By Christine Oser | Courtesy of The BloodHorse

Forest Fire wins the Maryland Million Classic Stakes at Laurel Park

Stakes winners found throughout Dec. 7 Claiming Crown entries at Gulfstream.

The Claiming Crown returns to Gulfstream Park Dec. 7 to celebrate the hard-knocking horses on the racetrack. Eleven races are scheduled at the South Florida track Saturday, nine of which are starter stakes for horses who have raced for a tag. The centerpiece is the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel for 3-year-olds and up which have started for $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018.

The 1 1/8-mile Jewel attracted nine entries, including Shirley Lojeski’s Pennsylvania homebred Forest Fire. The 4-year-old Friesan Fire gelding rides a three-race win streak into the Jewel, and last out Oct. 19 he scored his first stakes win in the Maryland Million Classic Stakes at Laurel Park. It was the third stakes attempt for Forest Fire, was second beaten less than a length in the 2018 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel.

“He had shown that he was a stake horse early on in his career,” trainer John Servis said. “In his third or fourth start we put him in a stake and he got beat by three-quarters of a length, so we always knew he had talent.”

Forest Fire became sidelined later in 2018 with a knee chip and had a throat issue that needed addressing after returning to the races this year. Since then, he won two allowance optional claimers at Parx Racing before annexing the Maryland Million Classic, his first race at 1 1/8 miles.

“He seems to be getting even better. Paco Lopez rode him in Maryland and he thought there was a lot of horse left,” Servis said. “He felt like he was just toying with those horses. We’re excited about him going in the right direction and seeing what he is.”

Forest Fire will carry co-highweight of 124 pounds in the Jewel along Leitone, trained by the other Servis brother, Jason.

A dual group 1 winner in his native Chile, Leitone made his first U.S. start in August 2018 and 10 months later, M and A Racing Stable claimed him June 16 at Belmont Park for $12,500. The 5-year-old son of Dunkirk won that 1 1/16-mile race by 13 3/4 lengths. He enters off another win, by 7 1/4 lengths, over that same course and distance Oct. 25 when racing for $50,000 claiming.

Also entered is Town and Country Racing’s Third Day, third in the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) during Keeneland‘s spring meet. The 5-year-old son of Bernardini trained by Brian Lynch was reported gelded in early October and has won two of three starts since—a two-turn claiming race at Churchill Downs and a one-mile, off-the-turf allowance optional claimer there, the latter resulting in a three-length victory.

Saturday will also feature two $125,000, 1 1/16-mile turf events for horses that have started for $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018—the Claiming Crown Emerald and the Claiming Crown Tiara for fillies and mares.

Twelve horses were entered in the Emerald, including AJ Suited Racing Stable’s Dontblamerocket. The 5-year-old Blame gelding was a $50,000 claim at Churchill Downs in May, and has won two starter allowances since with trainer Norm Casse.

Dontblamerocket went up to Saratoga Race Course to capture a race at 1 1/8 miles on turf before winning at one mile and 70 yards at Kentucky Downs. He enters the Emerald off a three-month layoff from the Kentucky Downs victory.

“He’s just one of those types of horses that we really like. He always shows up and he always runs his race,” Casse said. “He’s always ultra-competitive. We’ve been really lucky because we’ve been able to find some really good spots for him and we’ve spaced his races out accordingly. He’s just rewarded us with the confidence that we’ve put into him.”

An overflow field was drawn for the Tiara. Set for the outside post of 12 is SJT Racing Stable’s homebred Lady Alida, a black-type winner this year on Gulfstream’s turf who will carry high weight of 126 pounds. Alfredo Lichoa trains the 4-year-old Street Sense filly, who has hit the board in 11 of 15 starts in 2019. Lady Alida won the Treasure Coast Stakes at a mile in July, and was third in the 1 1/16-mile Monroe Stakes in late September.

Stakes winners from this year are found throughout the card. Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Bethlehem Stables’ Shekky Shebaz, third in the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1T), is among the classiest in the $110,000 Claiming Crown Canterbury, a five-furlong turf sprint for horses that have started for $25,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018.

Shekky Shebaz was trained and owned by Adam Rice though mid summer before purchased by his current connections and sent to Jason Servis following a front-running victory in a fast turf sprint at Saratoga, where he was entered for a $25,000 tag. The 4-year-old Cape Blanco gelding then won the Lucky Coin Stakes at the Spa, running 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf in 1:01.18, less than a second off the track record. Shekky Shebaz then finished a close second in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes before running third in the Breeders’ Cup.

The $110,000 Claiming Crown Express, six furlongs for horses that have started for $8,000 during their lifetime, features a competitive trio is stakes winners Fast Pass, Whyruawesome, and Travy Boy. Fast Pass is making his first start since the Sept. 8 Keeneland Korea Sprint (G1). Although the U.S. horses did not hit the board that day on the deep, muddy track following recent typhoon rains, he won black-type at Gulfstream in the Opening Lead Stakes late May, and a month later was graded placed in the Smile Sprint Stakes (G3).

Whyruawesome earned a pair of black-type placings this year, including a runner-up effort Sept. 28 in the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park. That race was preceded by three straight victories at the starter and allowance levels.

