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Claiming Crowns can be realistic goals for horse owners

I have written for years my belief that shrinking field sizes in American racing is not a horse shortage. It is an owner shortage.

If the horse racing industry succeeded in attracting new blood willing to invest in owning horses, the breeding industry will adjust too. It’s as simple as supply and demand.

There are good owner programs enticing new people into the sport. But there are steep obstacles, mainly the high cost of doing business.

After a horse is bought, the trainer day rate can easily be $100 to $150. To come close to breaking even one must earn around $40,000 in a year. That amount drops on a smaller circuit.

It’s the old axiom that a cheap claimer eats as much as a champion. I wish the industry could find a way to control owner costs. Short term, it would be an easier, more productive, fix than to keep raising takeout in order to increase purses.

Cot Campbell, the patriarch of Dogwood Stable, had it right when he told new, potential horse owners that the business is not for the faint of heart. That the chances of losing money are very good.

So when I watched the Breeders’ Cup races at Keeneland, I felt the most joy for the owners. It is the ultimate thrill for all of the money they put into the game.

A vast majority of owners will never get a sniff of a Breeders’ Cup horse. For every American Pharoah, there are a lot more that can’t outrun you and me.

A far more realistic goal for most is the Claiming Crown.

The Claiming Crown is on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. There are $1.1-million in purses available in nine stakes. They are the Tiara, Iron Horse, Distaff Dash, Rapid Transit, Glass Slipper, Canterbury, Express, Emerald and Jewel.

The Claiming Crown is a brilliant idea born basically as a blue collar Breeders’ Cup. The premise is in each race condition the starters were bought for a maximum claiming price within a certain time period.

Canterbury Park hosted the first Claiming Crown in 1999. The Shakopee, Minn. track has been stalwart in keeping the series alive to where it is now run at Gulfstream Park.

I’ll look at one race, the $200,000 Jewel, and break it down so you will see how the Claiming Crown works.

The Jewel is for 3-year-olds and up that were claimed for $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2014. It drew 14 horses and is as tough a race as you will handicap all year.

One of the choices figures to be Market Blaster. Trainer Edward Coletti claimed him for $14,000 at Parx on May 11, 2014 on behalf of owner David Kornhauser. The gelding has earned more than $175,000 in purses since. Two more to keep as eye on are Indycott and Royal Posse.

Trainer Danny Gargan claimed Indycott for $50,000 on behalf of the Midwest Thoroughbreds. The son of A.P. Indy is eligible because he was claimed for $17,000 on Jan. 18 at the Fair Grounds.

Finally, Royal Posse was claimed by trainer Rudy Rodriguez for $20,000 on May 31 at Belmont Park on behalf of owner Michael Dubb et al. He has earned more than $150,000 in just four starts for the new connections.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick

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