Time for Trouble voted Claiming Crown Horse of the Year

A National HBPA release. Photo: Time for Trouble, outside, rallied from near-last to beat Proverb by a head in last December’s Claiming Crown Kent Stirling Memorial Iron Horse at the Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Friday, June 14, 2024) — Time for Trouble has been selected as the 2023 Claiming Crown Horse of the Year, the now 7-year-old gelding being only the third two-time winner in the annual multi-race event created to honor the hard-knocking warhorses that populate America’s racing programs largely out of the limelight.

The announcement was made today by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association (NHBPA) and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA), co-founders of the Claiming Crown. Created to give blue-collar workhorses their own championship day on the lines of the Breeders’ Cup, the Claiming Crown races are for horses that have competed at a certain claiming level (or less) during a designated time frame.The event is staged each year by the National HBPA and TOBA in conjunction with the host track and with an assist from the state HBPA affiliate. 

Time for Trouble, two-time winner of the Kent Stirling Memorial Iron Horse, was selected Claiming Crown Horse of the Year among the eight winners last December at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The 2024 Claiming Crown will be Nov. 16 at Churchill Downs in Louisville for the second time in three years.

Time for Trouble is the first horse in the program’s 25 years to win the same Claiming Crown race in back-to-back years. The only other two-time winners are Al’s Dearly Bred, who won the 2001 and 2006 Emerald, and Antrim County, who won the 2008 Iron Horse and 2009 Jewel.

“It’s definitely a great achievement,” Louisville-based trainer Jeff Hiles, who co-owns Time for Trouble with Thorndale Stable’s Paul Parker of Paducah, Ky.,said of the award. “We’re going back in it this year, if he stays healthy. In order to do that, he’s going to have to be on top of his game, because those races are difficult. He’s been a really good horse for us. He just barely got beat in the Grade 2 Suburban this past week at Saratoga. He just doesn’t stop.”

Hiles, the son of long-time Kentucky HBPA president Rick Hiles, and Parker claimed Time for Trouble almost exactly three years ago for $8,000 at Churchill Downs. Their good luck started by out-shaking 12 others who also dropped a claim for the gelding. 

Time for Trouble has earned eight of his 11 career victories and $575,027 for Hiles and Parker. That includes the 2023 Claiming Crown Iron Horse — for horses who have run for a claiming price of $8,000 or less — in New Orleans and in November 2022 at Churchill Downs.       

The son of English Channel started 2024 by winning a money-won allowance race at Oaklawn Park, followed by a third (G3 Essex) and a pair of fourths (Keeneland’s G3 Ben Ali and Saratoga’s G2 Suburban) in graded stakes. He’s Hiles’ top money-earner in a training career in its sixth full season since working as an assistant to Kenny McPeek.

The Claiming Crown Horse of the Year is voted on by the National HBPA’s Industry Awards Committee chaired by Todd Mostoller, the Pennsylvania HBPA’s executive director. Time for Trouble, Hiles and Parker will be recognized at the 39th annual TOBA National Awards Dinner on Sept. 7 at Fasig-Tipton in Lexington. 

“Time for Trouble is a poster boy for how claiming horses, even at cheaper levels, can rise up to compete in racing’s upper echelon with good horsemanship, a dream and some luck,” Mostoller said. “These horses give smaller stables the hope that they, too, can some day land the proverbial Big Horse.

“For the vast majority of horsemen, that doesn’t mean a Triple Crown, Breeders’ Cup or necessarily a graded-stakes horse – though that can happen. Rather, they’re very good horses at their own level of competition and take their owners and trainers on a joy ride – adventures that can include running in the Claiming Crown and being part of a big day of racing.”

Parker vouches for that.

“I think it’s wonderful that they give an award like this, anything you can do for guys like me,” said Parker, who owns the popular 50’s diner Parker’s Drive-In in Paducah. “It’s great to get any kind of accolade at the level I play at. I’ve got one mare I breed. I’ve got a shot of getting a good horse one day. But am I ever going to win the Breeders’ Cup? Am I able to even think about getting a Horse of the Year? I doubt it. But to get Claiming Crown Horse of the Year, that’s something.”

Time for Trouble has raced well for Hiles and Parker on turf and dirt, fast and sloppy tracks and at distances from 1 1/16 to 1 3/4 miles. Before hopefully returning to the Claiming Crown, Hiles said Time for Trouble could go back to Saratoga for the Aug. 4 Birdstone at 1 3/4 miles on dirt – a race in which he was second last year. The trainer also has his eye on the new $500,000 Nashville Gold Cup at 2 1/16 miles on turf Sept. 11 at Kentucky Downs.

“Those races are tough in themselves. He barely won the one this past winter,” Hiles said, referring to a head victory over Florida-based Proverb in last year’s Claiming Crown. “But he’s a good horse, and he’s been really good for me. He’s graded-stakes placed this year and has made about $176,000 so far in 2024 and we’re not even half-way through yet.”

The deadline to make a horse eligible to the November 16, 2024 Claiming Crown at Churchill Downs is October 26, with entries to be taken November 9. More information is available at claimingcrown.com or by reaching out to National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback at 859-259-0451 or [email protected].

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.