05/17/2009 12:00AM

Von Hemel runners one-two in John Wayne


ALTOONA, Iowa - Trainer Kelly Von Hemel's stalwart trio of Crimson King Cat, Maya's Storm and Red Hot N Gold were expected to dominate Saturday's John Wayne Stakes, a six-furlong event for Iowa-bred colts and geldings. With his father Don Von Hemel in town for his grandson's high school graduation ceremony, the three accomplished runners were inseparable at the sixteenth pole and ended up finishing first, second, and fourth.

In a change of recent tactics, Maya's Storm prompted the honest pace of 22.37 and 45.27, set by Crimson King Cat. Red Hot N Gold, the defending champion in the race and the 6-5 post time favorite, stalked the pair and looked set to pounce. Racing closest to the rail, Maya's Storm, a 4-year -old colt by Stormy Atlantic out of Whisperifyoudare, currently Iowa's most decorated broodmare, responded to jockey Israel Ocampo's vigorous handling and outstayed his rivals winning by half a length in a time of 1:09.77.

Angling four wide just past the furlong marker, Tiger Lake, a Doug L. Anderson trainee, finished best in an attempt to spoil Von Hemel's party. However, his bid, under Joel Campbell, fell short as he missed second-place finisher Red Hot N Gold by a nose. Crimson King Cat weakened in the last 70 yards and ended up fourth.

The victory marked a pleasant return to form for Maya's Storm. Although he had never finishied out of the top three in 11 previous career starts, he was beaten by Crimson King Cat here, in an allowance prep, on April 25 by 5 1/4 lengths.

Owned by William "Leroy" Gessmann, who bred him, and The Albaugh Family Stables LLC, which is headed by Jason Loutsch, Maya's Storm earned $39,000 and rewarded his backers, amongst a large Preakness Stakes day crowd, by paying $14.40 to win. He will be pointed to Prairie Meadows' signature event, The Grade 2, $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap on June 27.