05/10/2012 5:01PM

Prairie Meadows: Mutti Blues defends in John Wayne


Iowa-bred racing is alive and well as 11 accomplished runners head to post in Saturday night's featured $70,000 John Wayne Stakes at Prairie Meadows.

Contested over the six-furlong distance, this year's John Wayne brings together the combined winners of 50 races at Prairie Meadows for earnings of well over $1.5  million.

Defending champ Mutti Blues, who also took the Aug. 6 Iowa Classic Sprint last season for leading trainer Chris Richard, prepped nicely for his title defense when he was a closing third, beaten just 2 1/4 lengths, in an April 21 allowance race behind fellow John Wayne entrants Wings of War and his stablemate Cresco Direct Hit.

Wings of War, enjoying a banner 3-for-4 season under the care of Don Von Hemel, won that April 21 5  1/2-furlong test by 1 1/4 lengths and has since blazed four furlongs in 46.40 seconds last Saturday morning to signal his readiness. Jockey Shane Laviolette, who partnered with Wings of War for both of his 2012 Oaklawn Park wins around two turns, takes the return call on the lukewarm 7-2 morning line favorite.

Cresco Direct Hit, who carries the familiar silks of owner Maggi Moss, is a hard-trying gelding who should be in the mix. Moss, in search of her 10th straight owner's title here, is off to a resounding 9-for-19 start.

Kate's Main Man, who has proven his class on or near the front end in two-turn races against open company, looks for redemption in this return to a sprint for trainer Randy Morse.

Cainam and Launch Light represent the in-form stable of Lynn Chleborad who is off to a 7-for-29 start to the season. Cainam, third in last year's John Wayne, is a late-rallying sort, while Launch Light should be in the thick of things from the outset.

Father Wayne and One Hundred Proof, a pair of 4-year-olds from Kelly Von Hemel's stable, are both open to further improvement. Father Wayne started his 2012 campaign sharply in an April 28 six-furlong allowance race here, scoring by four lengths in 1:09.46. One Hundred Proof, always highly regarded, won the 2011 Iowa Breeders Derby and was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths when he ran fourth in Wings of War's April 21 win.
The competitive group is rounded out by Runaway Walkaway, West Albany, and Dynamic Within, the 2011 Grays Lake Stakes winner who is the field's only colt.