08/02/2012 3:58PM

Prairie Meadows: Iowa Classic Night will sort out statebred pecking order

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ALTOONA, Iowa – With over $540,000 on the line, Iowa Classic Night, with its seven stakes races intended to clarify the championship picture for this season’s Iowa-breds, is the long-awaited meet highlight for local horsemen.

The card starts off with a bang as a deep group of juvenile fillies contest the $75,000 Iowa Sorority. In a year when the fillies have outshined the colts, the Sorority, contested over six furlongs, features a talented group of eight.

Favoritism may fall upon impressive recent debut winner Jaco Ia, who cruised to an 11  1/2-length victory in a July 22 five-furlong maiden race. Trainer Dave McShane purchased Jaco Ia for owner Don Frazier out of last August’s ITBOA fall sale, and the $6,000 bargain buy will have to step up further in her first try against winners.

Although Jaco Ia went the fastest, there are four other once-raced fillies in the Sorority with credentials. Cat Five’ O, a Pleasantly Perfect filly, rallied determinedly in her one-length July 8 win under apprentice rider Garrett Steinberg, who retains the mount. Jumped the Harbor, an appealing Robert Barnett-owned homebred by Jump Start, relished a rare off track during this dry, hot summer to register a 6 1/4-length win in a sloppy maiden race on June 15.

Trainer Kelly Von Hemel, who has had abundant success on Iowa Classic nights in recent years, sends over the Stormy Atlantic filly Molly Seven, who was not fully extended when defeating six rivals by three lengths June 24.

Trainer Lynn Chleborad, who has enjoyed a great 43-for-216 mark this meet, has pointed My Bella Notte to the Sorority since her precocious 1 1/2-length maiden score on May 27. Chleborad is also represented by the twice-raced So Ritzy, who acquitted herself well when third behind the quick Minnesota-bred colt Bet Your Life in the $87,255 Iowa Stallion Futurity on July 6.

Lady Kee is a Chelokee filly out of the Fantango Lady – a winner of 22 races for Nebraska trainer Herb Riecken in the late 1990s. Lady Kee looked good dominating maidens by 5 1/2 lengths on July 8.

◗ The $75,000 Iowa Breeders’ Derby promises to be a competitive event as eight accomplished sophomores do battle over 1 1/16 miles.

Last year’s Iowa Cradle winner Peaks of Legend, also conditioned by Von Hemel, scored an impressive 3 1/4-length win over key Derby rival Freeze Your Kela on June 7 in his two-turn debut. He was defeated while facing open company last time out.

Beware the Devil, another Chleborad trainee, has improved since tackling route races in his last three, including a career-best display when romping by 5 1/2 lengths in the $99,598 Iowa Stallion Stakes on July 7. Alex Birzer, the meet’s leading rider with 90 wins, has a return call.

Seasoned sprinters Voodooville and Hes Not You will both try to stretch their talent around two turns for the first time in the derby. Voodooville, who has finished well in two recent placings, drew the rail and could be sent by jockey Jake Barton. Hes Not You, who represents the powerful tandem of leading owner Maggi Moss and leading trainer Chris Richard, could prove tough if able to relax on or near the lead under rider Israel Ocampo.

Fellow Richard trainee You Funny Man, the Ray Tracy-trained Duttons Pride, and the late-rallying A Little Edgy cannot be dismissed in this contentious field.

◗ Senor Captain should be a prohibitive favorite over his six juvenile foes in the $75,000 Iowa Cradle. Trained by Jon Arnett, Senor Captain was beaten four lengths when fifth behind Mr. Jawbreaker in the open $75,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile on July 21.

◗ Last season’s champion juvenile filly Here Comes Polly heads a group of six in the mile and 70-yard $75,000 Iowa Breeders’ Oaks. Rudy’s Edge, who has proven stamina, and Dazzling Pioneer look for a mild upset.

◗ Someplace Else and Cream of Soup are proven commodities in the $85,000 Donna Reed Stakes for older fillies and mares at a mile and 70 yards. But the fastest filly in the seven-horse field is Cat’s Review, a Cat Thief filly who faltered in her lone route try in May 2011.

◗ Stablemates Cresco Direct Hit and Mutti Blues do battle again in the $70,000 Iowa Classic Sprint. Cresco Direct Hit finished in front of Mutti Blues during April and May meetings, but Mutti Blues, last season’s Iowa Classic Sprint champ, struck form with a strong July 22 victory. Among the others, Stormin River and the temperamental Diesel’s Prize seek to surprise.

◗ The $85,000 Ralph Hayes Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event, closes the Iowa Classic card, and nine have been entered for the evening’s biggest prize. Cainam, Ice Hockey, and Wings of War appear primed for what should be a strong renewal.

◗ As part of the Iowa Classic weekend festivities, long-serving track chaplain Dennis Luft and Tad Leggett, the track’s all-time winningest Quarter Horse jockey, will be honored during Friday night’s card as the newest inductees into the Iowa Racing Hall of Fame.