There will be a healthy mix of both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse action at Prairie Meadows this year with the Altoona track set for another successful season in 2020. The track, owned by Polk County, enjoyed a prosperous 2019 with a significant increase in overnight race purses helping to attract larger fields and subsequently, more competitive contests.
Going to be a huge week @PrairieMeadows. The heat has passed. Best racing in the country Thursday and Friday. Three stakes tonight including the G3 Iowa Oaks. Four stakes Friday including the $250k Iowa Derby and G3 Cornhusker Handicap. Jackpot carryover of $132k. Don’t miss it! pic.twitter.com/V9jsQl99n3
— Prairie Meadows (@prmracing) July 5, 2018
Iowa’s number one racetrack will host an 84-day season in 2020 which gets underway at the beginning of May. With a bottom-level purse of $10,000, even low-level maiden claimers are highly likely to attract a decent size field this year. In total, the venue will host 32 stakes races including the Grade III Cornhusker Handicap. The lucrative contest, which commands a purse of $300,000, was won by trainer Anthony Mitchell in 2019 with Sir Anthony springing an 8-1 upset. The Illinois-bred thoroughbred overcame a slow start to eventually edge out Darth Vader in the closing strides. The highlight of the Prairie Meadows stakes schedule regularly attracts a number of high-quality entrants with Steven Asmussen, Michael Maker and Bob Hess just three of the trainers who have targeted this race in recent years.
Prairie Meadows isn’t the only track to show initiative in the last twelve months with Sam Houston Park also announcing plans to significantly increase their overnight purses ahead of the opening meet of 2020. Many North American tracks will also be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Australian racing, which has seen prize money increase exponentially in the last five years, particularly in New South Wales. In the UK and Ireland, Perth hosted it’s richest ever race in 2019 whilst major events such as Royal Ascot, the Galways Festival and the Aintree Festival continuing to increase funds year-on-year. The latter is helped by the worldwide appeal of the Grand National and although the prestige of winning the iconic four-mile steeplechase is likely to provide plenty of satisfaction, prize money of over £560,000 also helps keep the contest suitably competitive on an annual basis. Although jump racing commands a much smaller audience in the US, the race still has a decent following in North America and many bettors still enjoy betting on horse racing on an annual basis. There is likely to be plenty of support for Tiger Roll, who is the 5/1 favorite for this year’s event. The 10-year old is hoping to complete a historic treble at the Merseyside track.
Although Prairie Meadows’ prize purses are unlikely to ever compete with the eye-watering purses offered to Grand National participants, the steady increase in prize money is a step in the right direction and it’s likely to persuade more horsemen to spend their summer in Iowa. The Festival of Racing, which takes place in July, now comes with an accumulative prize purse of $1million and has attracted high-profile names such as Bob Baffert, Dale Romans, Peter Eurton and jockey Mike Smith in recent years. Meanwhile, the track continues to acknowledge the hard work of locally-based breeders with September’s Iowa Classic designed to showcase the finest state-bred thoroughbreds. With a total purse of around $700,000, another set of high-quality competitors are expected to be entered once again in 2020.
— Santa Anita Park (@santaanitapark) December 29, 2019
Prairie Meadows continues to move forward each year and after celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019, the track remains one of the most progressive venues in the mid-west. The Iowa track looks set to enjoy a profitable summer once again and racing fans can look forward to yet another competitive six months in Altoona.