Highly regarded Successful Dan, winner of the Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) this spring, is 6-5 on the morning line for the $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows on the night of June 30.
The Cornhusker, at 1 1/8 miles, attracted five salty rivals for Morton Fink's Successful Dan including 9-year-old Awesome Gem, a lifetime winner of more than $2.8 million, and former Cornhusker victors Headache (2011) and Shadowbdancing (2010). The Cornhusker is the most lucrative of three stakes on the Prairie Meadows festival night card that includes the Iowa Oaks and Iowa Derby (both gr. III). The Cornhusker is race 9 with a 10:11 p.m. CDT post.
In the shadow of his stablemate Wise Dan, the Charles Lopresti-trained Successful Dan has proven to be a clutch stakes performer in his own right. The 6-year-old son of Successful Appeal missed all of 2011 with an injury but has returned this season to win his first two races. In winning the May 4 Alysheba, his most recent start, by one length over Cornhusker rival Fort Larned, Successful Dan broke the Churchill Downs track record for 1 1/16 miles when timed in 1:41.04.
Successful Dan been first under the wire in each of his past five starts but was disqualified from victory in the Clark Handicap (gr. I) in November 2010 at Churchill and placed third. The bay gelding has won seven of 10 lifetime attempts while earning $596,608. His regular rider, Julien Leparoux, will be aboard and they will break from post 3 with top weight of 122 pounds.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Headache, winner of last year's Cornhusker by 2 1/2 lengths over Awesome Gem, makes his 2012 debut as the 3-1 second choice. Trained by Mike Maker, the 6-year-old Tapit gelding has not been postward since finishing sixth behind Wise Dan in the Clark Handicap Nov. 25. Besides the Cornhusker, Headache also won the Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II) last fall. Ramon Dominguez has the call.
Fort Larned won of the Skip Away (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park prior to his runner-up effort in the Alysheba, in which he earned a Beyer speed figure of 108, two points less than Successful Dan. He was a troubled eighth in the Stephen Foster most recently. Pressing pacesetter Nates Mineshaft, he was carried out in the drive and bothered as he finished last of eight in a strong field. Janis Whitham's 4-year-old homebred son of E Dubai , trained by Ian Wilkes, is 7-2 on the morning line. Brian Hernandez Jr. takes the mount.
The aging marvel Awesome Gem brings a 11-15-5 mark in 50 starts, including a victory via disqualification in his last race, the Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) on the Tapeta main track at Golden Gate Fields May 28. The burly 9-year-old chestnut gelding, trained by Craig Dollase for West Point thoroughbreds, looked hopelessly beaten in the Berkeley but rallied from eighth into slow fractions with great energy. He will be reunited with David Flores in the Cornhusker and they are pegged at 6-1 on the early line.
Shadowbdancing (8-1) is the horse for course in this year's field. Coming off a victory in the Jim Rasmussen Memorial May 26, the 7-year-old son of Montbrook owns a a 5-2-3 record in 11 starts at Prairie Meadows. Owned by R N B Racing and trained by Terrel Gore, he would surpass $1 million in career earnings with a victory in his 39th start.
$300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III, Race 9, 10:11 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Taptowne (KY), P Compton, 113, M L Reavis
2. Shadowbdancing (FL), I Ocampo, 116, T Gore
3. Successful Dan (KY), J R Leparoux, 122, C Lopresti
4. Fort Larned (KY), B J Hernandez Jr., 117, I R Wilkes
5. Awesome Gem (KY), D R Flores, 116, C Dollase
6. Headache (KY), R A Dominguez, 117, M J Maker