Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Race 6 – Saylorville Stakes, 8:46 p.m.
The Iowa Festival of Racing kicks off with a field of six fillies and mares going six furlongs. Off a sharp win in which she upset the highly regarded Judy the Beauty in the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill Downs, Beat the Blues rates a solid favorite in here. The six-year-old Bret Calhoun trainee has an excellent 10-of-24 lifetime mark, has a win over the Prairie Meadows strip, and is likely coming off the race of her life. Of the others, Lulu Wong and Livi Makenzie figure to keep each other busy with fast early fractions, which should help things up nicely for the favorite, and perhaps allow Devious Intent and Rosie Napravnik to pick up second place money.
1 - Beat the Blues / 2- Devious Intent
***Beat the Blues has been scratched ... Devious Intent has become the top selection over Livi Makenzie***
Race 7 – Iowa Distaff, 9:18 p.m.
In perhaps the weakest of the six stakes races over the two-evening festival, a field of seven fillies and mares will travel 1 1/16 miles. Favoritism should fall to Flashy American off an open lengths win in an optional claimer in Louisville last time. She’s never even been in a stakes race before, so I will try to beat the chalk in this one. With a strong early pace assured by the three-year-old, Cruzette, this race could be set up for a rally more so than the majority of races run at Prairie Meadows. At 12-1 on the morning line, Itsabeautifulthing might be the one to take advantage. 3-for-5 lifetime on the dirt, the daughter of Henny Hughes was behind tedious fractions in the prep for this, and not surprisingly, suffered to a 4th place finish. With a different pace scenario tomorrow night, look for her to run a much improved effort, which could well be enough to beat these.
1 - Itsabeautifulthing / 2- Cruzette
Race 8 – Iowa Sprint Handicap, 9:50 p.m.
What the night’s headliner lacks in size it makes up for with pure sprinting power. While all five horses in the field are fast hombres, two of them stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. We all know the heavy favorite, Delaunay. The winner of six straight sprint stakes, all in impressive fashion, it would be no stretch to call the Maggi Moss runner the best sprinter in America right now. Having said that, there is a new kid on the block who may be ready to also move into the nation’s elite. Not quite ready for prime time this spring, Gentlemen’s Bet rebounded from his only career loss with a dazzling display last time at Churchill Downs in which he bettered the 1:08 barrier for six furlongs. He’ll get six pounds from Delaunay in the Iowa Sprint, and if he can get the jump on him at the top of the stretch, he may just be long gone. He’s worth a shot considering the odds difference in the two.
1 - Gentlemen’s Bet / 2- Delaunay
Race 6 – Iowa Oaks (G3), 8:46 p.m.
Get ready for the Baffert brigade. Fiftyshadesofhay had every reason to lose the Black-Eyed Susan last time, a little too far off a slow early pace, and then needing to alter course in the stretch, but her late acceleration to nail Marathon Lady was nothing but impressive. Her outside post position of ten, is the only thing I see slowing her down on Saturday, but look for Martin Garcia to find good position early on the way to another graded stakes victory. Of the rest, So Many Ways is the class, but is likely better suited for one-turn. Meanwhile, back on dirt, Hitechnoweenie has looked very good winning her last pair for trainer, Kenny McPeek, and is coming off a nice win over the track. Like the top pick, she has enough tactical speed to find a good spot in the early going.
1 - Fiftyshadesofhay / 2- Hitechnoweenie
Race 7 – Iowa Derby (G3), 9:18 p.m.
In the Iowa Derby, the two main speed horses, Manando and Our Double Play, are also the two race favorites. Of the pair, I like the Baffert runner, Manando quite a bit more. Having run consistently against good horses in California, the son of Bluegrass Cat should actually find the competition in the Iowa Derby to be a little light. Provided he does not get into a suicidal pace duel under Martin Garcia, he looms the one to beat. Be that as it may, with a record of only 2-of-9 lifetime, he is certainly beatable. Not really liking the horses who have had stakes experience already, I am looking for the rapidly improving Betweenhereandcool to be the top threat to Baffert’s charge. Since leaving California, the son of Unbridled’s Song has run three sharp races for Steve Asmussen, with each one better than the last. In his latest, he beat some nice horses in good fashion last time at Churchill Downs.
1 - Manando / 2- Betweenhereandcool
Race 8 – Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (GIII), 9:50 p.m.
With plenty of early speed lining up for the Festival’s final and richest race, I am looking for an upsetter to be there to pick up the pieces. Ian Wilkes has Nicklaus Way developing into a nice older horse, who could well be on the verge of a breakout performance on Saturday night. After switching back to dirt, he won three straight before moving up into the big leagues. Although winless in his last three starts, Nicklaus Way has run some sneaky good races that should keep his odds favorable for the Cornhusker. While Silver Max, Taptowne, and Prayer For Relief are needing to keep track of each other early, look for the four-year-old son of Bluegrass Cat to sit a perfect trip before uncoiling his run of the far turn.
1 - Nicklaus Way / 2- Prayer For Relief