More than 1,500 miles from his Masaryktown farm in central Pasco County, Owen McQuade is ready for what he calls "the biggest race in the world to me right now."
A victory by Inhonorofjohnnie in the $100,000 Tiara, one of seven stakes in Claiming Crown X this afternoon at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., would make the 7-year-old Double Honor mare only the second two-time winner in the series.
"I feel pretty confident," said McQuade, a Tampa Bay Downs horseman. "This is my Breeders' Cup, my (Kentucky) Derby, my Belmont (Stakes). That's what this means to me. Other guys have the horses to go to those big races. This is mine."
Claiming Crown X, run under starter-allowance conditions, is the marquee event for claiming horses in North America. To be eligible, a horse must have raced since 2007 for a claiming tag from $7,500 to $35,000. Inhonorofjohnnie qualified in October, running for $25,000 at Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J.
Jesse Garcia will ride Inhonorofjohnnie in the 11/16-mile turf test for fillies and mares (Race 6, 5:08 p.m.). It is the second-richest stakes behind the $150,000 Jewel. Sixty-four horses are in contention for total purses of $600,000. TBD trainer Kirk Ziadie has Ruby's Red Socks in the $75,000 Rapid Transit (5:40 p.m.) and Fireonthewire in the $50,000 Express (4:47 p.m.).
McQuade, 50, purchased Inhonorofjohnnie as a weanling for $1,600 at the October 2001 Ocala Breeders' Sale. In 46 lifetime starts, she has six wins with earnings of $194,418.
Her signature victory came in the 2005 Tiara, a 2-length decision over O.K. Corral. The bay daughter from the Stage Door Johnny mare Johnnie Mae struggled afterward. In the next 31 months, she lost 19 consecutive races and was nearly retired in 2006 with a mysterious ailment that sidelined her for a year.
"She had a thermal body scan and they found heat in numerous places, which isn't uncommon with any athlete," McQuade said. "But they couldn't pinpoint anything specific. The vet told me I should retire the horse. I felt (she) needed some time off, so I turned her out at my farm, hoping time would heal her."
Inhonorofjohnnie ended her drought Feb. 1 at TBD, where she won an allowance-optional claiming race. Inhonorofjohnnie is coming off a runnerup showing to Lemonline in the $50,000 Minnesota Horsemen's Benevolence and Protective Association Mile on June 14 at Canterbury Park. It was her sixth straight in-the-money finish.
Downs horses afar: Tampa Bay Downs connections will be active today on the Grade III $750,000 West Virginia Derby card at Mountaineer Race Track in Chester. Trainers Gerald Bennett and Anthony Granitz each have three horses entered. Bennett saddles Fire Striker and Shipwatch in the $125,000 Governor's, and Coffee Can in the $110,000 Senate President's. Granitz has Chief Thief in the $85,000 House of Delegates Speaker's Cup, and Lemonlime and Si Si Mon Amie in the Senate President's. Duane Knipe has Puppeteer in the House of Delegates Speaker's Cup.
Breeders' Cup takes stand: Trainers of horses that test positive for anabolic steroids at the Breeders' Cup in October will face a one-year suspension from the event, and three-time violators will be banned for life, according to new rules announced Friday. The top four finishers in all 14 races, and at least one horse selected at random, will be tested. Violations will result in forfeited purse money and suspensions. The Breeders' Cup is at Santa Anita in California on Oct. 24-25, and there again in 2009.
Saratoga: Any Limit beat Zada Bell by 53/4 lengths at the $150,000 Honorable Miss Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course in New York.
Information from Times wires contributed to this report.