The thoroughbreds are back in Iowa this Friday night, as Prairie Meadows gets set to kick off another exciting meet. Like always, the center piece of the meet will be the Iowa Festival of Racing on June 28th and 29th. Last year Breeders Cup Classic winner Fort Larned won the Cornhusker Handicap, and 2011 Two Year Old of the Year Hansen won the Iowa Derby. With those two headliners as well as several others, it could be argued that last years festival was the most productive one Prairie Meadows has ever had. While the Iowa Festival of Racing is the highlight, the day-to-day action will be filled with hard knocking claimers, and Iowa Bred racing. The Iowa Bred program will be on full display August 3rd, which will be this years date for Iowa Classics night.
When you think of Prairie Meadows, the first thing that always comes to mind is the team of Chris Richard and Maggi Moss. Richard has won the trainers title here two times in a row, and looks loaded and ready to do it again. Last year Richard won 76 races, and won races at a 33% clip. Maggi Moss was just as dominant on the owner end of things, as she won 44 races at an eye-popping 43% win rate. The two will look to team up again with several claimers and Iowa Breds that will be ready to go right from the start.
Another part of the Richard/Moss team is the king of Iowa jockeys: Terry Thompson. Thompson is a local fixture at Prairie Meadows, and this year he’ll be looking to bounce back from an injury that cost him nearly half of last years meet. At the time of his injury Thompson was leading the jockey standings by a decent margin, and he still ended up finishing 4th with 50 victories and a 34% win rate. Alex Birzer was the winner of last years riding title, and returns to defend the title this meet. Any horse either one of these two jump on will automatically earn respect in the eyes of handicappers.
A story that just developed over the weekend was the break out performance by Get Happy Mister, as he won the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park last Saturday. He’ll head to Iowa with trainer Kelly Von Hemel, and he could be one of the best horses on the grounds. The three-year old colt has won five races from six starts, and received a Beyer speed figure of 91 for his latest victory. Von Hemel also has another talented three-year old in Kale’s Kourage, who broke his maiden at Oaklawn in a special weight, and was recently a decent second in an allowance. Both horses add intrigue to a barn that already has a solid group of Iowa Bred horses including Someplace Else, Queen Lilly Kay, and Diesel’s Prize. While on the subject of developing three-year olds, we must also mention Chris Hartman’s very fast horse named Black Bear. Hartman is heading to Prairie Meadows, but it’s unclear where or when the undefeated colt will run next. He’s crushed two fields at six furlongs so far, and is one you better be putting on your watch list!
The before mentioned will get plenty of attention, but there are several others to keep an eye on this meet. Lynn Chleborad is always solid at Iowa, and this year she brings in the very talented three year old sprinter American Sugar. Ray Tracy Jr. had a strong meet last year, and will be loaded once again this season. Tim Martin and Jon Arnett are two other trainers to keep an eye on as both will bring large strings of horses to the grounds. Other jockey’s of interest include: David Mello, Israel Ocampo, Ken Tohill, and Glen Corbett.