By Dan Johnson
It was Zeki's fifth victory in six starts during the 67-day meet that runs though Aug. 9. The only other five-time winners have been Sure Shot Biscuit (2000) and Wild for Glory (2013).
The Ralph Hayes was part of the 21st Iowa Classic Night program, which paid a record $632,290 for seven Iowa-bred Thoroughbred stakes. Wagering also produced Iowa Classic wagering records of $181,200 on-track and $924,959 overall.
The on-track total was Prairie Meadows' second-highest for any night since 2005, bettered only by the 2012 Cornhusker Handicap (gr. III) night wagering ($186,474).
Zeki, trained by Jon Arnett and ridden by Shane Laviolette, gave owner Jim Leech his third victory in four years in the 1 1/16-mile Ralph Hayes, the year's richest race for Iowa-bred males. Of Leech's 17 stakes wins at Prairie Meadows, 14 have been at one mile or longer, and that's by design.
"I always breed to go a route, because sprinting on any given day, somebody can beat you," Leech said. "The whole game changes when you stretch out. You have time to overcome some things. I believe as a rule the best horse has a better chance of winning than in the short races."
Zeki, bred by Leech, is a 4-year-old gelding by Mutakddim out of the Repriced mare Zadie Creek. Zeki, who won the Cyclone Stakes at Prairie Meadows earlier in the meet, has eight wins in 16 starts for earnings of $226,558.