Keystone Field and Gerardo Corrales take the crown jewel for Three Diamonds Farm and trainer Mike Maker
Keystone Field, owned by Kirk Wycoff’s Three Diamonds farm, swept early leaders Benevengo and Frosted Grace left the final lap and resolutely fended off a late charge by 2-1 favorite Intrepid Heart to win Saturday’s $199,875 crown jewel at Churchill Downs – the most lucrative of the eight starting allowance races for the best horses in the country – half-length.
The Jewel, a 1 1/8 mile race for kids ages 3 and up that ran for a claim prize of $35,000 or less in 2021-22, headlined the 24th annual championship series in Saturday’s claim wreath, which was staged at Churchill Downs for the first time. Inaugurated in 1999 at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, the Claiming Crown had been presented for a decade at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. In its early days in Louisville, the Claiming Crown attracted blue-collar horses from all over the country.
Keystone Field stopped the teletimer in 1:53.29 on the main dirt road which was rated “sloppy” after more than an inch of early morning precipitation in the Louisville area, which included snow showers as temperatures were dropping in the mid-30s.
“We knew when it came sloppy that a son of candy tower should handle the surface well,” Wycoff said.
Gerardo Corrales rode the winner for trainer Mike Maker, who earned his second Claiming Crown win that day and a record 22nd win in the Championship Series. Earlier, Maker won the $109,850 Glass Slipper with Invaluable from Paradise Farms Corp. ($8.18), which was ridden by Luis Saez.
“We knew this horse had good turf form, but we thought we could improve it by putting him on dirt,” Maker said. “He had a great trip today and handled the sloppy track very well.”
Keystone Field earned $113,000 for the victory and improved its record to 21-6-2-3, or $391,529. He paid $15.78, $6.76 and $5.28 with odds of 6-1.
“When I bet he was 10-1 and backed pretty heavily after that,” Wycoff said. “I left the (Keeneland November Breeding Sale) a few hours ago and it’s been a great sale, but winning races is better. …(Intrepid Heart) ran well on the outside but we ended up jumping him from the inside.
Intrepid Heart, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, brought in $3.68 and $2.90. Benevengo, with Saez, was still 7¼ lengths in third and called $4.20.
Tiz Rye Time, Digital, Decision Maker, Frosted Grace, defending champion Twelve Volt Man and Calibrator completed the order of finish. Ournationonparade has been scratched.
Keystone Field became eligible for the Jewel by winning a Jan. 7 race at Santa Anita while running for a $25,000 claim tag. Previously owned by Perry R. Bass II and Ramona S. Bass and trained by Richard Mandella, he was privately purchased after placing fourth in a $25,000 start-up allocation on March 19 and came to Kentucky. It was his third win in five starts since the purchase.
“I was delighted to see Claimant Crown come to Churchill,” Wycoff said. “We actually bought this horse from California to run on the dirt. That’s usually not what we do, it’s usually the other way around (dirt to grass).
Keystone Field is a 7 year old gelding son of Candy Ride (ARG) and In Excess (IRE) mare She’s an Eleven and was bred in Kentucky by CRK Stables LLC.
Also on the Claiming Crown card, trainer Tom Van Berg and jockey Florent Geroux teamed up to win their second Claiming Crown race of the day when The Queens Jules ($19.14) emerged determinedly from the inside rail to hook a nose on Divine Leader in the $138,755 Rapid Transit. Earlier, Petit Verdot ($6.42) won the $160,600 Tom Metzen Memorial. Both horses belonged to Van Berg’s partnership, Grit to Glory Racing. Van Berg also saddled the winner of the first race, an $8,000 claiming event, with Justin’s Quest ($4.66) for three wins on the day.
Paco Lopez rode two winners to extend his Claiming Crown win record to 16. He won the $167,150 Tiara aboard Out of Sorts ($14.08) for owner John Fanelli and trainer Bobby Mosco, and capped off the program with a triumph aboard FAS Racing (Adis Smajlovic)’s Palace Coup ($4.14) in the $160,010 Emerald for trainer Joe Sharp, who also coaches Intrepid Heart.
Out of Sorts was one of two horses that were shipped from Parx, Pennsylvania to win a Claiming Crown event. The other was Gregg O’Donnell’s Hero Tiger ($10.32) in Ready’s Rocket Express at $106,899 for trainer John Kirby and the second win of the day for Saez.
All of the other Claiming Crown winners were Kentucky-based, including Jeff A. Hiles and Thorndale Stable LLC’s Time for Trouble ($18.08), which took home the $108,433 Iron Horse Kent Stirling Memorial for Hiles and the jockey Joe Talamo.
The Canterbury Tom Metzen Memorial, Tiara and Emerald have been moved from turf to dirt due to snowfall.
The race at Churchill Downs continues on Sunday with a 10-race card that includes a trio of $300,000 stakes: the Grade 3 River City for kids ages 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles on grass; $300,000 Bet On Sunshine (Listed) for six-stage sprinters; and $300,000 Dream Supreme (Listed) for fillies and six-stage sprinter mares. There is also a carry of $36,023 in the Derby City 6 20 cents and a carry of $6,987 in the Super Hi 5 $1. The first message is at 1 p.m.
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