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Aaron previews the 2023 Cornhusker Handicap (G3) from Prairie Meadows, then gives his top picks & long shots. After winning the 2022 Iowa Derby over the same track, the Kelly Von Hemel-trained Ain’t Life Grand takes aim at making history in the biggest local event for older horses. Will he become the 1st Iowa-bred to win both races? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Prairie Meadows Racetrack in Altoona, Iowa, will host the 2023 Iowa Festival of Racing this Friday, July 7, and Saturday, July 8. The two-day affair features eight Thoroughbred stakes races highlighted by the Grade 3, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, carded as the eighth race on Saturday.
Post time for the first race on both days of the 2023 Iowa Festival of Racing will be at 6:00 p.m. Central.
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Multiple stakes winner Ain’t Life Grand (Not This Time – Cat d’Oro by Medaglia d’Oro) is the lone Iowa-bred entrant in a field of 10 scheduled to contest the 2023 running of the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker at 1 1/8 miles over the Altoona oval.
Ain’t Life Grand, owned by RPM Thoroughbreds of Prairie Meadows Hall of Famers Peggy and Ray Shattuck and conditioned by Prairie Meadows Hall of Fame trainer Kelly Von Hemel, will have the services of regular rider Elvin Gonzalez as he attempts to record his fifth consecutive local stakes victory.
The talented colt found himself in the national spotlight after his determined victory over a quality field of seven rivals in the 2022 Iowa Derby.
Ain’t Life Grand shipped to Saratoga for the Grade 1, $1,250,000 Travers Stakes in August of 2022 where he finished seventh after prompting the early pace. He has won three of his four starts since then, including a facile victory in the Jim and Sandra Rasmussen Stakes over his home track on June 10.
“We’re excited to see how Ain’t Life Grand and the other locally based horses run in the Festival stakes races,” said Prairie Meadows Thoroughbred racing secretary Stuart Slagle. “Stakes coordinator Ray Lopez and the entire staff in the racing office worked overtime to recruit horses and fill the races. The fruits of their labors are obvious on the overnight.”
Slagle then singled out the $250,000 Iowa Derby, carded as the ninth race on Saturday July 8, for recognition.
That listed stakes race at 1 1/16 miles drew a full field of 14 horses including 3-year-olds from the barns of nationally recognized trainers Steve Asmussen, Kenny McPeek, Brad Cox, and Saffie Joseph, Jr., as well as horses handled by local conditioners Kelly Von Hemel, Jon Arnett, and Doug Anderson.
Asmussen entered a pair in the Iowa Derby, How Did He Do That and Black Powder, both exiting the $300,000 Texas Derby at Lone Star Park on May 29.
Three other Iowa Derby entrants, Bo Cruz, Raise Cain, and Denington, were the third, fourth and fifth-place finishers in their last starts in the Grade 3 $400,000 Matt Winn Stakes at Ellis Park on June 11.
Von Hemel will send out Big Luke, winner of the Gray’s Lake on June 3. Arnett entered Ocean Of Storms, who broke his maiden at Prairie Meadows last season. Anderson ‘s Derby runner is Warren L, winner of the Prairie Mile on June 10.
The first day of the Iowa Festival of Racing on Friday includes the $100,000 Iowa Distaff at 1 1/16 miles, the $100,000 Iowa Sprint at six furlongs, the $100,000 Prairie Gold Lassie at 5 1/2 furlongs, and the $100,000 Saylorville at six furlongs
Saturday’s Festival lineup of stakes races includes the $100,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile at 5 1/2 furlongs, the Grade 3 $225,000 Iowa Oaks at 1 1/16 miles, the $250,000 Iowa Derby at 1 1/16 miles, and the Grade 3 $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.
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