2016 Iowa Festival of Racing Preview: Saturday

For three (this year instead of the usual two) nights, Prairie Meadows puts on its Iowa Festival of Racing.  The Friday night on the festival program features two stakes while the Thursday program features two and the  Saturday night program features two. Night three, the Saturday program, is the focus of this Picks & Ponderings analysis. The races analyzed are a pair of handicaps: the $100,000 Iowa Sprint and the $300,000 Grade Three Prairie Meadows Cornhusker.  While the Iowa Festival is traditionally at night, please note the track is running a day card, as all Saturday programs this year have been contested in the daytime.

Nicolle Neulist takes you through the first day, Thursday, of the Iowa Festival, that discusses the Saylorville Stakes and the G3 Iowa Oaks . Paul Mazur will take you through the Friday portion of the Festival that breaks down the Iowa Distaff and G3 Iowa Derby.

In addition to Iowa, Nicolle Neulist also tackles Sunday’s United Nations Stakes (G1) at Monmouth.

Prairie Meadows provides a free live stream on their website, from which you can watch these and all races from the track.  All races in this preview are scheduled for Saturday July 2. Morning line odds were not available at original publish time.

Updated July 2 to include morning lines and race-day scratches/conditions.

Prairie Meadows — Race 8 — Iowa Sprint Handicap — Six Furlongs on Dirt — post time 4:17 pm CT

This year’s Iowa Sprint is the eighteenth renewal of the six-furlong event for older males – “three and up” in racing terms. Like the Iowa Distaff last night, the naming is rather vanilla.  But the Iowa Sprint through the years has made a case as a race that could be a Grade Three, as it draws fields that sometimes exceed the drawing power of its purse.  Or, as seen by its winners, draws winners on an upward swing who go on to do better things.  Notable winners include locally based and later one-time Arlington stakes namesake Coach Jimi Lee (2004, 2006), Golden Shaheen-winning Benny The Bull (2007), Majesticperfection (2010), who became a G1 winner, Illinois-bred and eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero Work All Week (2014).  Both Benny The Bull and Work All Week went on to be named champions of their division; Benny the Bull won his divisional title in 2008 (the same year as his Dubai win); Work All Week’s Eclipse hardware was in the same year as his Iowa Sprint score.

Majesticperfection, wins the 2010 Iowa Sprint. In his next start, he would win the G1 A. G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

If the track turns sloppy – Mercedes Stables LLC’s STORM POWER becomes a checkmark winner given how he ralllied in the Skinner Memorial, the local prep to this race last out.  But STORM POWER’s efforts from his winter base of Turf Paradise under the tutelage of Robertino Diodoro on a dry oval make him a play without regard to moisture.  While he closed off off the pace to win those races at Turf Paradise – there were  some zippy paces in play.  But he can be close to the pace – he was that two back at Oaklawn and ran evenly while the fractions were more tepid.  He can carve out a trip and he might play out the speed of the speed in a race without a dead-set front runner (always a good thing in these parts).  Ramon Vazquez has the call here.  Diodoro hits at 34% on the meet – another plus point.  WILBO cleared the N2X condiiton two back at Oaklawn.  While he runs to his figure – it was good enough in Oaklawn allowances but when facing an on-the-way-up Subtle Indian last time out.   He seems to be the type who needs time between races – and he’s getting that as he hasn’t seen the starter since Oaklawn.  The trainer hits at 82% in the money (though with a small sample) coming off layoffs.  WILBO might get to control the pace here.  Prairie Meadows is an oval where the track profile does a complete reversal in the wet.  The inside speed favoring oval turns to a wide rallying closer’s paradise in the slop. Same day scratches eliminate WABEL and with a good track, let’s use APPREHENDER.  He’s been kicking around in Oaklawn listed stakes and exits a second in the Skinner Memorial – the local prep to this race.  Second off the layoff is also in play, and he’s hit the top two three out of four lifetime outings in Iowa.


