05/26/2011 1:02PM

Prairie Meadows: Festival hopefuls prep in pair of stakes

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ALTOONA, Iowa – With the June 24-25 Iowa Festival of Racing approaching, Saturday evening’s stakes at Prairie Meadows, the $60,000 Wild Rose and the $60,000 Jim Rasmussen Memorial, serve as the local preps for two of the Festival’s key events.

The Wild Rose, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares pointing to the $100,000 Iowa Distaff, drew a competitive field of six shippers. Taptam, who finished second to Zenyatta in the 2010 Apple Blossom, is installed as the tepid 9-5 morning line favorite. Her recent form, a pair of sixth-place finishes at Oaklawn, is lackluster and the 6-year-old daughter of Pleasant Tap will have to rebound for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Scott Becker, conditioner for the successful owner William Stiritz, sends the classy mare Afleet Deceit from his Arlington Park base and the improving filly W W American from Fairmount Park. The latter cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory in an April 30 allowance race here under Glen Murphy.

Kimber Lily, a 5-year-old half-sister to 2008 Cornhusker Handicap winner Wayzata Bay, has improved this season for Keeneland-based trainer Kellyn Gorder and closed with tenacity when third, beaten 2 3/4 lengths, in Oaklawn’s April 13 Red Bud Stakes. Francisco Torres ships in to ride.

The Wild Rose is rounded out by the lightly-raced Steve Asmussen trainee Remit and Always in My Heart, who showed her readiness when breezing a half-mile Sunday at Arlington in 46 seconds for Donnie K. Von Hemel.

The Jim Rasmussen Memorial, also contested over 1 1/16 miles, features eight contenders aspiring to run in the Grade 3, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.

Defending Cornhusker champ Shadowbdancing returns to Altoona, where he has never finished off the board in eight races with four wins and earnings of $369,500. He will have to rebound from a dull effort when fourth, beaten 14 1/4 lengths, in Fonner Park’s April 30 Bosselman. Locally-based jockey Shane Laviolette will ride him for the first time.

Prairie Meadows perennial leading owner Maggi Moss is represented by It Happened Again, who hails from Asmussen’s Churchill Downs-based string. Claimed at Woodbine last October for $20,000, It Happened Again won Oaklawn’s Grade 3 Razorback Handicap and has run out $133,800 in 2011.

Black Hills, the stable star of locally-based trainer Bart Hone’s shed row, displayed his credentials when crushing a field of seven by five lengths in the $100,000 Sunland Park Handicap on April 17.

Becker sends a pair for the Rasmussen, 2010 Prairie Meadows Handicap champ Proceed Bee, who is three for four here for earnings of $116,100, and the improved former claimer Racing Bran.

The field also contains talented Minnesota invader Stachys, defending champ Red Lead, and the ultra-consistent veteran Cryptolight.