06/27/2012 2:44PM

Prairie Meadows: Rothko heads Iowa Sprint Handicap

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Rothko, with Corey Nakatani riding, wins the Aristides at Churchill Downs.

ALTOONA, Iowa – The well-travelled Rothko headlines the featured $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap on Friday night as the Padua Stables homebred seeks to build another win streak under the care of trainer Steve Asmussen.

Rothko returned to form on June 2 with a convincing rally to seize the $100,000 Grade 3 Aristides at Churchill Downs by 2 1/2 lengths. The lightly-raced Arch 4-year-old is 3 for 3 at the Iowa Sprint Handicap distance of six furlongs and 4 for 8 overall.

Representing the same connections that campaigned 2010 Iowa Sprint Handicap victor and track record-holder Majesticperfection, Rothko gamely chased home the country’s top-rated sprinter, The Factor, when second in Santa Anita’s Dec. 26 Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. Assigned the highweight of 121 pounds by the Prairie Meadows racing secretary, Fred Hutton, Rothko will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.

The opposition is headed by Capt. Bullet Bob, Noble’s Promise, Warning Song, and Wiredfortwotwenty.

Capt. Bullet Bob, a 6-year-old based at Fairmount Park with Leroy Hellman, proved his mettle by grinding out a neck victory in Arlington’s June 16 six-furlong $125,000 White Oak Handicap for Illinois-breds. The victory was a welcome return to form, and Capt. Bullet Bob will try to duplicate that peak Polytrack effort on dirt.

Noble’s Promise’s back class is formidable as a lifetime winner of $1,098,926, which includes two graded stakes wins, but his participation is improbable as he raced this past Saturday when second in Churchill’s Kelly’s Landing Stakes.

Warning Song and Wiredfortwotwenty, like last year’s winner Ducky Drake, have spent the entire season at Prairie Meadows and are considered definite. Warning Song, claimed twice in a row for $35,000, makes his debut for trainer Jon Arnett after winning an optional claiming race by 9 1/4 lengths in 1:09.29 on May 24.

Wiredfortwotwenty may have needed the race when third in the May 25 Prairie Express and the 7-year-old gelding has trained well since. Last season, he exhibited his blazing speed in taking the 2011 Prairie Express by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:08.10. His trainer, Bart Hone, said, “He injured his left shin when he won the Prairie Express last year, and it needed a,lot of time. He’s back.”

Accomplished local sprinters Flat Black and the popular 8-year-old Humble Smarty will also take their chance.

Saturday night’s card features the track’s annual trio of Grade 3 races, the $200,000 Iowa Oaks, $250,000 Iowa Derby, and the Festival’s signature event, the $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap.

The 2011 Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old Hansen is entered in the Iowa Derby. He also is entered in the $400,000 Red Legend on Saturday at Charles Town. If he runs in the Iowa Derby, Hansen would become the first champion to race at Prairie Meadows since Caressing in 2002. Benny the Bull won the 2007 Iowa Sprint Handicap before going on to be named the sprint champion of 2008.

The Cornhusker drew a contentious group of six older horses including the highly-rated Successful Dan, Fort Larned, Awesome Gem and former winners Headache (2011) and Shadowbdancing (2010).

The Iowa Oaks has attracted six fillies, including recent stakes winners Ice Cream Silence and Tapajo.

Both Friday and Saturday nights of the Iowa Festival of Racing will begin at 6:30 p.m .Central, and there are 10 races carded each evening. Each night’s trio of stakes races will go consecutively, starting with the seventh race at 9:13 p.m. Central. Prairie Meadows has added a third 50-cent pick four to both cards. The pick fours will encompass races 2-5, 6-9, and 7-10.