06/26/2011 10:13AM

Prairie Meadows: Headache rallies to victory in Cornhusker Handicap

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Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Headache, with Miguel Mena up, wins the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths.

ALTOONA, Iowa – Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Headache, expertly handled by an energetic Miguel Mena, saved ground from his inside post for six furlongs, moved off the rail on the far turn, and was angled five wide into the stretch to rally for an emphatic 2 1/2-length victory over the game 9-5 favorite Awesome Gem in the Grade 3, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap on Saturday evening.

Trained by Mike Maker, Headache ($11), an attractive 5-year-old grey gelded son of Tapit, reached new heights by taking his first graded stakes win and the $180,000 first-place purse. The former $25,000 claimer proved he could develop into a force to be reckoned with in this year's wide-open older male handicap division.

Following the win, Maker said he “wasn't concerned” with Headache’s position toward the rear of the 11-horse field when he saw “the lively fractions” being set by the eventual third-place finisher, the Alexis Barba-trained Hollywood Park shipper Victory Pete.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Victory Pete, sent off at 7.90-1, was pressured on the front end by 41.80-1 longshot and eventual fourth-place finisher Cryptolight through honest fractions of 47.08 seconds and 1:10.80 during the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/8-mile Cornhusker.

Meanwhile, West Point Thoroughbreds’s classy 8-year-old gelding Awesome Gem, trained by Craig Dollase, bided his time while five wide under Robby Albarado. Set to pounce as they turned for home, Awesome Gem failed to match Headache’s impressive turn of foot, which resulted in a decisive win and a stellar clocking of 1:47.83.

When asked where the improving Headache could go next, Maker replied “winning this race was the immediate goal, and we’ll have to assess his options.”

Defending Cornhusker champ Shadowbdancing stalked comfortably, led briefly leaving the far turn, but faded to fifth in the stretch run. Stachys, winner of the May 28th Jim Rasmussen Memorial, the local prep for the Iowa Festival of Racing’s highlighted Cornhusker, lodged a six-wide bid, but could only manage a sixth-place finish.

Churchill Downs-based Mena, who overcame a spill and resultant bruised ribs aboard Grant Jack in his most recent ride over the Altoona oval in the June 4 Prairie Mile, continued his recent hot streak, which includes a win aboard the 39-1 outsider Pool Play in the June 18 Grade 1, $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap.

Maker, who was victorious in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile when the Ramsey-owned former $35,000 claimer Furthest Land scored over Santa Anita’s synthetic track, continued his success of reforming claimers into graded stakes winners.