From the time that owner-breeder David Block saw that Kentucky Downs was having a starter-allowance race with a purse of $ 75,000 as an automatic qualifier for the Claiming Crown, Sunday’s race was on the dance card for Cammack.
The Claiming Crown is designed to serve as a Breeders’ Cup-style championship for claiming horses, which are the backbone of American racing. The Claiming Crown is a partnership between the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association to give these important blue-collar horses and their owners and trainers their own special day in the sport’s limelight.
And the Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes prep became Cammack’s sixth straight victory, as he held off the late-running Procurement by a head. He covered a mile and 70 yards in 1:41.96, just off the course record of 1:41.70 and paid $ 4.60 as the big favorite in the field of 10.
“This horse, you can do whatever you want with him,” said winning jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. “He can go to the front or stalk. He’s so good right now, he’s King Kong. He’s won six in a row and was just a tick off the track record. He’s very game. If you’re going to beat him, you better go by him running because if not he’s going to dog you to the wire.”
The streak started in his second start after being off 16 months with an injury and gelded. After his long layoff, trainer Chris Block ran the new gelding in a pair of $ 25,000 claiming races before hitting allowance company. The third win in his streak was the $ 54,000 Black Tie Affair for Illinois-breds at Arlington Park.
“We had no idea what he was going to do coming back,” said Chris Block, son of David Block. “Obviously by running for $ 25,000 a couple of times, I didn’t expected him to be on this kind of roll.”
Sunday’s race carried the same condition as the Dec. 3 Claiming Crown Emerald at Gulfstream Park, being for horses that started for a claiming price of $ 25,000 or less in 2015 or ’16. The Emerald is definitely on the agenda.
Cammack now is 8-1-4 in 21 starts, earning $ 239,804 with the $ 45,000 payday The Blocks, who race and breed as Team Block, love Kentucky Downs and have had good success sending their stakes horses down here from Arlington Park. But as virtually all of their homebreds are Illinois-breds, they usually are running for only the base pot, the not Kentucky-bred purse supplements that double or more than double the purse. But this starter race was all unrestricted money.
David Block said when he saw the $ 75,000 starter-race was being held, “It wasn’t hard to figure that one out. We don’t get that kind of opportunity too often. This is like winning a stakes for us, especially winning down here in Kentucky and competing at a higher level. So far we’ve done pretty well.”
Cammack is well-bred, being by the popular Coolmore stallion Giant’s Cause and out of a mare (Fort Pond) that produced Fort Prado, a millionaire, multiple graded-stakes winner and 18-time winner. Fort Prado ran in the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash three straight years finishing third, second and finally winning in 2009.
“He’s not his half-brother, but he’s come back with that kind of instincts,” Chris Block said. “You see how they come and challenge him and to put one away and another.”
Arlington Park horses swept the double in the Claiming Crown preps with Geroux guiding Patricia’s Hope’s Daddy’s Boo to a 5 1/4-length score over Yum Yum to take the Claiming Crown Tiara Stakes prep.
“We were thrilled to have these two races,” said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager. “They were full fields and very competitive. Both the winners were very impressive and should be tough to beat at Gulfstream.”
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