Headache left favored Awesome Gem behind at the eighth pole and rolled to his first graded stakes win in the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows, the highlight of the two-day Iowa Festival of Racing on the night of June 25 (VIDEO).
Winner of last summer's Claiming Crown Jewel, the 5-year-old Headache defeated 9-5 choice Awesome Gem by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths while running the 1 1/8-mile distance in a sharp 1:47.83 on a fast track. Pacemaking Victory Pete finished third, a neck behind Awesome Gem.
Mike Maker trains the winning son of Tapit out of the Woodman mare Pamric for Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Dr. J.K. and Linda Griggs bred the gray/roan gelding in Kentucky. The Ramseys claimed Headache for $25,000 at Belmont Park in September 2009.
Headache was teamed once again with Miguel Mena, who rode him for the first time May 21 at Churchill Downs when they posted a 7 1/2-length triumph over an optional claiming allowance field at 1 1/16 miles. Headache went off as the second choice in the Cornhusker at odds of 9-2.
Breaking from the rail, Headache saved ground in the back half of the 11-horse field as Victory Pete, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, set a contested pace over Cryptolight while carving splits of :23.17, :47.08 and 1:10.80.
Headache, moving off the rail, gained ground on the final turn and stayed wide into the stretch as Victory Pete continued to lead to the eighth pole. Under firm handling from Mena, he surged to the lead in deep stretch on the outside of Awesome Gem and won as much the best.
Awesome Gem finished willingly while also wide for jockey Robby Albarado and got up for second over the stubborn Victory Pete. Cryptolight was fourth, followed by Shadowbdancing, Stachys, Red Lead, Black Hills, Fast Alex, It Happened Again, and Schramsberg.
Headache improved his career record to 7-5-5 in 24 starts with earnings of $445,898. The Cornhusker win was worth $180,000.
The winner carried 114 pounds and paid $11, $5.80 and $3.80 and keyed a $36 exacta. Eight-year-old Awesome Gem, a grade I winner with more than $2.5 million in earnings, returned $3.80 and $2.80 as the 120-pound high weight. Victory Pete was $5.40 to show.