Back in January, I wrote about a horse named Dysprosium. He was claimed January 10 out of a race at Gulfstream for $30,000 by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, with Mike Maker the trainer of record, and I hypothesized that the claim had “Claiming Crown” written all over it. I added Dysprosium to my virtual stable, and started following him. I was expecting to see him run in some sort of allowance or starter race, but instead they ran him back on February 9 for the same tag at which they claimed him about a month before. He was claimed out of that race by White Wabbit Wacing, and trainer Aubrey Maragh. These connections ran him back again on February 27, again for $30,000; he was not claimed there by the Ramseys, or by anyone. He hasn’t raced since, but he has shown back up on the worktab in California, at Los Alamitos and San Luis Rey. In short, it does not appear that the Ramseys will be running him at Gulfstream on the first Saturday in December after all.
This did get me thinking. Since the Ramseys run a lot of horses in the Claiming Crown (and have even suggested publicly that they claim horses for the purposes of running them there), what kinds of trends are there in the horses they run? Do they run horses for a tag again after they are claimed, but before they run in the Claiming Crown — and do the horses they don’t run for tags again perform better or worse than the ones they do?
The dataset was smaller than I was hoping for: even though the Claiming Crown has existed since 1999, the Ramseys had only raced one horse in it before 2007: Shegardi, who finished eighth in the Claiming Crown Emerald in 2000. They have run horses there every year since 2007, though they only really picked up the number of horses they sent there in 2012 and 2013. All told, horses owned by the Ramseys have made 23 starts in the Claiming Crown, with 20 unique horses.1 Out of these 23 starts the Ramseys have made, thirteen have come in the last two years. There are things that suggest possible trends, but not enough data yet to state a conclusive finding.
If they were claiming horses specifically to run in these starter stakes, it would make sense not to risk them at the claim box before the big race. According to the race conditions, a horse must have started for the associated tag within the last two years before the race in order to be eligible for the Claiming Crown, making this a feasible strategy for an owner for whom the event is part of their plans. A majority of starts made by the Ramseys in the Claiming Crown were made by horses who they never risked for a tag between when they were acquired and when they ran in the Claiming Crown, but it was not even a majority of individual horses. There were ten starts by horses who the Ramseys had raced for a tag, and thirteen starts by ones who the Ramseys had not risked. However, all three who have raced twice fall into that latter category — putting ten individual horses into each category.
By any measure, the Ramseys have done very well at the Claiming Crown. Out of their 23 starts at the event, they have been in the money 14 times: including 12 wins.
I had been expecting to see a higher win rate among horses they did not run for a tag compared to ones they did, but there was not a significant gap there. For the ten horses who had raced for a tag for the Ramseys before going to the Claiming Crown, it was feast or famine: five won, and five finished off the board. Among horses who had not raced for a tag, the win rate was almost the same as for the other group: seven wins in thirteen starts. However, there are a few suggestions that the horses not raced for a tag fared better in a broader sense. Nine of the thirteen finished in the money, and the average beaten lengths for the horses who had not raced for a tag (counting a winner as being beaten 0 lengths) was 2.72, compared to 3.60 for the horses who had been risked at the claim box.
At this point, it still seems too small a dataset to state conclusively that horses they don’t send out for a claim do better than ones they do sent out for a claim. The most surprising finding among this data was the fact that they had sent so many of the horses who ended up running at the Claming Crown out for a tag in the first place, once initially claimed. However, there was a jump in the number of horses they sent to the Claiming Crown in 2012 and 2013 compared to 2000-2011; thirteen of their twenty-three starts have been in the last two years. This suggests that it has only recently become a bigger part of their plans. During these last two years, the proportion of horses they have run has skewed significantly toward horses they have never run for tags. Seven of the eight horses they started in 2012 had never been put up for a tag by the Ramseys, and three of the five they ran in 2013 fit that bill. At this point it is premature to say for sure that this is a trend, but it would be something that wouldn’t surprise me to see continue to bear out over the next few years.
1 Bernie the Maestro, Brother Bird, and Major Marvel have each started twice in the Claiming Crown for the Ramseys. The figure of 23 Claiming Crown starts only includes Self Made Man once. He drew into the Claiming Crown Emerald in 2007, and was owned by the Ramseys at the time. However, he was a trainer scratch; he never made it to the gate. He did race for those connections in 2008, and won the Emerald by a neck.