Every year, the Hambletonian Society sponsors the Breeders Crown which is intended to be the championship for the various divisions of harness racing. For the most part, these races are the domain of high powered owners and syndicates looking forward to a future of breeding in search of the next champion. While these races are deservedly high profile, we tend to forget the horses who race at our raceways on a nightly basis. There is no recognition for the owners who keep the raceways operating via the claiming horse.
The thoroughbred industry pays tribute to their claiming horses with the running of the Claiming Crown which was held this past weekend at Canterbury Down in Minnesota. It is time for the harness racing industry to honor our claiming stock with our own version of the Claiming Crown; let’s call it the Claiming Championships. The Claiming Championship could easily be scheduled the night before the Breeders Crown at the same location and hosting the Claiming Championship could be a condition of hosting the Breeders Crown.
One possibility would be we have four classes where horses could be nominated to. Horses that raced for a base claiming price no more than $10,000, $25,000, or $50,000 in addition to horses that race for a claiming price over $50,000 during the current year with purses of $30,000, $75,000, $150,000, and $200,000 respectively. For the three lower classes, we can have separate race for each sex and gait with the highest class being separated only by gait. Instead of eliminations, each race would be limited to a field of eight, nine or ten depending on the size of the host track. To ensure representation from around the country, the ten highest adjusted money earners will be invited to start with earnings being adjusted to account for the discrepancy between traditional and racino tracks. Horses would need to be nominated and pay a starting fee to draw into the race.
The time has come to recognize the importance of claiming races to our industry. A Claiming Championship may be the perfect way to do it.
There is a little good news for horse racing in New Jersey. The one day summit which was scheduled for Atlantic City has now been extended to make stops in Monmouth and Bergen Counties in New Jersey; providing an opportunity for the horse industry to be heard in their backyard.