Mark Breen's Jessica's Star, winner of the Prairie Mile Stakes on a muddy track in his last start, parlayed that experience into an upset score in the $250,000 Iowa Derby (gr. III) on a sloppy track at Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino the evening of June 28 (VIDEO).
With the meet's leading rider, David Mello, aboard for trainer Mike Stidham, Jessica's Star rallied from fourth on the backstretch through an honest pace and collared the front-runners approaching the finish. Bred in Kentucky by Elisabeth Alexander, the gelded Jessica's Star is by Magna Graduate out of the Dynaformer mare Bimini Knot.
The early pace in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds was set by Embellishing Bob, who grabbed the early lead from the rail under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. Placed first in the Derby Trial (gr. III) two starts back, Embellishing Bob met with hounding pressure from I Got It All and a three-wide Vicar's in Trouble through fractions of :23.70 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.81 for the half-mile, and 1:11.32 for six furlongs.
Jessica's Star, about six lengths behind the top three on the backstretch, made his move to engage nearing the top of the stretch as I Got It All began to fade. Vicar's in Trouble, winner of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) two starts back, appeared ready to accelerate past Embellishing Bob but flattened out between horses after one mile in 1:37.30.
Jessica's Star took over late to pass a stubborn Embellishing Bob, who ran well in his first start around two turns. Favored Vicar's In Trouble finished third, with Russellin fourth. The final time was 1:44.12, a bit slower than the fillies went in the Iowa Oaks at the same distance in the previous race.
Jessica's Star, who won by about one length, paid $21.20, $7.80, and $4.20 across the board. Embellishing Bob returned $5.40 and $3.40, while Vicar's in Trouble was worth $2.80 to show. The $1 exacta paid $48, and the $1 trifecta returned $193.20.
Jessica's Star now has four wins and two seconds in six starts. He made his first start in February at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, where he broke his maiden in his second outing.