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Iowa Derby Preview: Billy Batts Tries Dirt Once More
Billy Batts after winning the Baffle (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Iowa Derby Preview: Billy Batts Tries Dirt Once More

ALTOONA, IA – After a year spent competing mostly on turf, Sharif Mohammed Alhariri’s Billy Batts will try dirt once more when he enters Sunday’s $100,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows.

The Iowa Derby is a 1 1/16-mile dirt route for 3-year-olds that does not award any Kentucky Derby (G1) points. This year’s edition attracted a field of six males and has a local post time of 8:08 PM Eastern.

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Here is a look at the full field for Sunday’s Iowa Derby:

1. Acre (5/1) – He broke his maiden at Saratoga last summer but was unseen for over seven months. He failed to hit the board in three starts since returning in April, but this will be his first time trying two turns on dirt, so perhaps he will show a renewed ability here.

2. Hondo Lane (8/1) – He was looking good while dueling on the front end in the Turf Paradise Derby (his lone prior two-turn test), but then the horse to his inside suddenly bore out in the far turn and knocked them both out of the race. His starts before and after that were eye-popping 6-furlong victories by a combined 21 1/2 lengths, so as long as he can avoid playing bumper cars, then he could be dangerous at a price.

3. Prodigious Bay (4/1) – He turned heads with a 4 1/4-length maiden-breaking effort in the Oaklawn Park slop while stretching out for the first time. He set the pace in his most recent effort before fading to finish fourth behind Rushie, who returned to finish third in last month’s Santa Anita Derby (G1).

4. Billy Batts (3/1) – He made his first eight career starts on turf, winning the Baffle Stakes and finishing second (beaten just 3/4 of a length) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). He never menaced while making his first dirt try in the Saudi Derby Cup, but new trainer Steve Asmussen convinced his top jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., to drive into town for the mount, so expect a better effort here.

5. Shashashakemeup (2/1) – After a failed attempt to make the Kentucky Derby trail earlier in the year, he dropped back to sprinting and finished first and second against optional claiming rivals. He seems to be most effective when trailing early and making one steady push in one-turn races; will he try the same tactic as he stretches back out?

6. Letmeno (5/1) – He broke his maiden on debut last summer but did not come close to earning a second victory in his 7 subsequent starts, including the last 3 on turf. Trainer Ian Wilkes adds blinkers while moving him back to dirt, an angle with which he connects at 18%.

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