06/24/2009 11:00PM

Plenty of credentials and question marks in Oaks

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Photos By Z/Keeneland
Hooh Why won the Grade 1 Ashland on Polytrack at Keeneland, but has only run once on a dirt surface.

ALTOONA, Iowa - The Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks, one of two graded events during the six-stakes Iowa Festival of Racing that starts Friday evening, features among its field of eight a quintet of 3-year-old fillies with excellent credentials. However, there are question marks about each of them in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Probable favorite Hooh Why, upset winner of Keeneland's Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on April 4, has raced almost exclusively on synthetic surfaces, with the lone exception being a third-place finish in Tampa's Sandpiper Stakes last Dec. 27. The Florida-bred daughter of Cloud Hopping hopes to prove she can excel on a dirt track as well.

Hightap, an impressive three-length winner of Churchill's Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes on May 30, is unproven at this level around two turns. Probable pacesetter Don'ttalktome, trained locally by Judi Hicklin and the comfortable winner of two $50,000 stakes here this season, battles graded stakes competition for the first time.

Trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel sends down two fillies from his new Arlington Park base. Sweet Relish, also making her graded stakes debut, won Lone Star's May 25 Cinemine Stakes, the same prep race used by last year's Oaks winner, Storm Mesa. Stable companion Peach Brew, a late-rallying daughter of Milwaukee Brew, has contested seven straight open stakes, placing in four of them but remaining winless for the year.

Likely pace factor Mein Fraulein, the well-bred Sweet and Flawless, and ex-claimer Monterey Street, a willing second in Don'ttalktome's June 6 Panthers Stakes triumph, are difficult to dismiss.

Theycallmeladyluck steps into Saylorville

The $100,000 Saylorville Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares, opens the festival on Friday. Unlike the last two renewals of the Saylorville, which were dominated by local phenom Miss Macy Sue, this year's running drew an appealing, wide-open field of 10.

Now retired and in foal to A.P. Indy, Miss Macy Sue was the star of Kelly Von Hemel's barn here for last three seasons. Seeking more glory in the race, the trainer will be represented in this year's Saylorville by the 4-year-old filly Theycallmeladyluck. His other entrant, Lindsey's Wish, will likely opt for Canterbury Park's HBPA Mile on Saturday.

Despite getting left at the gate in Canterbury's June 6 Hoist Her Flag Stakes, Theycallmeladyluck finished well for third-place money.

"With a clean break, I feel she would have been right there," said Von Hemel, younger brother to Donnie Von Hemel. "Fortunately, she has been much sounder this year and is doing well."

With the speedy Oklahoma-bred Miranda Diane and 4-1 morning-line favorite Lady Chace, handled by 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint winning trainer Steve Margolis, in the lineup, the Saylorville could be run at a demanding pace. Deep closers Adhsilver, Nursery Rhyme, and Hadavision, all three stakes winners in their most recent outings, seek to take advantage.

Talented stalkers P.S.U. Grad, a Steve Asmussen trainee, and Sly Storm, who hails from Tom Proctor's Arlington Park-based string, may get a jump on the others if the speed backs up. Sly Storm, a regally bred daughter of Storm Cat, has proven her versatility by winning or placing in stakes events on dirt, turf, and synthetic. The Greg Foley-trained Nadeshiko, who ended a two-race win streak when sixth behind Lady Chace in Churchill's Grade 3 Winning Colors on May 25, rounds out the field.