November 29, 2023

Knicks Go tops Prairie Meadows Cornhusker; Iowa Derby, Oaks on tap

Knicks Go
Knicks Go wins the Pegasus World Cup (Coglianese Photos/Lauren King)

Twice beaten since his Pegasus World Cup (G1) heroics, Knicks Go hopes to regain the winning thread in Friday night’s $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3). The undercard at Prairie Meadows features several notable sophomores in the $225,000 Iowa Oaks (G3) and $250,000 Iowa Derby.

Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3) – Race 8 (10:12 p.m. ET)

Knicks Go had dominated his first four starts after switching to trainer Brad Cox. Setting back-to-back track records at Keeneland in a 1 1/16-mile allowance and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), the frontrunner carried his speed over 1 1/8 miles in the Pegasus World Cup. But he was dueled into submission in the Feb. 20 Saudi Cup, where he tired to fourth behind Mishriff and Charlatan, and wilted to fourth again in the June 5 Metropolitan H. (G1).

Aside from the class relief on offer Friday, Knicks Go figures to be happier stretching back out to two turns. His last two starts have come around the one-turn configuration that Cox doesn’t believe fits him quite as well. Joel Rosario retains the mount aboard the even-money favorite and 126-pound highweight, who is spotting from six to 13 pounds to the others.

Pace rival Last Judgment was no match for Knicks Go in the Pegasus, but the Mike Maker trainee has bounced back to wire a pair of graded stakes including the May 14 Pimlico Special (G3). Modernist, runner-up to Last Judgment in both the March 6 Challenger S. (G3) and Pimlico Special, in between landed the Excelsior S. (G3).

Although Tenfold hasn’t won since the 2019 Pimlico Special, the son of Curlin might have turned the corner by stepping up to 1 1/2 miles in his past two. A rallying fourth in the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) and a close third in the March 13 Temperence Hill S. at Oaklawn, the Steve Asmussen veteran reverts to 1 1/8 miles off the freshening.

Rated R Superstar, third in last year’s Cornhusker, exits a near-miss second in the Jim Rasmussen S. over the track. Rounding out the cast are Rasmussen third Drifting West and Dinar, who makes his debut for Heath Lawrence. Dinar is trying to recover his decent 2020 form when fourth in the Ack Ack S. (G3) and third to Maxfield in the Tenacious S.

Iowa Oaks (G3) – Race 7 (9:42 p.m. ET)

The 1 1/16-mile Iowa Oaks has attracted several fillies who were on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) trail this spring. Fantasy S. (G3) heroine Pauline’s Pearl was a subpar eighth to Malathaat in the Kentucky Oaks, while Army Wife, a troubled third in the Gazelle S. (G3), roared back to win the Black-Eyed Susan S. (G2) handsomely. The top two choices on the morning line are drawn right next to each other, with the 5-2 Army Wife on the rail and 2-1 favorite Pauline’s Pearl in post 2.

The Grass Is Blue was a fixture in the Aqueduct preps over the winter, taking the Busanda S. but settling for third in the Busher S. and fourth in the Gazelle. After regressing to sixth in the Black-Eyed Susan, she was transferred from Chad Brown to Bill Mott. The Grass Is Blue makes her first start for the Hall of Fame horseman here.

Windmill, winless since the Feb. 28 Dixie Belle S. at Oaklawn Park, tries two turns in hopes of a form turnaround for the late Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms and trainer Larry Jones. Oliviaofthedesert snapped her losing skid with a local score in the June 4 Panthers S. over Sister Annie, and Shesa Mystery steps up to stakes company after winning two straight at Indiana Grand.

Iowa Derby – Race 6 (9:12 p.m. ET)

Arkansas Derby (G1) upsetter Super Stock has been installed as the lukewarm 7-2 favorite for the Iowa Derby, with fellow Kentucky Derby (G1) trail alumni Proxy (4-1) and Nova Rags (5-1) likely to receive market support as well.

Super Stock is the lone entrant who ran in the Kentucky Derby, winding up 16th in the 19-horse field. The Asmussen runner did better on the class drop in the May 31 Texas Derby, where he closed for fourth in the slop. Ricardo Santana maintains his partnership with the 122-pound co-highweight.

Proxy had sufficient Derby points, but the Godolphin homebred wasn’t competing well enough for his connections to press on to Churchill Downs. Runner-up to Midnight Bourbon in the Lecomte S. (G3) and to Mandaloun in the Risen Star S. (G2), Proxy added blinkers for the Louisiana Derby (G2) but checked in fourth. The Mike Stidham pupil was fourth again in the April 10 Lexington S. (G3) in the Keeneland slop, and now takes the blinkers off. Proxy, who scratched from last Saturday’s Ohio Derby (G3), is listed as the 113-pound lightweight with new rider Joe Bravo on the rail.

Nova Rags, winner of the Pasco S. and second in the Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, likewise departed from the Derby trail after a retreating fourth in the Florida Derby (G1). The Mott sophomore confirmed his apparent distance limitations when runner-up in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan S. (G3). Since the cutback to the seven-furlong Woody Stephens S. (G1) resulted in a third, perhaps this 1 1/16-mile trip is just right.

Cox, who already has champion Essential Quality along with Mandaloun and Fulsome in the divisional ranks, could unleash yet another in Snow House. The Juddmonte homebred, 2-for-2 since switching to dirt, lures Rosario aboard for his stakes debut. Stablemate Gagetown is more exposed, but prepped by denying Karl Broberg’s Flash of Mischief in the June 4 Prairie Mile.  

Prairie Mile fourth Stilleto Boy ranks as the co-highweight at 122 pounds along with Super Stock and Snow House. Rightandjust, unplaced in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, improved to third in the Texas Derby. Bourbon Thunder takes a class hike following a third to Snow House in a Churchill Downs allowance.