06/25/2008 11:00PM

Storm Mesa, Maren's Meadows to test Rasierra


ALTOONA, Iowa - The two-night Iowa Festival of Racing begins Friday with three stakes, highlighted by the Grade 3, $250,000 Iowa Oaks. Also on the 10-race card are the $250,000 Iowa Derby and the $100,000 Saylorville, which is for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

The 1 1/16-mile Oaks has a field of 10, headed by locally based Rasierra. She will be tested by Storm Mesa, who earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure in her last start, and Maren's Meadows, winner of the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park

Rasierra encountered traffic trouble heading into the first turn of the Kentucky Oaks and finished eighth. She was given plenty of time to recover and returned to win the Panthers Stakes here in front-running fashion. Trainer Ray Tracy believes that Rasierra is at her best at Prairie Meadows, where she has scored both of her wins.

"She's a nervous filly and, in fact, when we've shipped her in the past we've actually sent another horse with her to try and keep her calm," Tracy said.

Since winning the Panthers, Rasierra has worked exceptionally well, according to Tracy. Shane Laviolette has a return call to ride, but will have to work out a trip on Rasierra from her outside post.

Her main foe appears to be the vastly improved Storm Mesa, who won the Cinemine Stakes at Lone Star Park by 13 1/12 lengths in her last start. Since losing her first five starts, Storm Mesa has now won three in a row. Trainer Bret Calhoun thinks her turnaround is mental more than anything else.

"Physically, she's the same filly, but until recently she's never been able to put it together," he said. "The mental part of the game is such a big aspect. After her win in her last start, we started thinking about testing her in graded stakes company."

Since the Oaks field appears to have a lot of early speed, Calhoun said he thinks Storm Mesa can change from her usual front-running style if necessary - even though she has not been able to do so in her recent starts.

"In her last couple of races we actually wanted her to run at a target, but when the race unfolded it just didn't work out that way," he said.

Eddie Martin has the mount from post 3.

If there's to be an upset in the Oaks, it could come from Maren's Meadow. Owned by the River Ridge Ranch, Maren's Meadow won the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park this spring. In her last start, the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, run over a muddy track at Pimlico on May 16, Maren's Meadow bobbled at the start, was forced to sit behind the speed, and never appeared to get comfortable. Prairie Meadows's leading rider, Terry Thompson, has the call.

Day of Victory has been cross-entered in the Iowa Oaks and the Iowa Derby by trainer Robert Holthus.