05/30/2013 1:05PM

Prairie Meadows: Mile, Panthers put 3-year-olds in spotlight

Coady Photography
King Henny will take a third crack at succeeding at two turns in the Prairie Mile on Saturday.

ALTOONA, Iowa – With the Grade 3 Iowa Oaks and Grade 3 Iowa Derby looming on June 29, 3-year-olds come to the fore at Prairie Meadows for Saturday’s $60,000 Prairie Mile for both sexes and $60,000 Panthers Stakes for females.

The Prairie Mile drew a field of eight headed by Black Bear, who makes his stakes debut after dominating at Oaklawn Park in his only two starts, and King Henny, who will be contesting his eighth straight stakes race.

Black Bear is unraced since cruising to a 4 1/2-length victory in a six-furlong allowance on April 12. He stretches out past six furlongs for the first time in this two-turn mile race. Chris Hartman trains Black Bear. Cliff Berry, who was 24 for 86 entering Friday’s races at the Lone Star Park meet, flies in to retain the mount on the Midnight Lute colt.

King Henny, a Steve Asmussen trainee, fell a nose short to Vannistelrooy Star here in the six-furlong Golden Circle on April 20. In two attempts around two turns, King Henny failed to stay, including a ninth-place finish in Oaklawn’s Smarty Jones in January.

Bashaar ships in from Arlington Park for trainer Dan Peitz and will be piloted by the Churchill Downs-based Joe Johnson. He is a deep closer reliant on a strong pace. With talented speedsters like Worldventurer, Our Double Play, My Brother Don, Muppet Man, and I Stand Alone in the mix, the fractions should be rapid.

Our Double Play, conditioned by Kenny McPeek, enters off a career-best 5 1/4-length tally in a seven-furlong allowance test May 4 at Churchill and attempts a two-turn race for the first time. Muppet Man makes his 2013 debut. Trained by Jim DiVito, he ran second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity last September.

Panthers: Favorites marooned on outside

The Panthers, also at one mile, attracted 10 and has a similarly wide-open look. Expected to vie for favoritism are Hitechnoweenie and American Sugar, a pair of Harlan’s Holiday fillies who were done no favors by drawing the posts 9 and 10, respectively.

In her most recent start, Hitechnoweenie, trained by McPeek, impressed when taking a Churchill Downs 1 1/16-mile allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths on May 9.

American Sugar, who will be contesting her 11th straight stakes race, won the April 27 Goldfinch here by a head, making her 3 for 5 with a pair of stakes wins on this surface. Jockey Alex Birzer, in the midst of a three-ply battle with Terry Thompson and David Mello in the rider standings here, stays aboard.

The Evangeline-based Touch Magic, winner of the Jan. 19 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds, is a reliable closer representing the stable of Pat Devereux Jr. A Lion Heart filly, Touch Magic should appreciate the drop in class and return to two turns after being outrun by when eighth in Churchill’s Grade 3 Eight Belles on May 3.

Countess Curlin, winner of Sunland’s Feb. 24 Island Fashion, drew the rail and seeks to rebound for Asmussen after chasing Midnight Lucky in vain when third, beaten 12 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 3 Sunland Park Oaks March 24.

Hard Cider, Merry Mittens, Braseana, and Magic Union each enters off a win by open lengths.

Canticle, an allowance winner here on April 26, and Hung the Moon, a Malibu Moon filly who won a pair of Oaklawn Park route races this season, complete the lineup.