05/31/2012 11:50AM

Prairie Meadows: Iowa Derby, Oaks prospects audition in Panthers, Prairie Mile

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ALTOONA, Iowa -- With the Grade 3 $200,000 Iowa Oaks and the Grade 3 $250,000 Iowa Derby just four weeks away, Prairie Meadows stages a pair of key preps for those events on Saturday night, the $60,000 Panthers Stakes and the $60,000 Prairie Mile.

The Panthers, for 3-year-old fillies going a two-turn mile, has attracted six runners, headed by Tapajo, an impressive 1 1/4-length winner of the six-furlong, $60,000 Goldfinch Stakes on opening night, April 20, here.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Tapajo, the probable heavy favorite, has trained forwardly over this surface since the Goldfinch, culminating in a controlled 49.22-second four-furlong drill on Sunday morning. The Panthers marks the first try around two turns for the steadily improving Tapajo.

The chief opposition may come from the Richie Scherer-trained Banded, claimed from Tapajo’s connections on January 19 at Fair Grounds for $25,000. She returns from her Arlington Park base after her determined bid fell a neck short to fellow Panthers entrant George’s Prayer in the May 19 allowance prep for this race.

George’s Prayer could get company on the lead from the speedy Dance Inthe Forest, who drew away for a 5 1/4-length tally in a May 10 optional claimer here, covering six furlongs in 1:09.89.

Flatterific, who has arrived from Will Rogers Downs for trainer Tim G. Williams, ran the best race of her life when stretched out to the mile distance on April 9, beating allowance foes by 11 3/4 lengths.

Deep closing Canterbury Park raider Keewatin Ice aims to build upon a good effort when third at 52-1 in Oaklawn Park’s Instant Racing Stakes on April 13.

The talented Alsvid, star of Chris Hartman’s locally based string, holds the key to the Prairie Mile, which drew a diverse group of eight.

Alsvid, who can prove headstrong, heads into uncharted territory in the Mile as he has never faced two turns in his excellent six-race career. Most recently, he drubbed his foes by seven lengths here in the April 21 Golden Circle. In that six-furlong race, he was rank early but surged coming off the turn and cruised home under jockey Terry Thompson.

Thompson, who is recovering from a broken leg, has been replaced by Chris Landeros, who partnered with Alsvid for his first three races as a 2-year-old.

Trainer Steve Asmussen leads over the accomplished duo of My Man Dan and Truetap as he seeks the upset. My Man Dan, also owned by Asmussen, took a mile optional claiming race here by three-quarters of a length on April 26 and the late rallying Truetap, who generally fires his best wherever he turns up, makes his local debut.

Z Rockstar, shipped in from Arlington by Donnie Von Hemel, looks to rebound after a pair of sub-par efforts in the Illinois Derby and a May 5 Arlington turf race. A repeat of his 2 1/4-length Oaklawn Park allowance victory on March 16 would put him in the mix.

Southern California invader Bi Flash, deep closing Texas-bred Defiant Flyer, and the Will Rogers-based pair of Caspian Crown and Noble Smile also seek to prove their Iowa Derby credentials in the Mile.