06/24/2010 12:00AM

Atta Boy Roy leads Churchill invaders


It has been a stormy week on the Iowa prairie, with waves of powerful thunderstorms passing through. These storms can come up quickly, a complete change in the weather - a little like the racing product at Prairie Meadows this weekend.

The claimers and Iowa-breds typical of Prairie Meadows programs suddenly give way to stakes horses - pretty darn good ones - on Friday and Saturday night just outside Des Moines. Race 5 on Friday is a conditioned claimer for $5,000 horses. Race 6 is the $100,000 Saylorville, one of three stakes on Friday night's card, which also features a strong edition of the Iowa Sprint Handicap.

It's more of the same Saturday night, with $5,000 claimers in race 5 giving way to a trio of graded stakes: the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, Grade 3 Iowa Derby, and the Grade 2 Cornhusker Handicap.

The $125,000 Iowa Sprint drew a field of nine, but eight at most will start in this six-furlong dash since Euroears did not make the trip from Churchill Downs, trainer Bret Calhoun said. But three other Churchillians came over, including the two horses likely to be most heavily played, Atta Boy Roy and Cash Refund.

Washington-bred Atta Boy Roy, trained by Valorie Lund, turned in occasionally brilliant performances at Emerald Downs in Washington and at Turf Paradise in Arizona during 2008 and 2009, but he was something of a revelation at Churchill this spring. On Kentucky Derby Day, he beat the likes of Warrior's Reward and Musket Man in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap, holding on for a half-length victory after setting the pace in the slop.

Apparently that performance was no fluke. Atta Boy Roy -- trained by Valorie Lund, a three-time winner in all of 2010 -- was back in action May 29 in the Aristides at Churchill, finishing second despite breaking in the air and losing his footing at the start. Atta Boy Roy turned in a bullet half-mile drill in 47.40 seconds on Sunday and should be prominent throughout Friday's stakes.

Third in the Aristides as the 6-5 favorite was Cash Refund, a sharp winner of the Duncan Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds in his previous start, back on March 27. In the Aristides, Cash Refund lagged farther off the early lead than normal and had no stretch punch while losing by almost five lengths.

"He had trained well, but his last work [before the Aristides] was a little slower than we wanted," trainer Steve Margolis said. "You redboard after the race, but I don't think he got enough out of that last five-eighths work in 1:03 and then he kind of broke a little sluggish and didn't kick on like we hoped. He came back good and put in two really positive works, and the combination of those works and the race, I feel like we're going into this in really good shape."

Cash Refund and Brian Hernandez Jr. have post 7, just inside Atta Boy Roy and Calvin Borel.

Ez Dreamer won the 2009 Iowa Sprint at odds of 24-1 but drew poorly in post 1 for Friday's race and is facing a tougher field than he did a year ago. Just outside Ez Dreamer is the most lightly raced horse in the race, Majesticperfection, who makes his stakes debut after three straight runaway wins for trainer Steve Asmussen. Majesticperfection has led through a swift pace in those victories and is likely to contribute to a rapid early tempo in Friday night's race.