02/01/2013 1:52PM

Prairie Meadows meet to begin April 19


ALTOONA, Iowa – Prairie Meadows, whose stakes program rose to new heights in 2012, will begin its 67-day Thoroughbred season April 19 with a similar look as last year. Racing will be conducted from Thursday to Sunday each week until Aug. 10.

The lone exception to the schedule is that there will be racing Wednesday, July 3, to accommodate the track’s fireworks show.

The stakes calendar is essentially unaltered after the racing staff managed to draw a number of top quality runners to Prairie Meadows last season. From Salty Strike’s narrow victory in the Prairie Rose to 2-year-old champion Hansen’s 10-length romp in the Iowa Derby, fans were able to see some of the leading horses in the nation.

The Iowa Festival of Racing, which will be held June 28-29 this year, served as the pathway to stardom for Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned, who led all the way over Successful Dan to take the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap. Iowa Distaff winner Brushed by a Star went on to win Monmouth’s Grade 2 Molly Pitcher and Churchill’s Grade 2 Chilukki.

The track’s trio of Grade 3 races, the $200,000 Iowa Oaks, the $250,000 Iowa Derby, and the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, will all be run Saturday, June 29.

The most significant change this meet is the creation of Iowa/Minnesota challenge races. Proposed by Leroy Gessman, president of the Iowa Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and embraced by both Prairie Meadows and Canterbury Park officials, Iowa-breds will face Minnesota-breds at both venues from April to September, extending the racing season for both groups of horses.

Minnesota-breds will be able to compete at Prairie Meadows in restricted races written for Iowa-breds prior to the start of the Canterbury Park race meet May  17. Iowa-breds will be able to run against Minnesota-breds at Canterbury Park from the conclusion of the Prairie Meadows Thoroughbred meet until Canterbury closes Sept. 14.

Prairie Meadows will hold a 26-day Quarter Horse meet Aug.  17 through Oct. 12. The meet has its biggest weekend on Sept 27-28 when the Grade 3 Valley Junction Futurity and the $100,000 Jim Bader Futurity will be held.