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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 26, 2015 at 12:00 AM


2 Big Stakes Races At Santa Anita
3 Big Stakes Races At Prairie Meadows


In the weeks between the wind-down following the Triple Crown and the opening of Saratoga and Del Mar meets there is a 7 week period where horse players take a break.
This is understandable but if a few under-the-radar races that have been run the last few weeks prove anything, they prove that now is not the time to take a sabbatical but a time to PICK YOUR SPOTS as the often-in-the-shadows race circuits and even the major ones still provide plenty of opportunity to CASH SOLID VALUE on stakes racing.
Case in point:

Sunday - June 21 - KING EDWARD STAKES (Woodbine)
Tower Of Texas - WIN $9.30...Platinum Glory - 2nd Exactor $85.60...Stacked Deck - 3rd Triactor $415.70

Saturday - June 20 - OHIO DERBY (Thistledown)
Mr. Z. - WIN $15.60...Tencendor - 2nd Exacta $59.20...Diving Rod - 3rd Trifecta $260.60

Saturday - June 13 - FLEUR DE LIS HANDICAP (Churchill)...An Early BC Prep Race
Frivolous - WIN $66.20...Sheer Drama - 2nd Exacta $169.00...Tiz Windy - 3rd Trifecta $1,182.20

Saturday - June 13 - STEPHEN FOSTER HANDICAP (Churchill)...Another Early BC Prep Race
Noble Bird - WIN $1`1.40...Lea - 2nd Exacta $329.40...Hopportunity - 3rd Trifecta $167.80

Saturday - June 13 - POKER STAKES (Belmont)
King Kreesa - WIN $36.80...Vyjack - 2nd $281.50...Il Campione - 3rd Trifecta $1,493.00

There are results in key stakes races like this all over the country every weekend and this Saturday (6/27) there are a pair at Santa Anita and a trio at Prairie Meadows.

Santa Anita - Grade I Gold Cup
Santa Anita - Grade I Triple Bend
Prairie Meadows - Grade III Cornhusker
Prairie Meadows - Grade III Iowa Derby
Prairie Meadows - Grade III Iowa Oaks


At Santa Anita you couldn’t ask for a better field than has drawn for the Grade I Gold Cup. The 10 furlong marathon has drawn an interesting field of 11 older runners, including 5 that are exiting the Grade II Californian Stakes over the surface 4 weeks ago. Among the 5 are the first three finishers, Catch A Flight, a winner of three of his last four, multiple graded stakes winner Moreno who has upset wins in the Grade II Charles Town Classic and Grade I Whitney at Saratoga over the course of the last year and Hard Aces, who should appreciate the extra furlong after a solid rally for third.

Also adding to the intrigue will be Finnegan’s Wake, a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf (4 of his last 6 were victories) who moves to dirt after a solid 4 wide rally at 10 furlongs in the Grade I Manhattan on Belmont Stakes day. Also figuring in the mix is Hopportunity who finished a rallying third in the Stephen Foster at CD just two weeks ago and has hit the board 8 times in his last 9 (8 of those in graded company) with 4 wins as well as Lone Star shipper Majestic City (a winner of the Lone Star Handicap in his last and a decent fourth in this race a year ago and Motown Men a winner of the restricted Tiznow Stakes here in his last.

The Grade I Triple Bend a 7 furlong main track sprint for three-year olds and up is despite the conditions a veteran affair as all seven runners are 5-years or older. In addition, although short in size than the Gold Cup this race is equally as contentious as all seven runners (based on average speed figures) rate within 2 lengths of each other.
Collectively the field has a combined record in their last 5 races of 35-12-11-4 which indicates that whatever it might be, the winning combos should be value-laden.


While it is safe to say that most bettors not only pass up the Prairie Meadows meet each summer but many might not even know where it is.

On Saturday, the Iowa venue will host their biggest day of the year with a trio of Grade III Races, The Cornhusker, Iowa Derby and Iowa Oaks. While bettors might not pay attention, some of top barns in the country have and those sharp bettors looking for value have.

