2014 Prairie Bayou Stakes Preview

With the stakes season at Hawthorne over for the winter, Paul headed west to check in on some promising juveniles running in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI).  I head southeast to Turfway Park, which drew a full field of three-and-up types ready to go eight and a half furlongs on the polytrack for their share of a $60,000 purse in the Prairie Bayou Stakes.

This race is named after 1993 Preakness Stakes winner Prairie Bayou.  Prairie Bayou made his first graded stakes attempt in his only start at Turfway Park: the Grade II Jim Beam Stakes, the race now christened the Spiral.  In that race he settled near the back of the pack early, circled around the field through the turn, and stayed ahead of longshot Proudest Romeo to prevail by three parts of a length.  The Thomas Bohannan trainee returned just two weeks later in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (GII).  He prevailed again, this time by two lengths over Wallenda; by doing so he stamped himself the favourite for the Kentucky Derby.  He fell two and a half lengths short of Sea Hero in the Derby, yet still went off favoured in the Preakness.  That time, the son of Little Missouri did not disappoint.  Near the back early, he again made his trademark sweeping move, and kept a game Cherokee Run at bay to win.  It was the second Preakness win in a row for both trainer Bohannan and owner Loblolly Stable; they had also won the Preakness the year before with Pine Bluff.  Sadly, that Preakness would be Prairie Bayou’s final win.  In the Belmont Stakes three weeks later, while running down the backstretch, he suffered a catastrophic fracture of his left cannon bone.

In 1995, Turfway inaugurated a stakes race run in Prairie Bayou’s name.  It was originally run at this distance, though was stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in 1996, and remained that way until 2012.  The only two-time winner of the race was Turfway homer Timeless Fashion, who won both the 2009 and 2010 incarnations of the race for trainer Thomas Drury, Jr.  Some of the most accomplished winners of the Prairie Bayou stakes include 2004 Hanshin Cup (GIII) winner Crafty Shaw (2001) as well as 2006 Donn Handicap (GI) winner Brass Hat (2005).  The most notable winner of the Prairie Bayou Stakes from a local perspective was 2011 winner Proceed Bee.  He raced for trainer Scott Becker and owner William Stiritz at the time, and also won the Hawthorne Derby (GIII) in 2009.  Proceed Bee raced for those connections until being claimed away at Oaklawn in February of this year, and then mounted a four-win streak through the spring for new connections.

Morning lines were not available at original publish time. Piece updated December 20 to include them.

Saturday, December 20

Turfway Park Race 6: Prairie Bayou Stakes, three-year-olds and up, 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack, post time 8:40pm EST

This year’s renewal of the Prairie Bayou drew a field of eleven runners, and no shortage of early speed.  CERRO and VANITY FEATURE are the ones most likely to be on the front end: both do by far their best work on the front end, and both have very sharp early pace.  AITUTAKI does not always send, though judging from his performances he really only does his best from there.  SET THE SAIL, JAZ N TAP, and HEUSTON have also shown some propensity to go to the lead, though none will likely be able to stay along with either CERRO or VANITY FEATURE for long.  Among the speedy types, CERRO has the most to recommend him.  Not only is his early pace among the strongest in the field, but he has shown the ability to carry forth and win even if contested early.  He is also on the distance cutback — he was third beaten less than a length last out in the Claiming Crown Jewel, but that was at nine furlongs.  He gets regular rider Cecily Evans, who has won two of her three starts on him, and has hit at 28% (with 64% in the money) with trainer Dane Kobiskie over the last two months.  Kobiskie may not be a big name, but his 22% record with shippers suggests that when he sends a runner, he means business.  Still, with all the speed combined with the fact that Turfway has been kind to off-pace types, looking to a closer makes a lot of sense.  With that, JOHA looks strong here.  Though JOHA has won on the front end before, he more often tends to come in from off the pace.  This member of the Mike Maker brigade (Maker also entered COZY KITTEN and LEADEM IN KEN) has never run at Turfway, though he does have a solid 7-2-1-1 career mark on synthetic surfaces.  He also was fourth as a 20/1 shot in this year’s Hanshin Cup (GIII) at Arlington; he closed from the clouds to end up beaten by just a length and a half all told.  He has shown enough speed to contend with anything this field can muster, and his 3-1-1-0 record at the distance suggests he has the stamina as well.  Finally, he retains the services of sharp local rider Deshawn Parker: 17% on the Turfway meet, and 24% generally on route races.  Finally, another Maker trainee deserves consideration: LEADEM IN KEN.  This runner was off the board in his only career start over Polytrack, but given that the start was his career debut, there has been time and room for improvement.  This runner is a respectable 6-2-0-2 at a mile and a sixteenth.  His running style should also suit the race; he probably will not be as far back as JOHA, but will be solidly midpack, and stands no chance of getting embroiled in a pace battle.  Though LEADEM IN KEN has some history of hanging, he often fires well enough to get in for at least a share, and he has been working well over the Turfway oval leading up to this race.

Selections:

#3 JOHA (3/1)

#2 CERRO (4/1)

#7 LEADEM IN KEN (5/1)

Longshot:  #9 PUPPY MANNERS (8/1) has done his best work to date over a synthetic surface, but that was a completely different animal: the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta.  Still, he showed some ability to get over a Polytrack surface three starts back, falling half a lengths short in a seven-furlong sprint for $50,000 claimers.  His class remains a question, and he will have to improve on his more recent performances to get the job done here, but there are two big factors weighing in favour of PUPPY MANNERS.  First off, the pace scenario should be nothing short of plum for him.  He is a clear mid-pack to closing type, which should work well with CERRO, VANITY FEATURE, AITUTAKI, and anyone else who wants to try to go with them up front.  Late running types are doing well at this distance in general, as are outside runners, making this a friendly place.  Furthermore, Albin Jimenez rides.  Jimenez has never ridden PUPPY MANNERS before, but he fits the “sharp local jockey” angle perfectly.  He is firing at 16% on the meet, and hitting at an exemplary 22% in route races.  He may be exactly what this Puppy needs.

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