06/26/2011 10:31AM

Prairie Meadows: Little Miss Holly kicks clear in Iowa Oaks

Jack Coady/Coady Photography
Little Miss Holly wins the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks by two lengths.

ALTOONA, Iowa – Conducted over a fast surface, despite earlier rain and unseasonably cool temperatures in the high 60s, the concluding night of the Prairie Meadows Iowa Festival of Racing brought forth competitive renewals of the Grade 3, $200,000 Iowa Oaks and Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Derby.

The Iowa Oaks, which featured six 3-year-old fillies and an overwhelming 1-2 favorite in Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks winner Daisy Devine, was taken convincingly by Gold Square’s Little Miss Holly, who is based at Churchill Downs with trainer Steve Margolis.

Handled confidently by jockey Corey Lanerie, in his lone mount of the Festival, Little Miss Holly, a daughter of Maria’s Mon, kicked clear entering the stretch and was chased home by the 4-1 Donnie K. Von Hemel-trainee Hearts on Fire. Stopping the clock in 1:43.66 for the 1 1/16 miles, Little Miss Holly was never threatened after striking the front and won by two lengths.

Daisy Devine, returning to action following a break since her seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6, loomed a brief three-wide threat on the far turn, but flattened out and managed a disappointing fifth-place finish.

Recent local maiden winner Find the Humor, trained by Paul Vallance, set the pace and held on for third as the longest shot on the board at 28-1.

Margolis, whose Churchill Downs barn suffered considerable damage in Thursday evening’s tornado, was relieved by Little Miss Holly’s solid effort and first graded stakes score.

Earning $120,000 for her connections, Little Miss Holly was sent off as the second choice and returned $8.80 for the win.

Iowa Derby: Prayer for Relief rides rail to win

In a similar fashion to the Iowa Oaks, the Iowa Derby had an overwhelming 1-2 favorite in Astrology, the George Bolton and Stonestreet Stables-owned Steve Asmussen trainee who ran a brave third, beaten just 1 3/4 lengths, in the Preakness Stakes on May 21.

However, Astrology produced a subpar effort while wide throughout under Mike Smith and ended up sixth.

Taking full advantage of an apparent rail bias, the Bob Baffert-trained Prayer for Relief broke sharply, hugged the favorable rail, and forged clear when angling three wide into the stretch under solid Rafael Bejarano handing for a two-length victory over the Don Von Hemel-trained Sherriff Cogburn.

Local stalwart Sherriff Cogburn saved ground throughout the 1 1/16-mile race and gamely chased Prayer for Relief through the stretch to no avail.

Deep closer Dreaminofthewin, who shipped in from Lone Star Park for owner-trainer C.R. Trout, snatched third while also travelling along the favored inside part of the track.

Owned by Zayat Stables, Prayer for Relief ($13.80) was sent off as the third choice in the field of seven. The Jump Start colt earned $150,000 for his connections in his first try over a dirt surface.