Travy Boy is throwing his hat in the ring after winning his stakes debut in Gulfstream Park West’s Nov. 9 Millions Sprint Preview Stakes.

Stakes winners First Deal and Royal Squeeze will face off in the $110,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit, seven furlongs for horses that have started for $16,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2018. First Deal has won his last three races, including scores in the Decathlon Stakes and Jersey Shore Stakes, both at Monmouth Park. Royal Squeeze, looking for a rebound following four consecutive losses, won Gulfstream’s Big Drama Stakes in May and in August was defeated a neck in the Benny The Bull Stakes.

Gulfstream will also hold the Claiming Crown Glass Slipper, one mile for fillies and mares that have started for $12,500 or less since Jan. 1, 2018; the $110,000 Claiming Crown Distaff Dash, five furlongs on the turf for fillies and mares that have started for $25,000 since Jan. 1, 2018; and the $110,000 Claiming Crown Iron Horse, 1 1/16 miles for horses that have started for $8,000 or less lifetime.

Entries: Claming Crown Express Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 2

SST | 6f | Dirt | $110,000 | 3 yo’s & up | 12:18 PM (local)

1Harryhee (FL)Luca Panici120Brett McLellan
2Travy Boy (FL)Paco Lopez126Gilberto Zerpa
3Northern (FL)Tyler Gaffalione120Michael J. Maker
4Fast Pass (KY)Cristian A. Torres126Peter R. Walder
5Brother Chub (NJ)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.126Michael M. Moore
6Nick the Cardshark (FL)Jairo Rendon122Jose H. Delgado
7Tale of Fire (KY)Emisael Jaramillo124Jorge Navarro
8Take Charge Dude (FL)Ricardo Santana, Jr.124Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.
9Whyruawesome (KY)Kendrick Carmouche124Jorge Navarro
10Bordini (KY)Jermaine V. Bridgmohan120Cheryl Winebaugh

Entries: Claming Crown Glass Slipper Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 4

SST | 1m | Dirt | $110,000 | 3 yo’s & up Fillies and Mares | 1:17 PM (local)

1Picasso Moon (KY)Emisael Jaramillo124Jorge Navarro
2Liza Star (FL)Ricardo Santana, Jr.124Peter R. Walder
3Lucy’s Town (KY)Jose Lezcano122Kelly J. Breen
4Expect Indy (IN)Tyler Gaffalione126Georgina Baxter
5Cuddle Kitten (KY)Kendrick Carmouche126Jorge Navarro
6Kodiak Katie (NJ)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.124Kelly J. Breen
7Potra Liza (KY)Paco Lopez124Jorge Navarro
8Final Flurry (KY)Chris Landeros124Kendall Condie
9She’s Right Again (KY)Cristian A. Torres124Peter R. Walder
10All Good Times (FL)Jairo Rendon120John Rigattieri

Entries: Claming Crown Distaff Dash Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 5

SST | 5f | Turf | $110,000 | 3 yo’s & up Fillies and Mares | 1:47 PM (local)

1Unaquoi (WV)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.124Ollie L. Figgins, III
2Stetson Gold (KY)Kendrick Carmouche122Joseph Taylor
3Thinkin Cowtown (FL)Tyler Gaffalione120Georgina Baxter
4Band of Angels (FL)Jose C. Ferrer122Jorge Navarro
5R Next Roll (FL)Nik Juarez120Georgina Baxter
6Same Kinda Crazy (NY)Edgar S. Prado120Luis M. Ramirez
7Glory Roll (FL)Jairo Rendon118Joseph F. Orseno
8Blue Magic (KY)Victor Lebron120Luis M. Ramirez
9Dance Till Dawn (FL)Emisael Jaramillo118Philip M. Serpe

Entries: Claming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 6

SST | 7f | Dirt | $110,000 | 3 yo’s & up | 2:20 PM (local)

1Rayo My King (KY)Rajiv Maragh120Herbert Miller
2Rol Again Question (MD)Jairo Rendon122Jose H. Delgado
3Just Kidding (FL)Ricardo Santana, Jr.120Robert B. Hess, Jr.
4Royal Squeeze (FL)Paco Lopez126Elizabeth L. Dobles
5Empire Power (KY)Jose Lezcano124Antonio Sano
6Yodel E. A. Who (KY)Tyler Gaffalione122Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.
7Who’s Out (KY)Emisael Jaramillo122Jorge Navarro
8First Deal (FL)Hector Rafael Diaz, Jr.124Jorge Navarro
9Benefactor (KY)Kendrick Carmouche122Jorge Navarro
10D T Goodie (PA)Nik Juarez120Joseph Taylor

Entries: Claming Crown Canterbury Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 7

SST | 5f | Dirt | $110,000 | 3 yo’s & up | 2:52 PM (local)

