The mare Invaluable has been selected as the 2022 Claiming Crown Horse of the Year, her name neatly summing up the hard-knocking warhorses that populate America’s racing cards largely out of the limelight.
Trainer Mike Maker and owner Peter Proscia’s Paradise Farms Corp. claimed Invaluable, then 5 years old, in the final days of Saratoga’s 2022 meet with the intention of running in the Claiming Crown on Nov .12 at Churchill Downs. Mission accomplished. After finishing third in a $10,000 starter-allowance at Keeneland, Invaluable splashed to a 1 1/2-length victory under Luis Saez in the slop over Maoilin in the $100,000 Glass Slipper at a mile for fillies and mares who had run for a claiming price of $12,500 or less in 2021-’22.
The Claiming Crown Horse of the Year is voted on by the National HBPA’s Industry Awards Committee chaired by Todd Mostoller from the Pennsylvania HBPA. Invaluable will be recognized at the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) annual awards dinner on Sept. 9. The Claiming Crown — designed to give the blue-collar workhorses their own championship day on the lines of the Breeders’ Cup — is sponsored by the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, TOBA and the host track with an assist from the HBPA’s state affiliate, in this case the Kentucky HBPA.
“Invaluable is a shining example of the importance and spirit of the claiming horse,” said National HBPA President Dr. Doug Daniels. “She might not be the fastest horse or the most accomplished horse, but she shows up for work every day and does her best for whatever barn she’s in. Invaluable illustrates what it means to be a claiming horse that thrives in nurturing environments and progresses up the claiming ranks. She is exactly the type of horse the Claiming Crown was designed to honor.”
Invaluable was claimed three times last year and has been claimed six times overall, including out of her first start in a $50,000 maiden-claiming race at Gulfstream Park. She has pretty much made money for all her various owners. In an era when many horses only run a handful of times, Invaluable raced 11 times last year between Jan. 23 and Dec. 8 at five different tracks, accruing $156,699 with a 3-3-2 record.
The Kentucky-bred chestnut daughter of Include became eligible for the Glass Slipper by running in – and winning – an $8,000 conditioned claiming race on April 1 at Oaklawn Park. Maker claimed her on behalf of Proscia for $32,000 five races later on Sept. 1 at Saratoga.
“We’re very fortunate to have that horse, and I’m grateful to Mike and his team with how well as we did with her,” Proscia said. “When we got her, we weren’t quite sure what we had. But she’s developed and we have a nice horse.”
For her career, Invaluable has earned $370,932 while going 8-6-7 in 29 starts. She has never competed in a stakes race, with the Claiming Crown run under starter-allowance conditions, albeit with big purses.
“The Claiming Crown is one of our top priorities every year,” said Maker, who also won last year’s $200,000 Claiming Crown Jewel with Keystone Field. “We thought Invaluable was a nice, sound horse that we could point for the Claiming Crown and also the various starter races around Kentucky. One of the great things about her is that she remains eligible to run back in the Glass Slipper this year.”
The 2023 Claiming Crown will be staged Dec. 2 at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. The deadline to make horses eligible for the Claiming Crown is Nov. 18, with entries to be taken Nov. 25.