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Submitted by John Conte on Friday, December 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Gulfstream Park: Bernie the Maestro tries for second Claiming Crown win

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Bernie the Maestro is the defending race winner in the seven-furlong Claiming Crown Rapid Transit. On Saturday, the hard-knocking former claimer will attempt to show he is as versatile as he is fast when he races at 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel.

The Jewel is the marquee event among the eight Claiming Crown races worth $1 million Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The Claiming Crown stakes are part of a special 10-cent Ultimate 8 multiple wager with a guaranteed minimum pool of $100,000. Gulfstream hosted the Claiming Crown for the first time last year.

Bernie the Maestro is trained by Mike Maker for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, a team that combined for four victories on the 2012 Claiming Crown program. Maker will send out eight horses in six of this year’s Claiming Crown events, with most of those horses owned by the Ramseys.

“Eligibility for the Claiming Crown is one of the thoughts that go into every horse we claim during the course of the year,” said Maker. “Some work out and some don’t. We specifically start pointing for the Claiming Crown with many of these horses during the latter part of the season. I thought we had a lot of live chances going into the Claiming Crown last year and we wound up winning four races, although the horses I thought had the best chance to win, Major Marvel and Brandys Secret, both got beat.

Major Marvel finished second behind Nikki’s Sandcastle in the 2012 Emerald and will be favored to win that event on Saturday.

Maker said he’s hopeful he can have success similar to last year’s on Saturday, especially in the Jewel, a race he won in 2012 with Parent’s Honor.

“Obviously you go in hoping you can win them all, but to be realistic, this year’s races look extremely competitive and it will probably be hard to duplicate what we accomplished last year,” said Maker.

Bernie the Maestro was haltered by Maker for $35,000 at Saratoga in August 2012 and has won seven of 11 subsequent starts, including the Rapid Transit in impressive fashion here last December. Although primarily a one-turn sprinter for much of his career, Bernie the Maestro has successfully stretched out around two turns on several occasions and is coming off a one-length victory over multiple stakes winner Taptowne in the one-mile and 70-yard Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Downs on Oct. 5.

“There’s probably not as much quality in the field this year as last, and he’s coming off a very big race around two turns,” said Maker when asked why the Jewel and not the Rapid Transit again this year with Bernie the Maestro. “He’s been a model of consistency since we got him and a fun horse to be around. I wish I had a hundred like him.”

The Jewel drew a field of 10 including Dominant Jeannes and Flatter This, the second- and third-place finishers in last year’s Jewel, as well as Voodoo Storm, winner of the Mountaineer Mile in his last start.

Completing the field are the speedy Nevada Kid, who may stand some catching breaking from the rail, Nevada, Isutalkintome, Avenida Paseo, Sinorice, and Rule Number Six.

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