SHAKOPEE, Minn. -- Headache got a perfectly timed ride from Julien Leparoux to nail the race-long front-runner, Smarten Destiny, to post a neck victory Saturday in the $138,000 Claiming Crown Jewel, the anchor event of the 12th annual Claiming Crown series at Canterbury Park.
Leparoux, the 2009 Eclipse Award-winning jockey, lagged well back on the gray gelding before launching his winning rally down the center of the track.
"It set up very nice for us," said Leparoux.
On a warm but comfortable afternoon, and before a sizable crowd estimated at 10,000 or better, Smarten Destiny led the 7-5 favorite, Racing Bran, through fractions of 23.80 seconds, 48, and 1:11.80, then began edging away from him away leaving the far turn of the 1 1/8-mile Jewel. As several pursuers drew closer, Smarten Destiny, dismissed at 13-1 in the field of six, was put to a punishing drive by Eddie Martin. He resurged to maintain a tenuous lead, only to have Headache go past in the final 40 yards.
Headache had posted an immediate victory, then several in-money finishes in seven subsequent starts, after being claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker last November. Ken Ramsey, who was on hand with several family members, was his usual giddy self afterward.
"This makes up for those pretty tough losses," said Ramsey.
Headache, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred by Tapit, paid $5.60 as second choice after finishing in 1:50.11 over a fast track.
The Claiming Crown, first run in 1999, is a series of races designed to honor and reward the unsung horses who fill North American racing cards on an everyday basis. In the earlier Claiming Crown events:
Emerald: Inca King shows his stuff
It wasn't as easy as it looked on paper, but Inca King ($3) proved his class in wearing down Tiger Lake for a 1 1/4-length triumph in the $94,000 Claiming Crown Emerald, a 1 1/16-mile turf race. With Leparoux aboard for Maker, Inca King angled out for a prolonged drive after getting a good inside trip to post his 16th victory from 34 career starts.
The win gave Maker his seventh in Claiming Crown history, putting him just one behind Scott Lake, the all-time series leader. It also was the third win in the last four runnings of the Emerald for the Ramseys and Maker. They also won in 2007 with One Eyed Joker and in 2008 with Self Made Man.
"Julien really did a great job," said Ramsey.
Gran Estreno, the defending champion and second morning-line choice, was an early scratch after being medicated for colic.
$70,500 Rapid Transit: Humble Smarty ($7) was prominent throughout, turning back several rivals before finishing three-quarters of a length clear of a belated inside run by 16-1 shot Red Pete in the richest victory of his 46-race career. Alex Birzer was aboard the winner, who finished six furlongs in 1:09.57.
"He's been awful good to me," said Brett Creighton, who owns and trains the 6-year-old Arkansas-bred gelding, now a winner of $232,522.
$70,500 Glass Slipper: My Irish Girl ($5.80), getting a terrific trip from off the pace under Israel Ocampo, wore down pace-pressing Margie Marie to register a 1 1/2-length victory among eight filly-mare sprinters. My Irish Girl recently was transferred from Brad Cox into the care of Jamie Ness, the main trainer for owners Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc.
$46,500 Express: Moralist ($3.80), with Ocampo aboard, raced Esperamos into defeat, then finished well enough to defeat Thegreatcrosby by a length, with Churubusco running on late for third. Tammy Domenosky, whose stable is split between here and Chicago, trains Moralist for Miracle Logistics Inc.
$46,000 Iron Horse: Roaring Home ($8.60) led ever step of the way, drawing off to a five-length lead leaving the quarter pole to have enough left to hold off Sea Gaze, the 2-5 favorite, by three-quarters of a length. Daniel Centeno was aboard for owner Maggi Moss and trainer Chris Richard.