07/22/2010 2:34PM

Country Flavor tries longer distance in Prairie Meadows Handicap


ALTOONA, Iowa – Saturday’s Prairie Meadows Handicap has had its distance extended to 1 1/4 miles from 1 1/16 miles this year and its purse increased by $25,000 to $100,000. None of the entrants in the six-horse field has previously won at the distance.

Country Flavor enters off a victory in the one-mile Hanshin Cup at Arlington Park. Trainer Greg Geier selected this spot to prepare Country Flavor for the 1 3/16 miles of the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park on Sept. 4.

“If we’re going to run in the Washington at 1 3/16ths, he’ll have to go further,” Geier said of Country Flavor’s ability to get the distance. Country Flavor’s dam, Alspice, who also was trained by Geier, won the Sixty Sails Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Geier plans on Country Flavor being near the lead, as the the 4-year-old gelding tends to lose interest if he is too far out of it.

Red Lead and Going Ballistic are looking to improve off their performances in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker. Red Lead finished sixth.

“I don’t think the company was the main problem. He didn’t like the inside,” said trainer Chris Hartman.

Red Lead has drawn post 4 and should have an easier time finding outside ground than he did from his rail post in the Cornhusker.

Going Ballistic finished just behind Red Lead in the Cornhusker. Trainer Donnie Von Hemel speculated that his charge was hindered by a speed-favoring track.

“If you look at that night, the track was really fast, while the race fractions were pretty moderate,” Von Hemel said. “Our horse made a run, but the speed was carrying them along too well.”

The track received nearly 1 1/2 inches of rain the day of the Cornhusker, which may have accounted for the bias.

Proceed Bee rounds out the list of logical contenders. He will be looking for his third consecutive victory.

“The distance will be no problem at all,” trainer Scott Becker said. “He ran 1 1/4 on softer turf at Arlington and finished fine.”

Becker will use a wait-and-see approach when it comes to race strategy.

“It depends on what happens the next couple of days,” he said. “He normally likes to lay just off of it.”

Becker noted that it has been business as usual in the mornings for Proceed Bee, who is a little high-strung. That energy sometimes manifests itself in the paddock. “

He can act up before a race, but he has run good before after being a handful,” Becker said.