06/20/2011 1:55PM

Prairie Meadows: Atta Boy Roy, Ventana top lineup for Iowa Sprint Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Atta Boy Roy, winning the Churchill Downs Stakes, is one of the logical contenders in Friday's Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows.

The Iowa Festival of Racing commences Friday evening with the initial set of three stakes – the $100,000 Saylorville Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares; the $100,000 Iowa Distaff, a 1 1/16-mile race for the females; and the featured $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap, an open-six furlong event for 3-year-olds and up.

The Iowa Sprint Handicap, which drew a field of seven, looks like a showdown between Canterbury Park-based Atta Boy Roy, trained by Valorie Lund, and the Bob Baffert trainee Ventana. Both come in to the race in excellent form.

Atta Boy Roy, winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap last year, recently ran a brave second in the Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill, beaten a length by Noble’s Promise. On Preakness day at Pimlico, Ventana gutted out a game neck victory over Immortal Eyes in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap.

Locally based Humble Smarty, recent track record setter at Canterbury on May 30 when he blazed five furlongs in 56.10 seconds, and Ducky Drake, a 9-year-old gelding who broke the Prairie Meadows 5 1/2-furlong track record on May 27 travelling the distance in 1:02.26, add intrigue.

Beat the Blues, trained by Bret Calhoun, heads the Saylorville field of six. Most recently, the 4-year-old Beat the Blues missed by a neck to Sassy Image in Churchill’s Grade 3 Winning Colors.

Baffert appears to hold the key to the Iowa Distaff, which drew seven, with the speedy 5-year-old mare Freedom Star, winner of Oaklawn’s Grade 3 Azeri Stakes and Sunland’s Harry Hensen Handicap in her last two starts. As is the case with Ventana, Rafael Bejarano ships in to ride.

Despite a rainy start to the week, the advance forecast promises beautiful weather for both Friday and Saturday evening. The Iowa Festival of Racing continues Saturday with three Grade 3 stakes: the $200,000 Iowa Oaks, $250,000 Iowa Derby, and $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.

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