06/27/2013 2:38PM

Prairie Meadows: Fiftyshadesofhay, So Many Ways meet in Iowa Oaks


ALTOONA, Iowa – The final card of the Iowa Festival of Racing on Saturday is topped by the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap but also has a strong undercard that includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks and the Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Derby, both at 1 1/16 miles.

Ten fillies will line up in a stellar renewal of the Iowa Oaks, which features Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner Fiftyshadesofhay and So Many Ways, winner of last summer’s Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga who most recently took the Grade 3 Eight Belles on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

Fiftyshadesofhay, who is trained by Bob Baffert, skipped the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks on June 22 because of a foot abscess.

“We kept her out of the Hollywood Oaks because of her foot, but it was a minor injury that healed quickly,” Baffert said. “We always had the Iowa Oaks on her schedule as Plan B.”

Although “a little disappointed with drawing post 10,” Baffert reports that Fiftyshadesofhay left Santa Anita in good form and he is hoping she shows the same determination she did when chasing down Marathon Lady in the Black-Eyed Susan.

Jockey Martin Garcia, who was aboard Baffert’s Concord Point when he broke the track record in the 2010 Iowa Derby, will ride the Pulpit filly for the first time.

So Many Ways, who makes her second start for Tom Amoss after beginning her career with Tony Dutrow, has proven herself a top-class sprinter but finished a well-beaten fifth after setting a rapid pace in the March 30 Fair Grounds Oaks, her lone try around two turns.

In the seven-furlong Eight Belles, So Many Ways was back at her best rallying strongly to victory on the far outside. Jockey Calvin Borel, aboard for the first time, will try to get the Sightseeing filly to relax and finish strongly.

Seaneen Girl, upset winner of the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs as a juvenile and third in the Fair Grounds Oaks behind Unlimited Budget, threw in a clunker when seventh on the grass in the Grade  3 Regret at Churchill on June 15. She has drawn the rail for trainer Bernie Flint, who hopes his filly will improve significantly with the return to dirt.

Hitechnoweenie, a powerfully built Harlan’s Holiday filly, earned herself a class hike by winning the June 1 Panthers Stakes here by three lengths for trainer Ken McPeek.

Gold Medal Dancer, trained by Donnie Von Hemel, finished ninth in the Eight Belles after racing in traffic but cannot be overlooked with the addition of blinkers.

The Oaks line-up is completed by Canticle, who was a game second in the Panthers; graded-stakes-placed Presque Isle shipper Cloudy Vow; recent Churchill maiden winner Plenty O’Toole; and the locally trained duo of Braseana and Glorys Last Chance.

Iowa Derby: Manando must relax

Baffert is represented in the Iowa Derby by Manando, who will take on the talented colts Our Double Play, Bashaar, and Betweenhereandcool in the field of seven.

Most recently, Manando finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Grade 3 Affirmed at Betfair Hollywood Park after setting demanding fractions on an uncontested lead. Garcia has the job of nursing his speed.

“Manando’s a really fast horse,” Baffert said. “He’s built like a Quarter Horse and, as you can see, he really has one way of going, just one dimension.

McPeek sends Our Double Play back to Prairie Meadows after a gutsy 1 1/2-length win over Bashaar in the Prairie Mile. Our Double Play, with jockey Shane Laviolette aboard, ran the fastest mile of the meet that evening in 1:36.19, and he will try to establish a forward position from his rail berth.

Bashaar, a deep closer trained by Dan Peitz, may get an ideal pace scenario in the Iowa Derby and again has made the trek down Interstate 80 from Arlington Park. After looming large in the Prairie Mile, Bashaar could not get past Our Double Play. Regular pilot Joe Johnson returns to ride the Street Cry colt.

Betweenhereandcool, trained by Steve Asmussen, brings a two-race win streak into the Iowa Derby and has a license to improve further in just his sixth career start.

Among the others, Kale’s Kourage, trained at Prairie Meadows by Kelly Von Hemel, has two straight allowance wins, an affinity for the Altoona oval, and looks ready for the acid test.

The Iowa Derby has a scheduled post time of 9:18 p.m. Central on Saturday and is preceded by the 8:46  p.m. Iowa Oaks.