Spot Plays for the 2023 Claiming Crown at Fair Grounds

November 30th, 2023

A total of eight starter stakes for some of the top blue-collar horses in training will be contested at Fair Grounds on Saturday in the 25th edition of the Claiming Crown. 

Race 5 – Tiara

The $150,000 affair for fillies and mares on the green attracted a field of nine. #7 Perhaps Tonight (3-1) has some class to her and rates a big chance in the tilt with Edgar Morales in the silks. The Tom Amoss pupil had been first or second in six straight prior to going unplaced at Churchill Downs most recently, but the five-year-old mare will be super tough against this cast with something resembling her top effort. Irish-bred bay will be rallying from well off of the early tempo. 

Race 6 – Iron Horse

The boys will go 1 1/16 miles on the main strip in the $75,000 event. A total of 13 talented runners are signed on for the contest, and I expect #4 Time for Trouble (7-2) to be a menacing figure in the race. Trained by Jeff Hiles, the gelded son of English Channel sports a 7-4-2-0 career mark on the dirt, and the chestnut has faced off with stakes foes in five of his last six performances, as well. He was an excellent allowance winner in a deep field at Keeneland in the spring and finished second in the Birdstone S. at Saratoga, in his last pair of dirt assignments. James Graham has the call. 

Race 9 – Emerald

Two-turn turf test for the boys attracted a cast of 12 for the $150,000 contest. Morning-line choice #9 Therapist (9-5) is the class of the field, but I think that he might be vulnerable cutting back in distance and will look elsewhere in the event. 

#5 Sonny Smack (20-1) is not especially consistent and might be a bit of a stretch, but the Valorie Lund pupil owns a fine turn of foot on his best day, and the eight-year-old lands in a spot with an abundance of early speed. Kentucky-bred son of Successful Appeal will make one run from the back of the pack with Goncalves in the stirrups. 

Race 10 – Jewel

The $200,000 tilt is the final starter stakes race on the card and will see nine go postward in the 1 1/8-mile dirt fray. Conditioner Robertino Diodoro has a trio of well-meant runners in the field, including #3 Saqeel (3-1). The Daaher gelding has won or placed in seven of his eight tries in 2023, and the five-year-old comes in off of a strong allowance win at Churchill Downs in September. Francisco Arrieta will guide the bay and have him forcing the action from the early stages.