06/26/2013 2:44PM

Prairie Meadows: Iowa Oaks comes up strong; six enter Cornhusker

Barbara D. Livingston
Black-Eyed Susan winner Fiftyshadesofhay is in from California for the Iowa Oaks.

ALTOONA, Iowa – The Iowa Festival of Racing concludes Saturday night with Prairie Meadows’ most prestigious races: the Grade 3, $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap, the Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Derby, and the Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks.

The Iowa Oaks, at 1 1/16 miles, has come up very strong this year with a field of 10 headed by graded stakes winners Fiftyshadesofhay, So Many Ways, and Seaneen Girl.

In her most recent start, the Bob Baffert-trained Fiftyshadesofhay rallied tenaciously to wear down Marathon Lady and win the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan on May 17 at Pimlico. Jockey Martin Garcia will come in from Southern California to ride Fiftyshadesofhay for the first time.

In her first start for trainer Tom Amoss, So Many Ways, the field’s only Grade 1 winner and multiple graded stakes winner, rebounded from a pair of subpar efforts to sweep past rivals and take the Grade 3 Eight Belles on May 3 at Churchill Downs. So Many Ways, who won Saratoga’s Grade 3 Schuylerville and Grade 1 Spinaway as a 2-year-old, also will have a new pilot in Calvin Borel, a class of 2013 Hall of Fame inductee.

Seaneen Girl, who pulled a 31-1 upset to win the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs last November, returns to the main track after finishing seventh on turf in the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill on June 15. Kentucky-based Leandro Goncalves will be the new rider for the Bernie Flint trainee.

The Oaks field is rounded out by Hitechnoweenie, the Ken McPeek-trained winner of the June 1 Panthers Stakes at Prairie; Presque Isle shipper Cloudy Vow; the Churchill-based pair of Gold Medal Dancer and Plenty O’Toole; and locals Glorys Last Chance, Canticle, and Braseana.

Cornhusker: Field of six entered

The Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap attracted six older horses led by the classy trio of Prayer for Relief, Silver Max, and Taptowne.

Prayer for Relief, who won the 2011 Iowa Derby, looks to improve one position after running back-to-back seconds behind his Steve Asmussen stablemate Master Rick. Most recently, he was beaten one length in the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 27. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. has the call.

Silver Max, an accomplished performer on turf for last year’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer Dale Romans, may have found a new niche when cruising to a 9 1/2-length win at Churchill in the June 1 Opening Verse, which was moved from the grass to a sloppy main track. His regular partner Robby Albarado stays aboard.

Taptowne achieved a career best this season when second in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap for trainer Tim Glyshaw. He has continued to perform well in allowance company at Churchill Downs. Borel, who has been aboard Taptowne in his last four starts, keeps the mount.

Nicklaus Way is trained by Ian Wilkes, who won last year’s Cornhusker with Fort Larned. The locally trained duo of Tiz Ready and Red Lead complete the field.

Iowa Derby: Baffert sends Manando

Based on a third-place finish in Betfair Hollywood Park’s Grade 3 Affirmed on June 2, Manando, conditioned by Baffert and ridden by Garcia, possesses a slight class edge in the Iowa Derby.

The McPeek-trained Our Double Play and Bashaar, trained by Dan Peitz at Arlington Park, return after running one-two in the rapidly run Prairie Mile here June 1. Our Double Play, who will again be ridden by Shane Laviolette, fended off the rally of Bashaar, the mount of Joe Johnson, to win the Prairie Mile by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:36.19. Bashaar finished 14 lengths clear of the well-regarded Black Bear.

In an Iowa Derby where none of the seven colts can be dismissed, the field also includes the Asmussen-trained Betweenhereandcool, the Carl Nafzger-trained Looking Cool, the consistent Arapahoe shipper Stormdriver, and local hope Kale’s Kourage.