Saturday evening’s concluding night of the Iowa Festival of Racing stages the Thoroughbred meet’s trio of Grade 3 stakes – the $200,000 Iowa Oaks, the $250,000 Iowa Derby, and the track’s signature event, the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.
Headed by the grand campaigner Awesome Gem, an 8-year-old gelding, the Cornhusker drew a competitive field of 11. Winner of more than $2.5 million in his 43-race career, Awesome Gem most recently wore down Flat Out to take the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30. Robbie Albarado comes in from Churchill Downs for the return mount.
Other Cornhusker contenders include Stachys, who returns from Canterbury Park after scoring in the May 28 Jim Rasmussen Memorial here; defending champ Shadowbdancing, who seeks a form reversal after running third in the Rasmussen; and It Happened Again, winner of Oaklawn’s Grade 3 Razorback Handicap on March 12. It Happened Again, owned by Prairie Meadows’s leading owner Maggi Moss and trained by Steve Asmussen, will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith for the first time.