By Richard Rosenblatt
There’s a bunch of pretty good horse races at Prairie Meadows on Friday night, featuring a Breeders’ Cup winner and an Arkansas Derby winner.
The biggest day of the racing season in Iowa kicks off a Fourth of July weekend loaded with stakes races up and down the East Coast, from New York to Maryland to Florida.
As an appetizer, 2020 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Knicks Go tops the field in the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap (G3) and Arkansas Derby Super Stock heads the field in the $250,000 Iowa Derby. Also, Fantasy Stakes (G3) winner Pauline’s Pearl is the favorite in the $225,000 Iowa Oaks (G3).
Not bad for a track that receives little national notoriety.
Post time: 7:12 p.m. (race 6)
No longer a graded stakes event, the Iowa Derby has a solid field of eight 3-year-olds – led by Asmussen-trained Super Stock (7-2) and stakes-winning Nova Rags (Pasco Stakes).
Ricardo Santana, Jr., has the ride aboard Super Stock leaving from post 2. Nova Rags, second in the Peter Pan (G3) and third in the Woody Stephens (G1) in his two previous starts, will be ridden by Junior Alvarado.
Super Stock was 16th of 19 in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and most recently finished fourth after a troubled trip (Get Her Number clipped his heels) in the Texas Derby over a sloppy track at Lone Star on May 31.
Post time: 7:42 p.m. (race 7)
A field of seven fillies was entered for the 1 1/16-mile race with Pauline’s Pearl the 2-1 favorite for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. Ricardo Santana, Jr., has the call leaving from post 2. Army Wife is 5-2 with Joel Rosario in the irons.
In her only start of 2021, Pauline’s Pearl finished eighth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Army Wife, trained by Michael Maker, won the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico on May 14.
Cornhusker Handicap (G3)
Post time: 8:12 p.m. (race 8)
Knicks Go, the even-money favorite, is back for another go at reaching the winner’s circle for trainer Brad Cox. The 5-year-old gray won the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) to start off 2021, but ran fourth in his two subsequent starts, in the Saudi Cup (G1) and as the strong favorite in the Metropolitan Mile (G1).
The Cornhusker is around two turns at 1 1/16 miles. Joel Rosario has the mount leaving from post 5.
Challengers include the Last Judgment (4-1), Modernist (5-1), and Asmussen-trained Tenfold (6-1).
Last Judgement comes into the race off a victory in the Pimlico Special on May 14. The 5-year-old gelding is trained by Michael Maker and will be ridden by Jose Ortiz. Modernist, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, was second in the Pimlico Special.
Haskell draws 16 nominees, including Medina Spirit
Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit and Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer are among 16 3-year-olds nominated for the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes on July 17 at Monmouth Park.
(Of course, we’re still waiting on a final ruling regarding Medina Spirit’s positive post-Derby medication test).
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who trains Medina Spirit, is currently suspended from entering horses at New York’s tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga) as well as Churchill Downs. For now, he is planning to run Medina Spirit in the Haskell, a race the trainer has won a record nine times.
The 1 1/8-mile Haskell is a “Win and You’re In’’ race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar.
Rombauer, trained by Michael McCarthy, was third in the Derby before his win at 11-1 in the Preakness.
Mandaloun, second in the Derby but could be declared the winner after the ruling on Medina Spirit, is also nominated to the Haskell, along with Preakness runner-up Midnight Bourbon and Belmont Stakes runner-up Hot Rod Charlie.
Mandaloun prepped for the Haskell with a win in the Pegasus Stakes on July 13.
Others nominated to the Haskell: Antigravity, Basso, Brooklyn Strong, Defunded, Dr Jack, Dynamic One, Following Sea, Lugamo, Mahaamel, Pickin’ Time, and Weyburn.
Around the tracks: Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will keep his star fillies apart for now, with unbeaten Malathaat targeting the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) on July 24 at Saratoga, and Mother Goose (G2) winner Zaajel prepping for the Test (G1) on Aug. 7 at the Spa … The New Mexico Horsemen’s Association filed suit against the New Mexico Racing Commission in federal court earlier this week, charging the regulatory body with depriving racehorse owners and trainers of their civil rights and other violations … The Keeneland fall meet (Oct. 8-30) will off er a record $6 million in stakes purses and an expanded stakes schedule of 22 races. The meet covers 17 racing dates, which includes 10 Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races.