06/28/2007 12:00AM

Silent Pleasure's streak in jeopardy


ALTOONA, Iowa - Past winners of the Cornhusker Handicap, which was originally run at the long-shuttered Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, Neb., include racing greats Gate Dancer, Black Tie Affair, and Roses in May. Saturday night's Grade 2 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker might lack a star of that magnitude, but it does feature a solid and evenly matched field of 10.

The $300,000 Cornhusker at 1 1/8 miles is the centerpiece of the Iowa Festival of Racing, the highlight of this meet. Saturday is day two of the three-day event - which concludes on Monday - and features three stakes, headed by the 42nd running of the Cornhusker.

Patriot Act, trained by Neil Howard, is the morning-line favorite at 5-2. A son of A.P. Indy, he easily won the first stakes of his career in the Jim Rasmussen Memorial here on June 2. Earlier this year, he ran second in both the Grade 3 Mineshaft and Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds.

"He came back great, and the added sixteenth of a mile should help," said Howard. "The Cornhusker is a very well-regarded race, and getting this horse a Grade 2 win would be fantastic."

Grade 3 Texas Mile winner Silent Pleasure, a winner of four stakes races in a row, is the horse Patriot Act will have to beat.

"This horse just keeps getting better," said trainer Howard Scarberry. "He's doing so well right now, and I think the farther they go the better."

Silent Pleasure has not raced since winning the Texas Mile on April 28. He was scheduled to run in the Grade 3, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 28, but couldn't because of swelling in his left hind leg due to what was believed to be a spider bite. He has posted one four-furlong work since then, at Louisiana Downs 15 days ago.

Jonesboro enters the Cornhusker after running fourth in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Jonesboro was taken back off the pace in that race, but trainer Randy Morse said he thinks his horse will be closer to the lead in the Cornhusker.

"I didn't really want him that far back, but things happen," Morse said. "I'm most concerned about the short turnaround between races."

Dry Martini certainly can't be overlooked. He has won two races in a row, including the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap at Calder in his last start. Three races back, he was a fast-closing fourth in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths. His rider, Elvis Trujillo, is looking for his second straight Cornhusker win after guiding Siphon City to a victory last year.