08/16/2012 4:50PM

Prairie Meadows: Keokuk kicks off Quarter Horse meet


Prairie Meadows kicks off its 26-day Quarter Horse meet, which features abundant stakes action, on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Central. Culminating with the track’s first hosting of the Bank of America Challenge Championships, the meet promises a hike in overall purses along with heightened competition.

Familiar faces such as 2011 leading rider Stormy Smith, talented young guns Oscar Delgado and Cody Smith, and veterans Tommy Wellington and Thomas Byrd are among those who will occupy the jockey quarters in search of the 2012 title.

Trainer Brent Clay, who was a remarkable 19 for 68 during the 2011 meet, defends his title against the powerful stable of Charley Hunt. Including his trainer son Charlton, the Hunt contingent has been blazing a trail during morning workouts as they both seek a hot start.
Saturday’s feature is the Grade 3, $45,000 Keokuk Stakes, a 400-yard event for 3-year-olds and up.

The big events of the season are the Bank of America Prairie Meadows Regional Finals on Sept. 15, Prairie Meadows Quarter Horse Championship Night on Oct. 13, Iowa Quarter Horse Champions Night on Oct. 26, and the 20th edition of the Bank of America Challenge Championships on Oct. 27.

The Challenge Championships, a seven-race series worth more than $1 million in total prize money, brings together regional qualifiers in an effort to clarify year-end championships and establish bragging right in various age and distance divisions.

Coinciding with the Challenge Championships, the American Quarter Horse Association will hold its annual Racing Conference at the new Prairie Meadows Hotel and Conference Center from Oct. 24-27.