05/15/2009 11:00PM

Irish Party wins a thriller in muddy Eisenhower


Thirteen days into their 2009 Thoroughbred racing season, Prairie Meadows has run three stakes races and they have all been contested over rain-soaked surfaces. Unlike the first two, which featured runaway winners, Friday night's $65,000 Mamie Eisenhower, an Iowa-bred six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, produced a thrilling finish.

In a welcome return to her best form, Irish Party, a 5-year-old mare by Twining, poached a two-length lead at the furlong marker and was able to fend off the determined rally of Friend O the Devil by a neck. The victor, a Kelly Von Hemel trainee ridden by a jubilant Israel Ocampo, won for the first time since taking the Bob Bryant Stakes, also for Iowa-breds, on May 26, 2007.

The slight favorite in a field of 10, Irish Party laid close to solid fractions of 21.73 seconds and 44.97 before surging to the front entering the stretch. Friend O the Devil, claimed for a mere $7,500 last November at Remington Park by trainer Lynn Chleborad for owners The Casey Family Trust, swung wide and was gaining steadily at the finish under jockey Joel Campbell. Both mares were running over an off track, listed as sealed and muddy, for the first time in their careers.

Irish Party collected $39,000 for her owners, William "Leroy" Gessmann, who bred her, and The Albaugh Family Stables LLC, headed by Jason Loutsch. She stopped the clock in 1:10.68 and paid $7 to win.