Updated on 09/16/2011 7:42AM

Iowa's turn in the spotlight

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Alexander Barkoff
Euchre, Bonapaw (above), and See How She Runs are all expected to compete in this week's Iowa Festival of Racing at Prairie Meadows.

ALTOONA, Iowa - The Iowa Festival of Racing was created with the intention of luring some of the sports best horses, jockeys, and trainers to Prairie Meadows, which has prospered since adding slot machines in 1995. While that is not an easy goal, each of the first three festivals has proved a success, and this week's races are again expected to offer both quality and depth.

The festival, which begins Wednesday with the $150,000 Iowa Oaks and runs through Saturday, will feature eight stakes worth a total of more than $1.3 million, and culminates with this meet's premier event, the Grade 3, $400,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap on Saturday night.

In 2000, trainer Bob Baffert and owner Mike Pegram sent Captain Steve here for a confidence-building victory in the Iowa Derby and Captain Steve went on to become one of the nation's top runners, capturing the Swaps Stakes and the Dubai World Cup among other major races. Other Grade 1 winners who have competed at the festival include Sir Bear, Skimming, and Unbridled Elaine, who captured the Iowa Oaks here last year and went on to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

This year's festival includes Thursday's six-furlong Iowa Sprint Handicap, which is expected to draw defending champion Bonapaw and veteran sprinters Boots on Sunday and Men's Exclusive.

Pegram and Baffert return for Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby with Danthebluegrassman, who will square off against Easyfromthegitgo. Also on Friday, Miss Seffens is set to defend her title in the $125,000 Saylorville Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

A competitive field that includes Caressing, Katy Kat, Minister's Baby, and Pretty Gale is expected for Saturday's 1 1/16-mile Iowa Distaff.

Trainer Bobby Frankel will ship Euchre in from California to try and defend his title in the Cornhusker. Euchre is expected to face Best of the Rest, who enters off three straight stakes wins in Florida, as well as Mr. John, Slider, and Unshaded.

The festival opens with a bang on Wednesday with the Iowa Oaks, which figures as one of the best races of the week here.

Undefeated See How She Runs will attempt to stretch her winning streak to six for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel in a strong field of 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

See How She Runs began her career this winter at Oaklawn Park by reeling off four straight wins, including the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes, in which she survived a speed duel to score by three-quarters of a length over Lake Lady. See How She Runs was then shipped to Woodbine where she posted an easy 5 1/2-length victory in the $250,000 Selene Stakes.

See How She Runs has proven quite tractable, giving rider Don Pettinger plenty of options in her races. But on Wednesday, Pettinger may find himself aboard the controlling speed.

See How She Runs, a daughter of Maria's Mon owned and bred by Josephine Ambercrombie's Pin Oak Stable, will carry 121 pounds.

Charmed Gift and Never Out loom the major dangers to See How She Runs.

Charmed Gift has twice finished second to Take Charge Lady in graded stakes this year, including her last start, in which she was beaten 1 3/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill. The Neil Howard-trained Charmed Gift sports a record of 3-4-0 from 10 career starts. Robby Albarado has the call on Charmed Gift, a daughter of A.P. Indy who does her best running from off the pace.

If Pettinger elects to take back early with See How She Runs, Never Out figures to make the lead in the Oaks. A lightly raced daughter of Take Me Out, Never Out won her first two starts last year before finishing second by a length to Take Charge Lady in the Grade 2 Alcibiades at Keeneland.

Trainer Bobby Barnett put Never Out away for the winter following that race. She returned and finished a tiring fifth as the odds-on favorite sprinting against allowance company at Churchill in late May. Never Out then shipped here and rebounded with a front-running victory in a one-mile allowance June 19.

Hi Tech Honeycomb, trained by Ken McPeek, and Lost at Sea, who is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, are both stakes winners and add depth to a strong six-horse field.

* Wednesday's supporting feature is the $60,000 Gold Lassie Stakes, a five-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies. Each of the nine entrants won their last start. Adopted Daughter, an easy winner against maiden special weight company at Keeneland in her only start, may be favored over Goldleafed Mirror, who scored a gate-to-wire victory at Churchill Downs in her last start.