(Photo: Claiming Crown career leading-owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Peru won the Claiming Crown Tiara under Julien Leparoux and all-time Claiming Crown-winning trainer Mike Maker. Leslie Martin/Coglianese Photography)
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – One year after coming up a nose short in the same race, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Peru came flying with a furious late rally down the center of the course to catch Valedictorian and surge to a 1 ¼-length victory in the $125,000 Claiming Crown Tiara. Peru won a Churchill Downs allowance race in June and captured one of Kentucky Downs’ starter-allowance races carrying a $100,000 pot.
The 1 1/16-mile Tiara for fillies and mares 3 and up which had started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2017 was the fifth of nine starter stakes worth $1.11 million on an 11-race Claiming Crown Day program highlighting Opening Day of Gulfstream’s 2018-19 Championship Meet.
This marked the seventh straight year in South Florida and 20th overall for the Claiming Crown, created in 1999 to honor the blue-collar horses that are the foundation of the racing industry nationwide. An agreement was reached this fall to keep the event at Gulfstream through 2021.
Peru ($7.60) covered the distance under jockey Julien Leparoux in 1:41.87 over a firm turf course to give the Ramseys their 16th Claiming Crown victory and trainer Mike Maker his 17th, extending their respective event records.
Valedictorian finished second, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of 16-1 long shot You Cheated. Pacesetting 3-5 favorite Starship Jubilee, a multiple graded-stakes winner of more than $560,000 in career purses, ran fourth.
“With the No. 1 [post], we were inside for the first part of the race. We saved ground. On the second turn, I had to find room. I could see the two favorites start to get loose on the lead. I needed to get out and start my run. She had a nice kick at the end. She ran a nice race,” Leparoux said. “Last year she ran great, too, but today she got the win. She deserved it.”
Starship Jubilee, breaking from outside post 12, was able to get out quickly and was sent to the lead, taking the field through a quarter-mile in 24.52 seconds and a half in 48.36, tracked intently by Valedictorian to his outside. Peru found himself trapped behind a wall of horses in the early going, ahead of just two rivals after six furlongs in 1:11.53.
Valedictorian collared Starship Jubilee at the top of the stretch and edged past, but Leparoux had tipped Peru to the far outside on the final turn and set his sights on the leader once straightened for home, steadily gaining once finding open space.
“I was hoping Julien would have free run. It looked like he had a lot of horse,” Maker said. “She was cutting back in distance, so I was hoping she wouldn’t lose contention early, so we sat inside and when we tipped her out, she was full of run.”
Oxford Comma Punctuates Win Streak in $110,000 Distaff Dash
Sandra New’s Oxford Comma kept her perfect record on turf intact, extending her win streak to three races and giving trainer Tom Amoss his first career victory at Gulfstream in the $110,000 Claiming Crown Distaff Dash.
Outhustled for the lead by defending champion and 4-5 favorite Blue Bahia, Oxford Comma ($4.80) completed five furlongs in 55.69 seconds under jockey Miguel Vasquez to win by 1 ½ lengths over 70-1 long shot Unaquoi. Blue Bahia was third, another half-length back.
Blue Bahia and Oxford Comma blazed up front through an opening quarter-mile in 20.68 seconds before Blue Bahia established a clear lead after a half in 43.37. Vasquez kept Oxford Comma to the leader’s outside and came with a steady run down the stretch to slingshot past and earn her eighth career win from 11 starts, the last three since being moved from dirt to turf.
Amoss, a multiple graded-stakes winning trainer with more than 3,500 victories and $97 million in purse earnings, had last started a horse at Gulfstream in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup, when Heritage of Gold ran third behind Beautiful Pleasure and Banshee Breeze in the Distaff (G1).
“Ironically, we were entered to run on the grass at Churchill Downs [last] month and that race was taken off the grass, so we moved to Plan B which was to race here,” Amoss said. “Her time here has been good and I give a lot of credit for today’s win to Natalie Fawkes, who took the horse for us this past week. She’s a small trainer, but she’s very good at her job and very efficient. The conversation I had with her over the phone let me know she’s a big time trainer when she’s ready to be one.”