06/25/2011 9:20AM

Prairie Meadows: Bargain basement claim Ducky Drake flies home to take Iowa Sprint Handicap

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Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Ducky Drake overtakes Winter Camp in deep stretch of the Iowa Sprint Handicap.

ALTOONA, Iowa - Ducky Drake came with a withering run between widely split rivals to make up nearly 10 lengths in the last quarter-mile and snatch the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows on Friday night by a half-length from the valiant longshot Winter Camp.

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Ducky Drake, a 9-year-old gelded son of Benchmark earned $75,000 for owners John Pinkerton and Bryan Mundell, who claimed him for $15,000 out of a winning effort at Sunland Park in February. He is 3 for 4 since the claim and has now won 20 of 47 career starts and earned $653,000.

“That was just exciting, I'm so excited,” trainer Chris Hartman said a few times after the race.

Ducky Drake relaxed nicely in fifth position behind a blistering 43.39-second half-mile set by Winter Camp and Humble Smarty. Winter Camp, trained locally by Jon Arnett, surged three lengths clear inside the furlong marker at 28-1 only to be reeled in late.

Ventana, the 7-10 favorite, looked poised to strike at the head of the stretch but drifted out steadily to the eight path during the stretch run and finished fourth. The 7-5 second choice Atta Boy Roy was tracking Ventana and that tactic carried him wide as well and he finished third, 3 3/4 lengths behind Winter Camp.

Ducky Drake, who on May 27 set a new the 5 1/2 -furlong track record here of 1:02.06, was expertly handled by jockey Phil Teator and went the six furlongs over a fast track in 1:08.54. He paid $29 in the seven-horse field.

* Earlier on the card, Beat the Blues ($3), owned by Martin Racing Stable LLC and Morgan Thoroughbred LLC, outclassed four fillies and mares to score in the $100,000 Saylorville Stakes.

Trained by Bret Calhoun, Beat the Blues angled out nicely from the rail to the four path at the quarter pole under Jesus Castanon and wore down Ha Ha Tonka to win by a length and a half.

Earning $60,000 for her connections, Beat the Blues ran the six furlongs in 1:09.46.

* The $100,000 Iowa Distaff, contested over the 1 1/16 miles, split the two sprints on the first night of the Iowa Festival of Racing. George Krikorian's Freedom Star ($3.40), a 5-year-old Street Cry mare trained by Bob Baffert, returned from a lengthy absence to dominate her five opponents by 3 1/4 lengths.

Under patient handling from Rafael Bejarano, Freedom Star controlled the pace through soft early fractions of 24.67 and 48.84. Unraced since winning Sunland Park's Harry Henson Handicap in March 2010, Freedom Star found plenty in the stretch and was never threatened by runner-up Bella Medaglia.

Freedom Star was timed in 1:42.93.