Maker well stocked for Claiming Crown
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 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 Yorkbreds this summer at Saratoga and more recently runnerup 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.
Aqueduct: Garland of Roses
Princess Violet, a Grade 1 winner earlier in the year, will return from a six-month layoff in Saturday’s $100,000 Garland of Roses Stakes, the final stakes to be run over Aqueduct’s main track in 2015.
Princess Violet, one of seven entered in the six-furlong event, is back with trainer Mike Hushion after making her last three starts with trainer Linda Rice. Hushion battled leukemia earlier in the year but has been back training on a full-time basis since Saratoga.
Princess Violet, a 4-year-old New York-bred daughter of Officer, won the Grade 1 Madison at Keeneland in April, a couple of weeks after being transferred by owner Barry Schwartz to Rice. She defeated, among others, Stopchargingmaria, who came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
Following the Madison, Princess Violet finished second to Wedding Toast in the Grade 2 Ruffian and then fifth to Wedding Toast in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in June.
She emerged from that race with an ankle injury and was sent to the farm before being reunited with Hushion, who said it wasn’t easy trying to find a race for Princess Violet.
“I kind of had to hurry up to get to this race,” Hushion said.
Princess Violet shows five works leading up to the Garland of Roses, including a half-mile move in 47.44 seconds Nov. 23, the fastest of 26 at the distance that day.
Princess Violet will be ridden by Junior Alvarado. The others entered were Classic Point, La Madrina, Medaglia d’argento, Nuffsaid Nuffsaid, Room for Me, and Jubilant Vision, a recent $40,000 claim by Naipaul Chatterpaul, who supplemented her to this race.
Los Alamitos: Soviet Problem
Her performance in Saturday’s $100,000 Soviet Problem Stakes at a mile at Los Alamitos could define Lucky to Win’s winter campaign.
Lucky to Win won her second start, which came in a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Nov. 20. The Soviet Prob- lem Stakes, restricted to California-bred 2-year-olds, will be Lucky to Win’s first start around two turns. The filly is by Lucky J.H. and owned by breeder John Harris.
“I think she can handle it,” trainer Sean Mccarthy said of the distance. “Off her two races, I’m confident she can get the mile. This will give us an idea if two turns will be her style. It will help answer some questions for 2016.”
Mario Gutierrez is booked to ride Lucky to Win, who finished fourth in her debut at Santa Anita in October.
Lucky to Win is part of a projected field of eight in the Soviet Problem. The race is led by Patriotic Diamond, who won the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar in August and an allowance race for Californiabred 2-year-old fillies there on Nov. 26. There is one other stakes winner in the field in Just Google Me, who won the Barretts Debutante Stakes at Los Alamitos in September, and was ninth in the Golden State Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar on Oct. 29.
St. Borealis, with Rafael Hernandez up, wins last year’s Claiming Crown Tiara at Gulfstream.
Princess Violet, winner of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Madison, returns in Saturday’s Garland of Roses.