The 2012-13 Gulfstream Park meeting gets under way on Saturday with seven stakes totaling $850,000 up for grabs as the Hallandale, Florida track hosts the 14th annual Claiming Crown.
The Claiming Crown, which was first run in 1999 at Canterbury Park, is restricted to horses that have run for a claiming price since January of last year.
Claiming races make up the vast majority of races in the U.S. and give horses that usually run for modest purses a chance to run for big money.
The event is seeking to make a big comeback after running at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans last year. There were just 37 horses entered in five races.
This year, the Claiming Crown drew 97 entrants in seven races and is being run in Florida for the first time in its history.
The races drew large and competitive fields, giving horseplayers plenty of opportunities to make a big score. Among the wagers available this year is a 10-cent Claiming Crown Pick 7 with a $100,000 guaranteed pool and a mandatory payout.
Gulfstream Park is getting its meet off with a bang that will continue to April, and a $10 million stakes schedule will assure the track will see many of the top horses, jockeys and trainers in the upcoming months.
Here are a few important race days not to be missed:
December 1: $850,000 Claiming Crown
January 1: Gulfstream Derby
January 19: $1.3 million Sunshine Millions
January 26: $400,000 Holly Bull and $200,000 Forward Gal
February 9: $500,000 Donn Handicap
February 23: $400,000 Fountain of Youth and $250,000 Davona Dale
March 30: $1 million Florida Derby
Saturday’s Claiming Crown races figure to produce a few surprises. Here are a couple of long shots to include in your exotic wagers.
GP Race 4: The Claiming Crown Express (2:09 p.m. ET)
Pot of Gold (10-1) had landed in the exacta in his first dozen starts this year, but failed to fire in his last race and ended up in a sixth-place finish against $10,000 starter-allowance foes at Philly. The winner and the fifth-place finisher came out of the race to win their next starts. The gelding had won his three previous starts including a game-neck win two back going seven furlongs against $8,000 starter-allowance foes that produced a career top-speed fig. He is in a sharp barn with Navarro; look for him to bounce back with a better effort here at a decent price.
GP Race 5: The Claiming Crown Iron Horse (2:27 p.m. ET)
Follow the Leader (10-1) is coming off a sharp win last out at Philly versus $8,000 starter-allowance foes, his fifth win in 10 starts this year with a trio of seconds. Two back, he beat $5,000 starter-allowance foes at Laurel Park with the runner-up and third-place finisher coming back to win next out at Charles Town. The gelding owns a solid pace profile throughout, and there is enough early zip in here to set things up for him.
GP Race 7: The Claiming Crown Glass Slipper (3:35 p.m. ET)
Come Sunday (10-1) came off a two-month break last out with a third-place finish against Alw-3 optional claimers at Philly. The runner-up in the race was Ms. Cruisin', who came back to win the Cornucopia in her next outing on Nov. 20 at Philly. The mare beat Alw-3 optional claimers two back and qualified for this race by being jammed in for $16,000 three back and winning with a good late rally. She has a couple of quick drills over the main track here since shipping in from the Jersey Shore, and her 10-1 morning line looks more than fair.
GP Race 8 The Claiming Crown Tiara (4:05 ET)
Sky Glow (20-1) stalked the early pace from the inside and weakened to finish fifth last out going seven furlongs on poly; she will be making her turf debut here. She has done her best work on the fake stuff, with her last win coming three back over the Tapeta surface beating starter optional claimers. The mare is likely going to have to move forward off that career top to beat this group, but I am leaning toward this gal liking the grass. She is out of a mare that won on grass and has dropped three turf winners, including multiple stakes winner Cosmonaut ($1.39 million) who won seven times on the lawn in his career, with four of those in Grade 3 company. The mare is in a capable barn and picks up Lopez.
The live long shots are included in my horse racing handicapping reports that include my selections, analysis, fair odds line and wagering recommendations.
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