Iowa Derby: A 'Man's' Job?

Two years ago, trainer Bob Baffert sent Mike Pegram's Captain Steve to the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows to "make a man of him." The trainer was rewarded with not only a victory, but a reinvigorated horse that would go on to win the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) the following spring. While he doesn't have quite the credentials of Captain Steve, Baffert has entered Pegram's Danthebluegrassman for the $250,000 Iowa Derby at 1 1/16 miles on July 5.

The Iowa Derby, day three of Iowa's Festival of Racing, will be contested along with the $125,000 Saylorville Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs. Miss Seffens, last year's runaway winner, returns to face five rivals.

Danthebluegrass man, a Kentucky-bred son of Pioneering--Stay With Bruce, by Grey Dawn II, will face but four rivals in the Iowa Derby. His main threat may come from Easyfromthegitgo, who finished fifth earlier this year behind War Emblem in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico.

Baffert's runner was entered in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), but was scratched prior to the race. Bypassing the Triple Crown, Danthebluegrassman made a enthusiastic comeback in his last start, a 2 1/2-length score in the Northern Dancer Stakes, a mile race at Churchill Downs on June 15. Under Jerry Bailey, 'Dan' looked strong in the stretch, pulling away from rivals Stephentown and Sky Terrace. Prior to the race, Team Baffert was concerned about the one-turn distance and should be more confident in his chances at Prairie Meadows. Jorge Chavez will ride Danthebluegrassman for the first time.

Easyfromthegitgo, owned by James Cassels and Bob Zollars and trained by Steve Asmussen, won the LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds this winter, then placed in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) behind Repent. A third-place finish in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland was his Preakness prep. In his last start, the son of Dehere finished fourth as the 4-5 favorite in the Leonard Richards Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park. Regular rider Donnie Meche has the engagement.

A horse some players may offer odds too good to refuse is Vito Corleone, owned by Lloyd Debruycker and trained by Ray Tracy Jr. Team Vito claimed their horse from trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in April for $40,000 at Bay Meadows. Since then, Vito Corleone has run second in the Golden Circle Stakes at Prairie Meadows, then won the St. Paul Stakes at Canterbury, and most recently ran second in the Prairie Mile on June 15, the traditional local prep for the Iowa Derby. Glen Corbett has the mount.

Iowa Derby, $250,000, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds
PP, Horse, Jockey
1--Pass Rush, Pat Day
2--Vito Corleone, Glen Corbett
3--Easyfromthegitgo, Donnie Meche
4--Thunderpumper, James Lopez
5--Danthebluegrassman, Jorge Chavez

Karen Biggs and M. Hay's Miss Seffens has yet to hit the board in two 2002 starts, but is the defending champion in the Saylorville. A winner of 11 of 24 lifetime and $490,100, the daughter of Dehere won the race last year by 7 1/4 lengths. Trainer Steve Wren hopes to get her back on track here and has procured the services of Pat Day.

Sweet Nanette figures to make her earn it. A winner of five of nine career starts, West Point Thoroughbred's Sweet Nanette enters the Saylorville off an encouraging victory over allowance company at Churchill Downs on May 23, her first of the year. Last year at 3, the daughter of You and I won the Bourbonette Stakes at Turfway Park and the Thelma and Pontalba Stakes at Fair Grounds. Trained by Dallas Stewart, Sweet Nanette will break from post five under Craig Perret.

Saylorville Stakes, $125,000, six furlongs, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares
PP, Horse, Jockey
1--Miss Seffens, Pat Day
2--Trisha Runs, Perry Compton
3--Run for Little Bit, Jorge Chavez
4--Bedazzle, Jon Court
5--Sweet Nanette, Craig Perret
6--Supreme Discovery, Luis Quinonez