OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Likely due in part to the anticipation of higher purses -- which kick in Wednesday at Aqueduct -- activity at the claim box was quite brisk through the first three weeks of the inner track meet.
In 15 days of racing from Nov. 30 through Dec. 18, there were 66 horses claimed for a total of $3.866 million. Not a day went by when at least one horse wasn't claimed, and on six occasions six or more horses were haltered.
"I wish I had plenty of money myself, because I'd start claiming more horses," said trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., who has made three claims since the inner track opened. "It's a good time to claim, you can make some money, even when you drop one."
Dutrow said that a couple of owners have contacted him about getting more active at the claim box when the purses started going up.
David Jacobson has been the most active at the claim box, making eight of the 66 claims so far, while getting outshook on a few others. Jacobson, who also is part owner of some of the horses he trains, said that his activity at the claim box is just the normal course of business for him.
"I'm not claiming any more or any less," Jacobson, who is 7 for 28 and tied for second in the standings, said Monday. "I'm a claiming trainer and I'm going to claim horses I think are worth claiming. Plus, I get a lot of horses claimed from me."
Jacobson said that while the purse increase is likely to keep action at the claim box strong, he noted that "it doesn't do you any good if your horses aren't running good."
Dutrow targets weekend stakes
Going back to the opening of Aqueduct's main track on Nov. 5, Rick Dutrow has won 20 races from 52 starters in New York, including five stakes.
He will seek some more stakes success this weekend when he runs Groomedforvictory in the $75,000 Alex M. Robb and Swag Daddy in the $75,000 Restrainor, both on Saturday, and C.C.'s Pal in either the Interborough or Ladies Handicap on Sunday. Both of those races carry a $75,000 pot.
Dutrow claimed Groomedforvictory last February for $62,500, but didn't get to run him until Nov. 20 when he won the Adirondack Holme Stakes going a mile over Aqueduct's main track. Due to Groomedforvictory's success in one-turn races, Dutrow had thought about sending him to Gulfstream Park for the winter, but decided to give him one chance to run over the inner track in order to remain in New York-bred company.
"He's here and doing so good," Dutrow said. "If it works out and he handles the inner track, we'll keep him in New York. We know he likes Gulfstream. We'll see what happens here first."
Inherit the Gold and Stormy's Majesty, both open company stakes winners, are expected to run in the Robb, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles.
Swag Daddy won the Damon Runyon for New York-breds on Dec. 4 by a head. The Restrainor Stakes, scheduled for Saturday, is the same type of race and will be worth $10,000 more.
Dutrow said C.C.'s Pal is so versatile that he would run her in either the Interborough at six furlongs or the Ladies at 1 1/8 miles, whichever race he felt came up easier. The Ladies only drew 11 nominations and may have trouble drawing enough of entries to be carded.
C.C's Pal is coming off a victory in the Garland of Roses, run at six furlongs, here Dec. 3.
Dutrow's most recent New York stakes winner, Tiz the Argument, has already shipped to south Florida and will be pointed to the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream on Jan. 28. Tiz the Argument won the Let Me Linger overnight stakes by 7 3/4 lengths on Dec. 18, her third consecutive victory.