Cornhusker Handicap & More Prairie Meadows Races Recap

The front end was the place to be at Prairie Meadows on Saturday evening, when the headline G3 Cornhusker Handicap was won in gate-to-wire style by Giant Game, making his stakes breakthrough. The G3 Iowa Oaks was won in identical fashion by Crypto Mo, who provided her 61-year-old rider Cindy Murphy with her 2,000th winner, while the ungraded Iowa Derby produced a hatful of drama when 48-1 stunner How Did He Do That and One In Vermillion dead-heated for the prize, before the stewards demoted the latter to second place and gave the longshot his day of glory.

Breeders Cup Odds

Cornhusker Handicap

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

Giant stands tall at last

We can overcomplicate horse racing at times and there’s plenty to be said for keeping it simple, and that’s just how Giant Game played it when making a belated stakes breakthrough in the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker at the little Iowa track on Saturday night, making all and rolling home ahead of Skippylongstocking and Ain’t Life Grand.

The 2022 Kentucky Derby hopeful had lost his way a little since last spring but didn’t need any directions here as 9-1 fourth-choice, breaking on top from the inside post under Martin Garcia and opening up a little daylight on the front end. He was still alone out there at the top of the stretch, and although the posse hunted him down late he was a comfortable three-quarters of a length clear at the wire.

The second-choice Skippylongstocking left his surge a little too late but was still a length and a quarter ahead of the locally-trained favourite Ain’t Life Grand, who also finished strongly and maintained his perfect ten-for-ten record of hitting the board at this circuit.

“I’ve never won this race before and I’m so excited, I couldn’t be happier,” said winning owner Dennis Albaugh, an Iowan local whose grey and blue silks are also carried by this year’s Kentucky Derby third Angel Of Empire. “This is one of my favourite tracks.”

As a two-year-old Giant Game had run third in the 2021 G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, but didn’t add to his maiden score until taking an allowance at Churchill Downs two months ago. He’s now three-for-ten for trainer Dale Romans.

Cornhusker Handicap Payouts

1. Giant Game20.008.804.60
2. Skippylongstocking 4.602.80
3. Ain’t Life Grand  2.40

Winning time: 1m 49.86s

Iowa Oaks

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

Crypto and Cindy hit jackpot

There was more gate-to-wire glory in the Iowa Oaks when the locally-trained Crypto Mo led her rivals a merry dance to land her first Graded-stakes success, staying away to beat Imonra and Stellar Lady and provide her 61-year-old jockey Cindy Murphy with the 2,000th win of her career and her first at Graded level.

Crypto Mo was the only previous stakes winner in the field and made her class tell, the 7-2 second-choice getting out smartly under Murphy and dictating matters at no more than a steady clip, twelving along on the front end. They were stacked up behind her on the home turn but Crypto Mo kept up the gallop and the challengers dropped away one by one, and she eased away to win by two lengths from the favoured Imonra, who had three lengths in hand of Stellar Lady in the show spot.

“She felt pretty strong so I just went for it,” said Murphy, whose delight at reaching such a milestone was amplified by the fact that the winning trainer was her husband Travis. “I usually go by feel, and she felt like she wanted to run.”

This was the third win in a row for Crypto Mo and took her count to four-for-eight, all her victories coming at this circuit. She owed Murphy one – more than one, really – as before her debut Crypto Mo unseated Murphy and rolled on her, leaving the veteran jockey with injured ribs and pelvis.

“I don’t hold it against her,” grinned Murphy. “She’s paying me back.”

Iowa Oaks Payouts

1. Crypto Mo9.604.603.60
2. Imonra 3.202.40
3. Stellar Lady  3.80

Winning time: 1m 44.16s

Iowa Derby

ungraded, $250,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo

Derby drama – that’s how he did it

It’s a good question. How did he do that? The answer was in two parts – his own hitherto undisplayed talent and a little help from the stewards, as How Did He Do That shocked the Iowa Derby at 48-1 after dead-heating with One In Vermillion, then getting the spoils in his own right when the officials demoted his rival to second place.

There is a lot to unpack from this result; One In Vermillion broke fast and set the fractions to the top of the lane, where How Did He Do That laid down a challenge on his outside. The pair went eyeball to eyeball down the stretch, with How Did He Do That (ridden by Richard Eramia) putting a whisker in front here and One In Vermillion (Harry Hernandez up) dragging him back there.

With 50 yards to run How Did He Do That had the race, but One In Vermillion threw himself at the wire and they couldn’t be separated when the camera clicked. Unfortunately for the latter he had drifted out from the rail under Hernandez’s left-handed drive, causing interference, and his number soon came down. The persistent Heroic Move was just a half-length back in third, while the favourite Bo Cruz figured early but emptied out to be eighth of the ten runners.

This performance marked an abrupt return to form for the Steve Asmussen-trained How Did He Do That – who shares his sire Good Magic with another Derby winner in the much more famous Mage – who had been beaten in five straight since making his stakes breakthrough at Zia Park last November.

Iowa Derby Payouts

1. How Did He Do That98.0027.4013.00
2. One In Vermillion 9.406.60
3. Heroic Move  10.40

Winning time: 1m 43.57s

Stay tuned for the latest Breeders’ Cup Odds. Check out the World’s major Racetrack entries, Breeders Cup qualifying races, Breeders Cup Win and you’re in.

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