#7 STORM POWER (4/1)

#5 WILBO (8/1)


Longshot: #4 PLOT TWIST (15/1)  is a longshot to use wet or dry, but a runner who moves up a lot should the track turn sloppy based on his off-the-pace style.  Winner last out at 36-1 in the Dark Star Cup near the Twin Cities, he’s got speed figures on the rise on dry surfaces and moves up to the listed stakes level after annexing on with one black type last time.  The win came going six and a half, but PLOT TWIST graduated going six and trolled around on the B-level mid south ovals in Texas and Oklahoma on dry tracks before his win last out.  Daniel Vergara takes the call on this Tina Rodriguez-Guzman trained and Raymond Gross, Jr. owned production.

Prairie Meadows — Race 9 — G3 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap — One and one-eighth miles on Dirt — post time 4:50 pm CT

The Cornhusker Handicap started its days at Ak-sar-ben in 1966.  The fondly missed Omaha, Nebraska oval took the name from the state’s university and from Nebraska’s penchant for corn production.  After starting at a mile and a sixteenth, the race moved to nine furlongs in the seventies, and has been a Grade Two or Grade Three.  The Cornhusker wasn’t run in 1996, and last was contested at Ak-sar-ben in 1995.  In 1997 the race moved a state east to Iowa – another state known for making corn -to make new winners of the Cornhusker.  A name change followed as well, to the current one: Prarie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.  As a summertime handicap race, it provides clues to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Fort Larned (2012) won the Cornhusker and Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year and is the only to do so.  Horses from Chicago have gone west for the Cornhusker and come back with trophies, be it Blue Buckaroo (1989), Black Tie Affair (1991), Lord of the Game (2005), and Shadowbdancing (2010).

Fort Larned leads them all the way around in the 2012 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.

The presence of a dead rail earlier in the year in the G2 New Orleans Handicap may have inflated his figure, but S’MAVERLOUS probably has the best profile to fit this race and does possess two wins at nine panels – one being the aforementioned G2. Winner last time of a listed stakes on Penn Mile Day, he was close to the pace and kicked on to beat Red Rifle (who goes in the G3-CDN Dominion Day) and a next out winner.  This field doesn’t seem much harder despite the difference between a listed stakes and a graded stakes.  Florent Geroux has the call for trainer Mike Maker and the colors of Gata Racing Stable.  Sandwiched between those wins is a clunker in the G2 Charles Town Classic, but a forgiveable clunker given that was at three turns. Being the speed of the speed in the Iowa Festival isn’t a bad thing, and SHOTGUN KOWBOY was that speed and carried it nine furlongs last year in the G3 Oklahoma Derby.  He hasn’t gotten a win picture yet at four – a worrisome development as he might have plateaued last year at Remington.  Still, he was the pace in the G3 Razorback and earned some silver medals in graded affairs in Texas.  He is a runner you can use wet or dry as he does have some back wet form from his frosh days.  Give the connections of DOMAIN’S RAP credit: they know what to do with him – put him near a forward pace and use his inherit gear.  DOMAIN’S RAP once upon a time was a Stiritz homebred who campaigned out of Chicago.  After tumbling down the claiming ladder he was snagged for ten grand at Remington.  Back up the ladder he went , and he was good enough to grab a G3 placing at Oaklawn.  The G2 Oaklawn Hanidcap turned up strong this year and was a bridge too far, but he goes second off the shelf after a runner-up effort in the local prep.

Prairie Meadows is an oval where the track profile does a complete reversal in the wet.  The inside speed favoring oval turns to a wide rallying closer’s paradise in the slop. While analysis below and selections above are for the dry (with notes on who is wet-track approved), elevate SHOTGUN KOWBOY and consider others, including our longshot to watch.


#7 S’MAVERLOUS (4/1)


#2 DOMAIN’S RAP (5/1)

Longshot: #6 CODE WEST (6/1) is a runner you can use wet or dry.  A clunk up type who doesn’t mind nine panels (eight starts, a win, four top three finishes), he runs to his figure.  Sometimes it’s good enough (winning the local prep), sometimes it’s not (2015 Essex).  He got a yucky trip in last year’s Fayette and the entire year seemed full of meh efforts.  Maybe he’s back to his old self and can build off it second off the layoff.  His clunk-up style means he moves up in the wet, but he’s fine in the dry given what he showed last time out.  Israel Ocampo takes the call on the Boyd Caster trainee with the three Hawks (Bryan, Leo, and Tim) as owners.

All videos courtesy of Youtube.


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