Take for instance the Iowa Derby a mile and a sixteenth test over the main track. Eliminating 2012, when Hansen chased all but 4 opponents and won of at 10 cents on the dollar, the last three years have been a value-player’s dream. The average winner paid $23.70, the average exacta returned $130.00 and the average triple lit up the tote at $621.90. And these were not unknowable local horses either. Last year’s winner was Jessica’s Star, who was a winner of the local prep Prairie Meadows Mile Stakes after winning an allowance race at CD on the Kentucky Derby undercard. The runner-up was Embellishing Bob who’d run a compromised-trip 7th in the Woody Stephens Stakes three weeks earlier on the Belmont Stakes undercard but had beaten Bayern in his Derby Trial win at CD prior to that. In third was Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s In Trouble who was making his first try since his ill-fated Kentucky Derby race.

With 10 horses set to face the starter in this year’s Iowa Derby edition, including a trio of CD shippers which includes Bent On Bourbon and Quality Bird, a pair of late developing lightly raced 3-year olds who finished first and third in a key allowance race in their last as well as Matt Winn Stakes third place finisher Private Prospect who was 2-for-2 over this surface as a juvenile. The contention gets deeper as the top three finishers from the local prep; the aforementioned Prairie Meadows Mile Stakes are also back to try their luck.

The field is completed by Fusaichi Flame, who was last seen finishing 5th in the Louisiana Derby but has been tearing up the PM surface in the morning, Phenomenal Phoenix, who had a rough trip in the Matt Winn in his last but was a decent third in the Illinois Derby prior to that, Lucky Stranger, who ships in off a sharp allowance win at Thistledown an is 6-3-3-0 lifetime plus Alabaster, a son of Medaglia d’Oro who goes turf to dirt after a good allowance try at Arlington in his most recent.

This should give you an idea of the level of competitors in all three Prairie Meadows Stakes races scheduled for Saturday.

The Iowa Oaks features a field of eight going a mile and a sixteenth on the main track. The top three finishers of the local prep (the Panthers Stakes) Sarah’s Sis, Sweet Opportunity and Magnolia Steel are signed on but as I often the case they will have to contend with some serious shippers such as Grade I Alcibiades third place finisher Paige who made her 3-year old debut with a turf sprint rally at CD four weeks ago, Sweet Grass, who has won 2 of 5 with a pair of third place finishes in a 5 race career and looks to rebound from a tough Black-Eyed Susan trip, Pangburn, who is multiple graded stakes placed and goes turf to dirt after shipping in from Belmont and Sweet Success, a sharp allowance winner at CD in her last after solid tries in the Grade II Beaumont and Grade III Bourbonette in her prior pair.

The feature is the Cornhusker for older handicap horses to be run at 9 furlongs. Another full field has signed on (in this case 11) and Carve, who is back to defend the title he won last year returns off a strong second in the Lone Star Handicap in his most recent.

Todd Pletcher ships in Golden Lad, a winner of the Mountain View Handicap at Penn National and the Essex Handicap at Oaklawn in two of his last three and Javier Castellano is encouraged enough to have made the trip. Also making the trip is Tapiture, who was third to carve in both the Lone Star Handicap and Oaklawn Park Handicap in his last two and has hit the board (with a pair of wins) in 6 of his last seven (all graded stakes.)

Last year’s Iowa Derby winner Jessica’s Star is signed on and Pimlico Special runner up in his last try, Page McKenney has made the trip. And if that wasn’t enough thickness of contention, the two horses that chased Jessica’s Star home on May 25 in the Jim Rasmussen Memorial Stakes (the local prep for the Cornhusker), Lahshad and Smack Smack will also be in the gate.
In recent years the Cornhusker has been won by the likes of Carve, Prayer For relief, Fort Larned and Headache, each a multiple grade stakes winner with Fort Larned claiming the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2012, the same year he won the Cornhusker.

Prairie Meadows might not be on the radar of many horseplayers but it is definitely on the radar of serious ones and those serious bettors also pass on the sabbatical between the end of the Triple crown and the beginning of the Saratoga and Del Mar meets...are you one of the serious bettors?

Click here to check out all the ways Jim Hurley’s Racing Network can make you a winner at the racetrack.

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