Kantarmaci nets another NYRA Claiming Challenge title
by Brian Bohl
Trainer Mertkan Kantarmaci continued his strong showings in the New York Racing Association’s “Under 20s Claiming Challenge” by capturing his fifth straight title in the series at the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park.
Launched in 2018, the challenge is open to local trainers with 20 or fewer horses nationwide.
The top-eight trainers in the contest shared a prize pool of $80,000, with Kantarmaci earning the first-place prize of $16,000. It was the second time he’s won the “Under 20s Claiming Challenge” at a Belmont meet, with the first coming in the 2019 spring/summer edition.
Kantarmaci tallied 85 points, besting second-place finisher Oscar Barrera, III [67.5 points, $14,000] during the 48-day meet that commenced April 22 and concluded July 11. Antonio Arriaga finished third with 47 points [$12,000], while Michael Miceli was fourth with 30 [$11,000.] Rounding out the top-eight were Randi Persaud [28.5 points, $9,000], Amira Chichakly [27.5 points, $7,000], Robert Klesaris [26.5 points, $6,000] and John Toscano [25 points, $5,000.]
“It feels great. We did really well the last couple of weeks,” Kantarmaci. “In the beginning of the meet, we ran a lot of horses maybe too high a level and high claiming prices, so we were having a hard time getting points. But the last week, we had a lot of main-track horses, and that helped to open up the point distances.”
For the 2021 Belmont spring/summer, Kantarmaci sent out 50 starters, compiling a 2-9-9 record with earnings of $299,018. He saddled a pair of winners of $45,000 claiming tilts, with Turn of Events on June 27 and Wicked Indeed on July 9.
“We are on the right track with claiming horses,” Kantarmaci said. “Hopefully, we can continue the success at Saratoga. It’s a really good program. In the future, if it keeps going, I think it’ll be hard for anyone to win it five times in a row like this. It’s nice to see my name at the top.”
To retain eligibility, there can be no more than 20 horses on a trainer's roster at any given time, although a trainer's stable may grow above 20 horses through claiming activity. But only roster horses can earn points. A trainer may replace a claimed horse who was on their roster with another claimed horse. After a horse is claimed, it will be added to the trainer's roster only at the trainer's request.
Horses in for a tag in an allowance optional claiming race will qualify for contest points. Points are not earned in maiden, allowance, starter allowance or stakes races.
A horse that ends up on the stewards' list for poor performance [defeated 25 or more lengths] will not earn the trainer points for that race. Horses that are running for 50 percent or less of the claiming price from their most recent start will only be eligible to earn 50 percent of the typical points for that race.
In addition, horses can only earn contest points for two races within a given 30-day time period. A horse may enter in additional races during that timeframe but will not earn contest points for those additional races.
For more information, please contact the racing office at 718-659-4241.
Contest Point Structure:
Dirt Races – All claiming races for winners, including horses in for an optional tag:
1st Place – 6 points
2nd Place – 5 points
3rd Place – 4 points
4th Place – 3 points
5th Place – 2 points
Turf Races- All claiming races for winners, including horses in for an optional tag
1st Place – 5 points
2nd Place – 4 points
3rd Place – 3 points
4th Place – 2 points
5th Place – 1 point
Past winners of the Under 20s Claiming Challenge:
2021 Belmont spring/summer – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2020-21 Aqueduct winter – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2019-20 Aqueduct winter – Eddie Barker/Mertkan Kantarmaci (tie)
2019 Belmont spring/summer – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2018-19 Aqueduct winter – Mertkan Kantarmaci
2018 Belmont spring/summer – Eddie Barker