Local Runner Smack Smack Wins the Cornhusker

Local Runner Smack Smack Wins the Cornhusker
Photo: Coady Photography

Challengers came from far and wide came in attempt to take the signature event at Prairie Meadows, but in the end, the top prize went to a runner with experience over the track. In a blanket finish, local favorite Smack Smack won the 20th running of the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap (G3) by a head over Shotgun Kowboy.

On paper, there was not much early speed signed on, but after an even break, Shotgun Kowboy and race favorite S’maverlous, under jockey Florent Geroux, dueled through fractions of 23.64 and 48.78 down the backstretch.

Approaching the far turn, second favorite Cyrus Alexander loomed up three wide, with the eventual winner two wide back in fifth. After six furlongs in 1:13.35, Shotgun Kowboy appeared to throw in the towel dropping back to fourth, while the late runners looked to smother the top 2 choices.

Down the lane, Smack Smack tipped out four wide and engaged S’maverlous, while stablemate Pain and Misery loomed to his outside While Smack Smack persevered to the wire, Shotgun Kowboy shockingly fought back along the rail to grab the place, by a head over Pain and Misery.

Smack Smack was overlooked by bettors after running fourth in the local prep (Jim Rasmussen Memorial). Those who selected him were rewarded with a healthy $34.20 win mutual after he finished the 9 furlongs in 1:50.28. When asked about the reason for the turnaround, trainer Don Von Hemel said, “The extra sixteenth of a mile. This horse loves going a mile and an eighth.”  

Owned by award winning country singer Toby Keith’s, Dream Walkin’ Farms, Von Hemel proclaimed, “He's (Keith) one of the best owners I’ve ever had. Toby doesn’t tell me what do or where to run the horse. If a horse needs a break, he lets me give them the rest they need.”

With this his biggest win to date, Smack Smack runs his lifetime earnings to $747,850. Though it is too early to tell what lies ahead for the five year-old son of Closing Argument, Von Hemel didn’t rule out a summer trip to Saratoga. “I won’t take him up there, but if Donnie (son) goes up with anything, I might send him.” Whether or not bigger things are on the horizon for the winner, he’ll always have a home at Prairie Meadows. 

Photos of Shotgun Kowboy (3) and S'maverlous (7) courtesy of Annette Mangrum

Meet Jasen Mangrum

My interest in the Sport of Kings goes back over 25 years with my father taking me with his friends to the old Ak-Sar-Ben Race Course in Omaha, Nebraska. From those early experiences I was able to read the Daily Racing Form before the age of 10. Once The Woodlands opened in Kansas City in 1988, I became totally hooked on the sport studying racing charts after homework and tennis practice.  In recent years, with the explosion of handicapping tournaments, my love for playing the races has risen to a new level. Primarily focused on New York, Chicago and Louisiana racing, I have now been forced to study races far and wide in attempt to find cap horses in the tournaments I play.  I have also dabbled in horse ownership within syndicates and on my own.

My fondest memories in racing include Silver Charms 1997 Kentucky Derby victory.  Both my father and I selected him, which made for a memorable day.  The best race Ive seen was Tiznows first Breeders Cup Classic win in 2000 when he outdueled Giants Causeway down the length of the Churchill Downs stretch. My biggest windfall as a gambler was a pool-scooping Pick 4 win, paying over $6,600 at The Woodlands in 2005.

The point of this blog is to get everyone out there a few winners, but also to go in depth at how I come to the conclusions that I do. I encourage others to post picks they like, too, but please explain how you come to your conclusions. That way everyone can learn a little more about this great game, and add another weapon to their handicapping arsenal. Best of luck.

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