05/27/2009 11:00PM

Spotlight on sprinters at Prairie Meadows


ALTOONA, Iowa - Prairie Meadows managed to fill both stakes for Saturday night, with the Prairie Express drawing five horses and the Prairie Rose six. Both are $50,000 stakes at six furlongs, with the Prairie Express for 3-year-olds and up and the Prairie Rose for fillies and mares.

"It's especially hard to get older sprinters to come, as I had the same field sizes last year," said stakes coordinator Ray Lopez. "I'm happy we got them both to go."

Native Ruler is the probable favorite in the Prairie Express. He will face Coach Jimi Lee, now 9, who holds the track record at the distance of 1:07.85, set in the 2004 Iowa Sprint Handicap. He defended his Iowa Sprint Handicap title in 2005 and 2006.

Coach Jimi Lee is coming off two subpar efforts at Gulfstream Park this past winter, and trainer Jim DiVito hopes a return to his favorite oval sparks a revival.

Native Ruler hasn't raced since February, when he was sidelined by foot problems, but he runs well fresh. Trained by Chris Richard, he won last year's Iowa Sprint Handicap.

Canterbury invader Eagle Storm, a winner of 11 races including the 2008 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes, may be closing best into the expected hot pace.

The Prairie Rose is headed by a pair of Kelly Von Hemel trainees, Linday's Wish and Irish Party.

Lindsey's Wish, a 4-year-old daughter of Trippi, returns to sprinting after trying two turns on dirt and on turf. Irish Party, winner of the Mamie Eisenhower for Iowa-breds here May 15, must step it up a notch to compete against open company.

Through Wednesday, Von Hemel was tied for the lead in the trainer standings with Lynn Chleborad at 14 wins.

Prairie Rose entrant Elusive Sparkle is a half-sister to 2007 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Street Sense. The Chleborad-trained Princess Bianconi relishes this surface and just defeated Celeritas, last Saturday's upset winner of the Wild Rose, in a six-furlong optional claiming sprint here on May 9.