Smack Smack came from off the pace to narrowly edge front-running Shotgun Kowboy in Saturday’s $ 300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap for owner-breeder Toby Keith’s Dream Walkin Farm and trainer Don Von Hemel. Under jockey Shane Laviolette and 115 pounds, the 5-year-old gelding by Closing Argument out of Smack Madam, by Victory Gallop, covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.28 on a fast track in the Grade 3 handicap for 3-year-olds and up. Pain and Misery, trained by Von Hemel’s son, Donnie Von Hemel, finished third.
The elder Von Hemel was winning the Cornhusker for the first time since 1983, when Win Stat was victorious in a race inaugurated and with a rich history at defunct Ak-Sar-Ben in Nebraska.
Shotgun Kowboy carved out the fractions, going :23.64 for the opening quarter mile, :48.78 for the half and 1:13.35 for six furlongs. Laviolette allowed Smack Smack to settle into fifth behind the pacesetter, who was under pressure from S’maverlous and Cyrus Alexander for much of the journey.
On the final turn, Shotgun Kowboy slipped back and appeared beaten while S’maverlous took the lead into the stretch, the mile in 1:37.96. Laviolette moved Smack Smack between horses just as Shotgun Kowboy re-rallied along the rail and Pain and Misery was gunning toward the lead on the outside, At the wire Smack Smack prevailed by the narrowest of margins in a three-horse blanket finish.
The win was the first graded stakes victory for Smack Smack and ninth overall from 26 career starts.
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