who earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure two starts back, also looks very dangerous from the outside post.

* $100,000 Claiming Crown Tiara (race 6): As the Tiara winner in 2005, Inhonorofjohnnie will seek to become just the second horse to win a Claiming Crown race a second time, following only Al's Dearly Bred, winner of the Emerald in 2001 and 2006. Off a terrific series of races, it certainly isn't out of the question for Inhonorofjohnnie to pull off that rare feat. She will break from post 2 in a field of seven fillies and mares in the Tiara, a 1 1/16-mile turf race.

Allnightdance, invading from Monmouth Park for trainer Derek Ryan, and Simply Run, in from Southern California for John Sadler, also look like major threats.

* $50,000 Claiming Crown Express (race 5): Like the Rapid Transit later on the card, there's a ton of gas in the Express. Chickster, the winningest horse in North America this year with a 9-for-11 record, is one of a handful of early goers in this six-furlong race.

Chickster, with veteran Dean Butler to ride, is favorably drawn in post 11. He is one of seven Claiming Crown starters from the ever-growing stable of 27-year-old Justin Evans, who is contending for the training title at Canterbury.

If Chickster and the others are victimized by a wicked pace, the Express could fall any number of ways, with Fireonthewire and Laudable the most likely candidates to prevail.

* $75,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper (race 4): With just five fillies and mares entered, the Glass Slipper is clearly the least attractive betting event in the series. Morghyn, representing the far-flung Maggi Moss stable, figures to be favored over Chippewa Court and Quick Sale in the six-furlong race.

Adore You figures as the longest shot in the field, but that wasn't a problem last year in the Glass Slipper at Ellis Park, where she returned a Claiming Crown record $100.60 under Paul Nolan, who has the mount again Saturday.

* $50,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse (race 3): The traditional series opener drew the kind of field to justify the race name, with hickory steeds such as Antrim County, E'Carte', Mynavigator, and Biblical Scholar taking part.

Antrim County, based at Churchill Downs with trainer Jay Wilkinson, races for a Louisville orphanage known as Boys Haven. A 5-year-old gelding by Giant's Causeway, Antrim County appears to rate as good a shot as any in the 1 1/16-mile Iron Horse.