$1 Million Claiming Crown Highlights Opening Day at Gulfstream Park
Eight Stakes Set to Kick off Championship Meet Saturday Ribo Bobo Among 110 Entered for 16th Annual Event
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ Gulfstream Park will celebrate its 76th anniversary meeting Saturday while playing host to the $1 million Claiming Crown, an annual eight-stakes tribute to Thoroughbred racingâ€™s most enduring performer, the claiming horse.
A total of 110 past and present claimers was entered in the 16th edition of the Claiming Crown that will grace a 10-race program that drew 142 entries overall, providing Opening Day bettors with a menu of full, competitive fields.
First-race post time is 12:35 p.m.
Ribo Bobo, one of the most enduring and popular campaigners to race at Gulfstream Park in recent years, was entered for a defense of his title in the $110,000 Express, a six-furlong sprint for horses that started for a claiming price of $7500 or less since Jan. 1, 2013.
The Jason Servis-trained 6-year-old gelding, who also won the Caixa Eletronica and Sunshine Millions Sprint during the 2013-2014 Championship Meet at Gulfstream Park, last raced in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Sept. 27, finishing seventh and snapping a streak of 17 in-the-money finishes that included 13 victories.
â€œHe pulled a gluteal muscle in that race and he was pretty sore in behind,â€ Servis said. â€œIt took him a while to get over it, but heâ€™s doing great.â€
Owned by Ron Lombardiâ€™s Mr. Amore Stable, Ribo Bobo was a front-running 2 Â½-length winner of last yearâ€™s Express.
â€œI donâ€™t want to jinx myself, but heâ€™s doing good,â€ Servis said. â€œWeâ€™ve been pointing toward this. When he ran in the Vosburgh, weâ€™ve always had it earmarked. If youâ€™d have asked me a month ago, Iâ€™d have said I donâ€™t know if weâ€™re going to make it. But he got good and sound in behind, and heâ€™s been breezing good and training great.â€
Claimed for $8,000 by Servis out of a 5 Â½-furlong win at Gulfstream on Jan. 9, 2013, Ribo Bobo has won 12 of 17 starts with two seconds, two thirds and $527,977 in purses for Servis and Lombardi.
â€œIâ€™m careful where I spot him and make sure he has plenty of time. If Iâ€™m not happy with the horse, Ron doesnâ€™t press me,â€ Servis said. â€œWe just donâ€™t run every time thereâ€™s a race. We just make sure heâ€™s doing good, and usually they run good when theyâ€™re doing good.â€
Paco Lopez has been named to ride Ribo Bobo, who is scheduled to meet nine rivals in the Express.
The featured $200,000 Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for horses that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2013, attracted a field of 14, including a pair of horses entered by the Claiming Crownâ€™s all-time leading trainer, Mike Maker. In search of his 13th victory in the event, Maker is slated to saddle Bill of Rights and Eriugena. The latter is owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the all-time leading Claiming Crown owners with 12 visits to the winnerâ€™s circle, including two last year and four in 2012, during the first two years the event has been held at Gulfstream Park. Eriugena is coming off a victory and a fast-finishing second in optional claiming allowance races at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, respectively.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who saddled Nevada Kid for a Jewel victory last year, also entered two Wednesday â€“ Saratoga allowance winner Catholic Cowboy and Sinorice.
Cease, a multiple-stakes winner claimed by Servis two starts back; Cerro, who is riding a three-race winning streak at Laurel; Page McKenney, a multiple-stakes winner in the Mid-Atlantic; and Dawly, who finished third in the Mountaineer Mile after being claimed for $80,000; are among Jewel entrants.
The Claiming Crown has undergone two major changes for the 2014 edition. The Iron Lady, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares, has been replaced by the Canterbury, a five-furlong dash for horses that have started for a claiming price of $25,000. The $110,000 Glass Slipper has been extended from seven furlongs to a one-turn mile from fillies and mares that have started for a claiming price of $12,500 (previously $16,000).
The $110,000 Canterbury proved popular for its inaugural running, attracting 16 entries (including two also-eligibles). The $110,000 Glass Slipper received 14 entries, including popular local campaigner Courtney Ryan, who currently leads all females in the country this year with 10 victories.
The $125,000 Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for horses that started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2013, attracted 16 entries (including two also-eligibles), three of which â€“ Saylerâ€™s Creek, Longhunter and Saffron Hall â€“ are owned by the Ramseys and trained by Maker.
The $125,000 Tiara, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares that started for $25,000 or less, received 15 entries (including one main-track-only entry), including four Maker-trained distaff runners, two owned by the Ramseys.
The $110,000 Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong sprint for horses that started for a claiming price of $16,000 since Jan. 1, 2013, drew 15 entries (one also-eligible), including defending champion Goodtimehadbyall, a 6-year-old Jorge Navarro-trained gelding who won by four lengths last year.
The $110,000 Iron Horse, a 1 1/16-mile race for horses that started for a claiming price of $7500 or less, will kick off the Claiming Crown as the third race of the Opening Day program.
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