06/19/2003 12:00AM

Express Tour has class edge at Prairie


ALTOONA, Iowa - Express Tour makes his first start of the year and leads a strong field of seven, including an entry, in Saturday's $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

Express Tour, a 5-year-old son of Tour d'Or owned by Darley Stud and trained by Eoin Harty, will be making his first start since October, when he tired to finish eighth in the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup Handicap. Express Tour is winless in five starts since capturing the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap at Belmont in September 2001, but he has trained forwardly at Santa Anita over the past several months.

Because of his back class, Express Tour will be difficult to defeat in the six-furlong Iowa Sprint. David Flores will be in from California to ride at 117 pounds.

Defending champion Sand Ridge, who scored a nose victory at 8-1 in last year's Iowa Sprint, signaled his readiness for this race with an easy 6 3/4-length victory over allowance rivals here June 6. An 8-year-old son of Known Fact, Sand Ridge has a career record of 16-6-12 from 49 starts, and has $652,159 in earnings. Trainer Don Von Hemel has named Ken Shino to ride at 117 pounds.

The Iowa Sprint Handicap has been part of the Iowa Festival of Racing here for the past several years. The races that previously made up the festival - traditionally run in the first week of July - have this year been spread out over the last two weekends of the Thoroughbred meeting and the first weekend of the mixed meeting, which begins July 4.

Private Horde is the 119-pound highweight in the Sprint Handicap. After rallying to capture the six-furlong Golden Circle Stakes here as a 3-year-old in April 2002, he unsuccessfully tried two turns in four consecutive starts to close out the year.

Trainer Joe Cain returned Private Horde to a sprint in his first start of the year, and he responded with a 5 1/4-length victory against allowance company in January. He has since won three more in a row, all sprints, including two stakes.

Regular rider Jason Lumpkins will be aboard Private Horde Saturday as they try to stretch their winning streak to five.

The 9-year-old gelding Chindi captured the Iowa Sprint Handicap in 1998. A late-running gray, Chindi is seeking his first win of 2003. He is trained by Steve Hobby.

Tim Doocy will ride Chindi, who looks to add to his $851,671 career bankroll.