In addition to the $ 350,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby and $ 200,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks, Sunday’s Kentucky Downs card offers a pair of starter-allowance races with $ 75,000 pots that serve as automatic qualifiers for the Claiming Crown Dec. 3 at Gulfstream Park.
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.
The $ 75,000 Claiming Crown Emerald Stakes Prep At Kentucky Downs is for 3-year-olds and older horses that have started for a claiming price of $ 25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2015. The $ 75,000 Claiming Crown Tiara Stakes Prep At Kentucky Downs has the same conditions but is restricted to fillies and mares. The Kentucky Downs preps will be held at a mile and 70 yards; the Claiming Crown distance is 1 1/16 miles.
The creation of lucrative qualifiers for the Claiming Crown is perfect for Flashy Chelsey, trained by Louisville-based trainer Rob O’Connor for his brother-in-law, Bruce McCrea. Flashy Chelsey, 8-1 in the morning line under Robby Albarado, drew post 6 in a capacity field of 12 in the Emerald prep.
Flashy Chelsey was eighth, albeit losing by a total of only 5 1/2 lengths, in the Claiming Crown taken off the turf last year.
“It started pouring down rain and by the time we got to the paddock they announced that the race would be taken off,” O’Connor said. “If he would run well, we would probably look for one start and then go south for it, but that remains to be seen.”
O’Conner said Flashy Chelsey is “dead ready to run.” The 4-year-old colt comes into Sunday’s race off victory in a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance at Ellis Park.
“The race is tough, but he’s doing very well and I think he’s going to run really well,” O’Connor said. “If we get a good trip, we’ll be lucky and win it. I don’t know about everybody else, but he’s definitely ready to run so I don’t have any qualms.”
Last year, the 4-year-old son of Flashy Bull got a taste of success in his lone start over the Kentucky Downs grass, winning an allowance race.
“He’s already shown an aptitude for the course,” O’Connor said. “There’s not a lot of speed and he prefers to be a closer, but he has already shown versatility, so we’re going to put Robby up and just see what happens.”
Perhaps one of Flashy Chelsey’s toughest foes Sunday is Team Block’s Cammack, who will attempt to land his sixth consecutive victory.
Coming off a layoff that lasted over a year in February, the 6-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway finished second in a conditioned $ 25,000 claiming race at Tampa Bay Downs before going on a five-race win streak, which included a victory in the Black Tie Affair Stakes at Arlington park for Illinois-breds.
“He’s been in good form ever since late winter to early spring,” trainer Chris Block said by phone from his Illinois base. “He’s pretty much done every thing on his own, he showed a little talent at 3 and then we ended up giving him some time off and turned him out. In hindsight it was probably more time off than he needed, but we gelded him and it seems to have made a huge difference in his attitude. We’re coming in with confidence. It’s hard to keep that kind of string going but we’ll see what happens, we’ll see if he fits well in there on Sunday.
Cammack would likely point toward the Claiming Crown Emerald should he win.
“It would make sense to do something like that. We’re eligible for and it would be worthy of going should we win on Sunday,” Block said.
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