ALTOONA, IA – The 2-day Iowa Festival of Racing at Prairie Meadows this past weekend featured six stakes worth over a million dollars and delivered great weather, great racing and some great payouts.
Kicking off the weekend was the $100,000 Iowa Distaff. The favorite going in was Flashy American but the race belonged to Diva’s Diamond. Ramon Vazquez gave her a perfect trip behind the pacesetting Annuity and More Than Even down the backside of the mile and a sixteenth contest. He swung her wide in the lane and ground down the leaders through the stretch. Just as Vazquez had Diva’s Diamond in the clear, the favorite came running at her but ran out of real estate. Diva’s Diamond prevailed by a dwindling neck, stopping the timer at 1:45.05 and paying $7.20 for the win. Flashy American had to settle for second while More Than Even was third.
The $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap was owned by Delaunay. The Maggie Moss owned, Tom Amoss trained 8-year old gelding had come close winning at Moss’ home track but never quite got there, settling for three second place finishes. That changed Saturday night. Delaunay, under hot jock Vazquez, seized the lead early and never looked back, extended his advantage with every stride and cruising to a 5 ¼ length victory.
“Tonight’s field set up the right way for him,” Amoss said. “There was really no speed in the race and he had things his own way. I am very happy for Maggie Moss for her to win here in Iowa with one of her favorite horses.”
Odds on, Delaunay paid $3.80 to win and covered the six furlongs in 1:09.33. Bruvver Max and Den’s Legacy filled out the tote board.
After a second choice and a favorite, fans were treated to upset in the $100,000 Saylorville Stakes. Toby Keith’s Dream Walkin’ Farms homebred Ghost Locket looked on paper to have a big chance as the possible lone speed in the race and he went out quickly, but not alone. Unable to settle alone on the lead, Ghost Locket still seized the lead and though pressured by Sugar Shock, that one caved halfway and he had to outlast You Bought Her, Haveyougoneaway and objection for the win.
Turning for home, Ghost Locket slid out a path or two and there was contact between he and Haveyougoneaway. While it did not appear that Haveyougoneaway could win anyway, it did appear that a slight chain reaction may have bothered eventual runner up You Bought Her. Fortunately for Ghost Locket the stewards felt that it was not enough to affect the outcome and the result stood with Ghost Locket paying $25.20 to win. The time of the six furlongs was 1:09.77.
Saturday’s portion of Festival Day featured three Grade 3 Stakes starting with the $200,000 mile and a sixteenth Iowa Oaks. The heavy post time favorite was Sarah Sis and she did not disappoint. She was sent to the lead by Julio Felix and never looked back but did have to outlast the hard charging Pangburn to the wire in 1:45.17.
“She was real relaxed,” said Felix. “She fought back every challenge.”
When asked how confident he was in having won the close photo finish, Felix added with a wry smile, “It was really close.”
“That additional sixteenth of a mile is a little more than she really wants,” said trainer Ingrid Mason. “I think that seven furlongs is ideal for her and we’ll be looking at a stake for her at Belmont for her next.”
Javier Castellano flew in from New York after riding Eskenformoney in the Mother Goose for Todd Pletcher. He was to have three rides in Iowa but was unable to make it in time to ride Pangburn in the Oaks, but he certainly made his remaining two mounts count.
In the $250,000 Iowa Derby, Castellano was aboard third choice Bent on Bourbon who broke smartly and Castellano was able to utilize the break to get Bent on Bourbon into a solid stalking position down the backstretch in the mile and an eighth contest. As the field bent into the far turn, Castellano went to work on his mount and was able to take command at the 3/16 pole and powered to a four length victory in 1:44.00.
“I wanted to get good position after the break,” Castellano said, “and I was able to do that. From the last to time I rode him to this time he really grew up a lot and he handled everything great.”
Castellano had to hustle back to the jock’s room, slip into the Robsham Stables colors and climb aboard favored Golden Lad in the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap.
It was a huge longshot, however, who almost stole the show in the Cornhusker. 31-1 outside Ecleto Red under Alex Birzer went to the lead early and kept the pressure on late but just couldn’t withstand the determined effort of Golden Lad. “I was pretty confident heading down the stretch,” said Castellano, “but I thought he [Ecleto Red] might steal the race. We kept coming and he was able to get there. It was a really good training job.”
Golden Lad stopped the clock in 1:49.86 for the mile and an eighth.
FESITVAL WEEKEND STAKES PAYOUTS
Diva’s Diamond 7.20 3.00 2.40
Flashy American 3.00 2.20
More Than Even 2.80
Iowa Sprint Handicap
Delaunay 3.80 2.40 2.20
Bruvver Max 5.80 4.80
Den’s Legacy 7.60
Ghost Locket 25.20 10.60 6.60
You Bought Her 7.80 6.40
Iowa Oaks – Grade 3
Sarah Sis 5.20 3.40 2.60
Pangburn 4.00 3.00
Iowa Derby – Grade 3
Bent on Bourbon 10.80 5.00 3.40
Allied Air Raid 4.00 3.40
Private Prospect 6.40
Cornhusker Handicap – Grade 3
Golden Lad 4.00 3.20 3.00
Ecleto Red 15.60 7.40
Page McKenney 4.60