06/29/2005 11:00PM

Lord of the Game: Real deal

Benoit & Associates
Lord of the Game rallies to win the Grade 3 Hanshin at Arlington, his most recent start.

ALTOONA, Iowa - Lord of the Game can enhance his status as one of the best claims in the country when he starts as one of the favorites in Saturday's $300,000 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

Saturday's card, the second of the four-day Iowa Festival of Racing, also features the $125,000 Iowa Distaff Breeders' Cup. The Cornhusker is the highlight of the festival, which features two stakes races per day worth a total of more than $1.1 million. Roses in May won last year's Cornhusker on his way to becoming one of the nation's leading handicap horses, and the 1 1/8-mile race has been upgraded to a Grade 2 this year.

Trainer Tom Tomillo claimed , a son of Saint Ballado, on behalf of owners 2 Blondes Inc. when the horse made his career debut in a $10,000 maiden claiming event at Hawthorne on Dec. 31, 2004.

Tomillo was in New Orleans that day and said he had never seen the horse work before the race.

"We dropped [claims] on two horses that day for $10,000 each," he said. "I figured if one of them could run a little we would be in good shape."

It turns out Lord of the Game can run more than a little. He won his debut by 22 3/4 lengths, then won four straight allowance races around two turns for his new connections before tasting his first defeat, finishing third in the Grade 3 National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne.

Lord of the Game got back on a winning track in his most recent start, rallying to score a half-length victory in the Grade 3 Hanshin Handicap at Arlington on May 28.

Lord of the Game has earned $163,100 in the six months since he was claimed and can add a large sum to that figure over the next two weeks, as Tomillo plans to wheel him back in the Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park in 14 days.

"He gets better every day," said Tomillo

Eusebio Razo Jr. has a return call aboard Lord of the Game, who is the co-highweight in the Cornhusker at 117 pounds.

Multiple stakes winner , trained by Donnie Von Hemel, is out for his first graded stakes victory. Cryptograph, who does his best running from well off the pace, returned from a six-month layoff and rallied strongly to finish second, beaten a nose, in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30.

Overall, Cryptograph sports a record of 5-2-2 from 13 starts, good for $323,698 in earnings for his owner-breeder, Pin Oak Stable LLC. Cryptograph's regular rider, Don Pettinger, will be in for the mount at 117 pounds.

, trained by John Sadler, is a gate-to-wire threat. Musique Toujours is the leading money-earner in the field at $726,320, more than two-thirds of that coming in a front-running 70-1 upset in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream in January.

Musique Toujours returns from a layoff of nearly four months in the Cornhusker, but has been working well at his Hollywood Park home base. Julio Garcia has the call at 113 pounds.