07/02/2016 6:45PM

Smack Smack springs 16-1 surprise in Cornhusker Handicap

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Smack Smack, ridden by Shane Laviolette, defeats Shotgun Kowboy by a neck in the Grade 3 Cornhusker.

Smack Smack’s first win in eight starts this year also was the biggest victory of his career, a narrow decision over Shotgun Kowboy in an oddly run edition of the Grade 3, $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap on Saturday afternoon.

On paper, Smack Smack looked too slow and insufficiently accomplished to win, but that is why he paid $34.20. There was one thing Smack Smack had going for him, if you stared long enough at his past performance lines, and that was the race’s nine-furlong distance: Smack Smack entered the Cornhusker with two wins and a third from four races at 1 1/8 miles, and he needed every foot of it to prevail.

The Cornhusker unfolded at a very modest tempo, with nearly the entire field stacked across the track a half-furlong from the first turn. Shotgun Kowboy came through along the inside to grab the lead, going his first quarter-mile  in 23.64 seconds and a half in a mild 48.78 as favorite S’maverlous pressed two paths off the fence and well-backed Cyrus Alexander raced three wide. The pace barely quickened through six furlongs in 1:13.35, and midway around the turn, S’maverlous pushed to the front and took a clear lead, with Shotgun Kowboy apparently fading on the fence.

At the quarter pole, it briefly looked like a showdown between S’Maverlous and Cyrus Alexander, but Cyrus Alexander  suddenly went flat and backed up between horses, while S’Maverlous, rather than pull away, began to lose his lead. Rivals swarmed inside and out, and it was Smack Smack on the far outside going slightly better than Shotgun Kowboy, who had plugged and plugged along the inside and nearly got back up to win.

Smack Smack, racing mid-pack until making his move in the homestretch under Shane Laviolette, won by a neck, with Shotgun Kowboy just a head better than 14-1 shot Pain and Misery, who had rallied from eighth to get into the thick of things at the stretch call. S’maverlous checked in fourth, followed by Code West, Hawaakom, Cyrus Alexander, Domain’s Rap, and Eton Ridge. Winning time for the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track was 1:50.28.

Don Von Hemel trains Smack Smack for his owner and breeder, Dream Walkin’ Farms. Smack Smack, fourth in the local Cornhusker prep last out, is a 5-year-old gelding by Closing Argument and out the Victory Gallop mare, Smack Madam. He ran his record to 9-3-7 from 26 starts with career earnings of nearly $750,000.

Candip captures Iowa Sprint

Candip bounced back from a poor race last out at Churchill Downs to win the $100,000 Iowa Sprint.

Stalking and pressing on the outside after breaking from post 8, Candip took the lead from Dream Saturday at the stretch call and beat that rival by three-quarters of a length, with Wilbo just a nose farther back in third.

The 5-year-old Candip, claimed for $32,000 in May 2015 by his current connections, owner K Town Partners and trainer Mike Tomlinson, hit peak form over the winter at Gulfstream Park, when he won a high-end allowance race and finished a close second to the good sprinter X Y Jet in the Gulfstream Park Sprint.

But returning from a layoff May 19 in a Churchill allowance race, Candip appeared to have reverted to a lesser version of himself, finishing a distant sixth after a wide trip. That race, it now seems, merely gave Candip fuel for his return to stakes competition, as he traveled forwardly from the start under Terry Thompson, always racing on the bridle while relaxed.

“I was able to watch and see how it set up down on the inside,” Thompson said. “I was able to sit to the quarter pole and when I called on him he ran big down the lane.”

Dream Saturday set a strong pace of 22.11 and 44.60 seconds, and held firm to the finish, but he did not have quite enough left to contain the winner, who ran six furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.98. W.B. Smudge got a pocket trip and loomed past the quarter pole, but had no late zip and finished a well-beaten fourth as the second choice, just edging tepid favorite Storm Power.

Candip ($10.60), a gelding, is by Candy Ride out of the Storm Cat mare Indefinable, and was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm. His career record now stands at 22-7-4-2.