07/25/2009 11:00PM

Quarter Horses take turn in spotlight

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ALTOONA, Iowa - Quarter Horses return to the fray on a regular basis as Prairie Meadows commences its 2009 mixed meet on Monday.

Sharing the spotlight with Thoroughbreds for 32 dates through Sept. 19, Quarter Horses will run five or six races a day, the same as the Thoroughbreds, for average daily purses of nearly $90,000. Daily purse levels for Thoroughbreds willl be about the same.

Familiar faces abound for both breeds. Stormy Smith, the leading Quarter Horse jockey here in 2008, returns along with perennial stalwart Tad Leggett. Bridget Smith, Stormy's wife, is agent for both riders.

The Quarter Horse training ranks feature a slew of horsemen who have enjoyed success here in recent years. The 2008 mixed meet leader Verle Bohner will have his title challenged by the stables of David Brown, Ed Hardy, Don Mourning, and the father-son combination of Charley and Charlton Hunt.

Although the Thoroughbreds will have fewer opportunities and race for smaller purses than during the recently concluded Thoroughbred meet, the jockey colony remains largely the same. Alex Birzer will attempt a defense of his 2008 mixed meet riding title but, unlike last year, 2009 Thoroughbred meet champ Terry Thompson intends to ride here for the duration.

Thoroughbred meet leading trainer Lynn Chleborad will compete against the 2008 mixed meet leader Kelly Von Hemel and the powerful barns of Dick Clark and Chris Richard.

The highlight of the season is Iowa Classic Night on Aug. 29, when Iowa-breds contest seven Thoroughbred stakes and five Quarter Horse stakes. Other key dates are the Bank of America Racing Challenge regional finals, consisting of four Quarter Horses stakes run the weekend of Aug. 14-15, and the meet-closing Prairie Meadows Oaks and Prairie Meadows Derby on Sept. 19.