06/23/2011 1:32PM

Prairie Meadows: Astrology star of the Iowa Derby

Tom Keyser
Astrology is well-spotted to win his first race of the year.

ALTOONA, Iowa – A pair of Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-olds, the $250,000 Iowa Derby and $200,000 Iowa Oaks, will be run back to back on the second and final evening of the Iowa Festival of Racing and support the card’s main event, the Grade 3, $300,000-added Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.

The Iowa Derby drew a field of eight and is headed by George Bolton and Stonestreet Stables’ Astrology, the Steve Asmussen trainee who ran a bang-up third in the Preakness Stakes, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths by Shackleford. The field also includes the top three finishers from the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown – Caleb’s Posse, Marco’s Fling, and Irish Lion – and the Bob Baffert-trained Prayer for Relief.

Asmussen said Astrology, an A.P. Indy colt, “has always been impressive and I’m very pleased with him now.” He added that, “the timing of the Iowa Derby is perfect for him and, simply, it’s time to win a race.”

Mike Smith, who rode him in the Preakness, retains the mount.

Astrology has three seconds and a third in his last four starts, dating back to his win in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs in October 2010.

Others to consider are the honest Donnie K. Von Hemel-trained runner Caleb’s Posse, a 1  3/4-length winner of the Ohio Derby, and Zayat Stables LLC’s Prayer for Relief. Baffert nominated 12 to the race but chose to send Prayer for Relief because “he’s working the best of those 12.”

IOWA FESTIVAL OF RACING: Videos, previews, PPs and race cards for Saturday's slate at Prairie Meadows

Prayer for Relief is coming off a first-level allowance win at Hollywood Park.

Local stalwart Sherriff Cogburn is trained by Don Von Hemel, who is 11 for 21 here this meet. Marco’s Fling, Irish Lion, Lone Star shipper Dreaminofthewin, and the undefeated Chosen Miracle, 2 for 2 in Polytrack sprints at Arlington Park, complete the lineup.

◗ The six-horse Iowa Oaks provides an interesting matchup between Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winner Daisy Devine and the up-and-coming Little Miss Holly, who arrives in sharp form from Churchill Downs.

Purchased for a mere $5,500 at Keeneland’s September sale as a yearling, Daisy Devine returns after finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks. Her trainer, Andrew McKeever, said, “they outbroke her in the Oaks and she didn’t get to run her race.” As a result, she “was freshened on the farm for a few weeks” and has since “trained well” at her Keeneland base.

Little Miss Holly, trained by Steve Margolis, ran the best race of her career winning a Churchill Downs allowance by 2  1/4 lengths in her first start wearing blinkers. Notably, Corey Lanerie, embroiled in a race for Churchill’s riding title with Julien Leparoux, ships in for his lone race of the Festival.

Regally bred Versailles Song, by Unbridled’s Song and a daughter of Versailles Treaty, hard-trying Hearts On Fire, the tough Arkansas-bred All About Allie, and recent local maiden winner Find the Humor also take their chance at some black type.