1New York’s Finest (NY)Jose C. Ferrer120J. Kent Sweezey
2Krsto Skye (KY)Nik Juarez120Robert B. Hess, Jr.
3Shekky Shebaz (KY)Paco Lopez124Jason Servis
4Pemaquid Pete (FL)Cristian A. Torres122Teresa Connelly
5Tiger Blood (FL)Ricardo Santana, Jr.120Steve Klesaris
6Soldollie (FL)Tony Maragh124Herbert Miller
7Diamond Majesty (KY)Julien R. Leparoux120Patrick L. Biancone
8Cryogenic (FL)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.122Michael J. Maker
9Rocket Heat (KY)Chris Landeros126Michael Tannuzzo
10Faction Cat (FL)Tyler Gaffalione124Georgina Baxter
11Mar Vista Miguel (NY)Rajiv Maragh120Rohan Crichton

Entries: Claming Crown Iron Horse Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 8

SST | 1 1/16m | Dirt | $110,000 | 3 yo’s & up | 3:24 PM (local)

1Bobby G (KY)Edgar S. Prado120Jose Corrales
2To Dare (KY)Julien R. Leparoux120Ralph E. Nicks
3Dizzy Gillespie (SC)Cristian A. Torres122Peter R. Walder
4Ruler of the Nile (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.124Michael E. Lauer
5Peppi the Hunter (KY)Kendrick Carmouche122Jorge Navarro
6Sensational Ride (GA)Jose A. Bracho122Peter R. Walder
7Salsa’s Return (FL)Emisael Jaramillo124Jorge Navarro
8Yes I See (WV)Rajiv Maragh122Peter R. Walder
9Twocubanbrothersu (KY)Jairo Rendon126John Rigattieri
10Spin Cycle (NY)Nik Juarez124J. Kent Sweezey
11Donji (KY)Paco Lopez124Elizabeth L. Dobles
12French Quarter (FL)Tyler Gaffalione124Michael J. Maker
13Mr Chaplin (KY)Santiago Gonzalez120Bernardo Campos

Entries: Claming Crown Tiara Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 9

SST | 1 1/16m | Turf | $125,000 | 3 yo’s & up Fillies and Mares | 3:56 PM (local)

1Arabella Bella (KY)Tyler Gaffalione122Michael J. Maker
2Bareeqa (NY)Jose Lezcano124Danny Gargan
3Diamond Play (NJ)Nik Juarez124Anthony R. Margotta, Jr.
4Drinks On Me (KY)Edgar Perez122Cheryl Winebaugh
5Passion Plus (FL)Jairo Rendon120Antonio Sano
6Lucky Long (KY)Paco Lopez120Rohan Crichton
7Vip Nation (NY)Kendrick Carmouche122Bruce N. Levine
8Bienville Street (FL)Cristian A. Torres124Cam M. Gambolati
9Una Luna (FL)Emisael Jaramillo120Jose A. Gallegos
10Raki (FL)Carlos D. Lugo120Eduardo Azpurua, Jr.
11Amazing Audrey (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.122Antonio Sano
12Lady Alida (KY)Santiago Gonzalez126Alfredo Lichoa
13Codrington (NY)Santiago Gonzalez120Michael J. Maker
14Pugilist (KY)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.120Michael J. Maker
15Britesideoftheroad (KY)Rajiv Maragh120Shamir Maragh
16Trieste (BRZ)Hector Isaac Berrios120Amador Merei Sanchez

Entries: Claming Crown Jewel Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 10

SST | 1 1/8m | Dirt | $200,000 | 3 yo’s & up | 4:28 PM (local)

1Holiday Bonus (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.120Jorge Navarro
2Third Day (KY)Julien R. Leparoux122Brian A. Lynch
3Forest Fire (PA)Paco Lopez124John C. Servis
4Create Again (KY)Victor Lebron120Rasharn Creque
5Leitone (CHI)Jose Lezcano124Jason Servis
6Aequor (KY)Nik Juarez120Oscar M. Gonzalez
7Ekhtibaar (KY)Kendrick Carmouche120Jorge Navarro
8Degrom (KY)Tyler Gaffalione122J. Tyler Servis
9Noble Thought (KY)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.122Michael J. Maker

Entries: Claming Crown Emerald Stakes
Gulfstream Park, Saturday, December 7, 2019, Race 11

SST | 1 1/16m | Turf | $125,000 | 3 yo’s & up | 5:00 PM (local)

1Fifth Title (KY)Victor Lebron120Rasharn Creque
2Tusk (KY)Ricardo Santana, Jr.124Saffie A. Joseph, Jr.
3Hieroglyphics (KY)Jose Lezcano122Kiaran P. McLaughlin
4Apreciado (KY)Tyler Gaffalione124Michael J. Maker
5Muggsamatic (FL)Paco Lopez122Jason Servis
6Driven by Thunder (FL)Hector Isaac Berrios124Amador Merei Sanchez
7Dontblamerocket (KY)Julien R. Leparoux124Norm W. Casse
8Patriot Drive (KY)Jorge A. Vargas, Jr.122Michael J. Maker
9And Won (FL)Edgar Perez124Anthony J. Granitz
10Max K. O. (FL)Kendrick Carmouche122Robert N. Falcone, Jr.
11Spring Up (FL)Jairo Rendon120Jose H. Delgado
12King of Spades (KY)Nik Juarez120Kelly J. Breen