2023 Iowa Derby Odds & More Graded Races at Prairie Meadows

The spotlight falls on Prairie Meadows on Saturday, the little Iowa circuit getting its share of the headlines with a strong line-up that includes the G3 Cornhusker, in which track favourites Ain’t Life Grand and Fleetridge go up against class acts Skippylongstocking and Warrant. The sophomores get their turn in the G3 Iowa Oaks and the ungraded 2023 Iowa Derby, with the cachet of a ‘Derby winner’ and an ‘Oaks winner’ a major lure despite the modest surroundings.

Cornhusker Handicap

G3, $300,000, 1m 1f dirt, 3yo+, 9.09pm CT

It’s the biggest day of the year for little Prairie Meadows, a Saturday night special with a stakes-heavy card topped by the Cornhusker, in which a couple of hometown boys go into battle against the out-of-towners.

The pick of the locals may be Ain’t Life Grand (7-2), who has won seven times at the Meadows including the Iowa Derby on this day last year. Last time out he was 2-5 to take an uncompetitive stakes over a mile-sixteenth and romped by six and a quarter lengths from rank outsider Paluxy (15-1), and although this is much tougher his track record is hard to ignore.

There’s also Fleetridge (20-1), runner-up in this 12 months ago at huge odds when a length clear of the odds-on Warrant (4-1). He tuned up for this when wiring an allowance here over a mile, cruising by five and three-quarter lengths, and has never been out of the first two in five starts at this track.

Warrant brings some out-of-state class to the table and may appreciate cutting back after three starts at a mile and a half, none of them particularly noteworthy. He has lost a little of the sizzle he showed in 2022 but still stacks up well in this company, as does the inconsistent Skippylongstocking (3-1), whose last six starts read 1-9-1-7-1-5, although two of those defeats were in G1s.

‘Skippy’ is usually a solid G3 runner but threw in a clunker when a dull fifth in the G3 Ben Ali – three and three-quarter lengths behind the bang-in-form runner-up Call Me Fast (9-2)-at Keeneland in April. He’s due to bounce back but may struggle to flip that form with Call Me Fast, who chased home subsequent G1 runner-up Rattle N Roll in the G3 Blame at Churchill Downs last month.

The veteran Frosted Grace (5-1) nailed his first Graded-stakes win on his 41st start in the G3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star in May – he’s in the form of his life and the extra yardage shouldn’t be a problem.

2023 Cornhusker Handicap Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds by Jazzsports
Giant GameMartin Garcia+1500
Promise KeeperDavid Cabrera+800
Call Me FastJulien R. Leparoux+450
Double ThunderArmando Martinez+3000
SkippylongstockingEdgard J. Zayas+300
FleetridgeAlex Birzer+2000
Frosted GraceCristian A. Torres+500
WarrantRicardo Santana, Jr.+400
PaluxyKevin Roman+1500
Ain’t Life GrandElvin Gonzalez+350

The locals are strong but CALL ME FAST has made major improvement this year and has been found a good opportunity to make his stakes breakthrough.

Iowa Oaks

G3, $225,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo fillies, 8.40pm CT

There is precious little stakes form on offer in the Iowa Oaks, although there are several fillies with the potential to step up beyond what they have shown so far.

The only stakes-winner in the field is Crypto Mo (5-1), who made her breakthrough here four weeks ago when going gate-to-wire over a mile and keeping on strongly to beat Broken Hearts Bay (8-1) by a length and a half, with a long way back to the third horse, always a good sign.

Crypto Mo has done all her winning here and looks ready for this step up, and could put pace to the race once again. At that stage Broken Hearts Bay was a nine-race maiden, but she belatedly got off the mark when cut right back to six furlongs here two weeks later, and may not want to stretch back out again.

This is the first time away from Gulfstream Park for Imonra (5-2), who is chasing a hat-trick after wins at a mile in a maiden and an allowance, when she stalked and pounced to beat the smart Flakes by an easy two and three-quarter lengths.

There’s more to come from her and she’s much less exposed than some of her rivals, such as Love Tank (4-1), narrow winner of a mile-sixteenth allowance at Lone Star last time, and Stellar Lady (9-2), who won a bad race at odds of 1-10 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and faces a much tougher test now.

Friendlypersuasion (3-1) was making her first start for eight months when fifth in an Ellis Park stakes over seven furlongs, and should be a fair bit sharper.

2023 Iowa Oaks Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds by Jazzsports
Broken Hearts BayAlex Birzer+800
ImonraEdgard J. Zayas+250
Crypto MoCindy Murphy+500
FriendlypersuasionMartin Garcia+300
Stellar LadyCristian A. Torres+450
Love TankKen S. Tohill+400
Peacock LassRicardo Santana, Jr.+600

This may not take much winning and IMONRA, impressive in maiden and allowance grade, can bridge the class gap and stretch her streak to three.

Iowa Derby

Ungraded, $250,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo, 9.38pm CT

A Derby is still a Derby however minor its prestige and the 2023 Iowa Derby version has drawn a big field, with Eyeing Clover (3-1) the morning-line choice following a decent effort in another Derby, the Texas edition over a mile-sixteenth at Lone Star.

Eyeing Clover was nailed in the last few jumps there and beaten a nose and a neck into third, but was still five and a half lengths clear of How Did He Do That (15-1) in seventh and five more ahead of the disappointing favourite Black Powder (10-1), coughing up his unbeaten record, in ninth.

This is class relief for Bo Cruz (9-2), who set the fractions on his stakes debut in the G3 Matt Winn at Ellis Park over a mile-eighth until fading late to be third behind Kentucky Derby fourth Disarm. Churchill Downs eighth Raise Cain (4-1) – cross-entered in the Indiana Derby on Saturday – was a length and three-quarters back in fourth and Denington (12-1) was a well-beaten fifth.

West Coast Cowboy (6-1) couldn’t handle Forte and Mage in the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, but bounced back with a dominant score in a mile allowance at the same track and should be on the short-list, while Big Luke (15-1) hails from the barn that won this race last year and hosed the opposition by upwards of seven lengths in a minor sprint stakes here last month, but he goes much longer for the first time now and that is obviously a concern.

2023 Iowa Derby Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds by Jazzsports
One in VermillionHarry Hernandez+1000
Big LukeGlenn W. Corbett+1500
Heroic MoveStewart Elliott+1200
How Did He Do ThatRichard E. Eramia+1500
DeningtonDavid Cabrera+1200
Bo CruzCristian A. Torres+450
Raise CainLuan Machado+400
Eyeing CloverRicardo Santana, Jr+300
Black PowderJulien R. Leparoux+1000
Ocean of StormsAlex Birzer+3000
Georgie WAlex Achard+2000
West Coast CowboyEdgard J. Zayas+600
Mor Lana SpiritLeandro D. Goncalves+2000
Warren LWalter De La Cruz+3000

The slight cutback and class relief point firmly to BO CRUZ, who ran very well behind good horses on his stakes debut and has plenty in his favor here.

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