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Cornhusker Handicap: Ain’t Life Grand To Prove Impressive Victories

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published July 4, 2023
11 min read

Cornhusker Handicap Odds and Post Positions

Check out our predictions and odds for the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows!










M Garcia

D Romans





D Cabrera

D Stewart





J Leparoux

M Puhich





A Martinez

K Martinez





E Zayas

S Joseph Jr





A Birzer

J Arnett





C Torres

R Diodoro





R Santana Jr

B Cox





K Roman

S E Young





E Gonzalez

K R Von Hemel

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Cornhusker Handicap Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Ain’t Life Grand over Skippylongstocking, Call Me Fast, and Giant Game = $30 
  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Skippylongstocking, Call Me Fast, and Giant Game over Ain’t Life Grand = $30 
  • If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Ain’t Life Grand (7/2).

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Cornhusker Handicap predictions

Skippylongstocking, three times a graded stakes winner in his last six races, could go favored over a deep field of ten older males in Saturday’s $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows. 

The 4-year-old son of Exaggerator is trained by Saffie Joseph, Jr. and although he comes off a disappointing fifth-place finish last time in the Grade 3 Ben Ali, he has run enough strong races in the past year to be considered the one to beat. 

The winner of the West Virginia Derby and Harlan’s Holiday last season, he added a third Grade 3 victory with a convincing score in the Challenger Stakes two starts back at Tampa Bay Downs.

Chief among his challengers in the 9-furlong affair is the local hope Ain’t Life Grand. Also 4, the Not This Time brings a sparkling record of seven wins and two-thirds in nine-lifetime races at Prairie Meadows.

After a dull race to begin 2023, he’s rattled off two consecutive easy stakes scores at Oaklawn Park and Prairie Meadows for trainer Kelly R. Von Hemel.

The beaten favorite in this race when third last year, Warrant is back this year for another try for trainer Brad Cox. 

The graded stakes winner came within a head of winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap last year and has won 2-of-5 starts this season.

Call Me Fast, who has finished second to Rattle N Roll in graded stakes in his last two, and Frosted Grace, who won the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile in his last start, are also major contenders in the Cornhusker Handicap.

Cornhusker Handicap Predictions and Race Analysis


He does not always fire his best, but since finishing third in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes last year, this son of Exaggerator has turned in a bunch of good performances. 

His last effort, when beaten by Rattle N Roll and Call Fast, was not one of his best, but given time between races, he should be primed for a good effort on Saturday evening. Proven at this class level, he must be respected in the Cornhusker. 

He has enjoyed his best results near the lead, but this test looks to have a strong early pace. Given his resume, I do believe that the winner of better than over $870,000 is one of the horses to beat here, but I do like one of his competitors just a little better.

Ain’t Life Grand

Good horses can come from anywhere, and this Iowa-bred son of Not This Time is proof of that. He not only brings a sparkling record over the track to this test, but he also comes in off a pair of impressive stakes victories. 

A good-looking winner of the Iowa Derby this time last year, he has validated that victory with three more stakes victories since. A seven-time winner at Prairie Meadows for trainer Kelly R. Von Hemel, he has a strong closing kick.

With plenty of early speed in the race, he should be perfectly suited to be running by his competition in the lane. If he pulls it off, this will be his biggest win yet. I like his chances. He is the top pick.


Third in this race last year, this Brad Cox trainee returns for another shot on Saturday. He has plenty of back class but has found a tougher field in this year’s edition of the Cornhusker. 

The son of Constitution also comes off a series of 12-furlong races, which has me wondering how sharp he will be on Saturday. Trained by one of the best in the business, though, that probably should not be of too much concern. 

Still, I do have the feeling that he is not quite as good as he once was, and while I obviously respect him here, I prefer a few others in this spot.

Call Me Fast

This son of Dialed In showed marked improvement last fall at Keeneland and has carried over his upward trend this year. After two allowance wins at Oaklawn Park to start the season, he bombed in his graded stakes debut next out. 

A poor start and some early traffic did him no favors that afternoon. Undeterred, he has come back with a pair of very solid second-place finishes to the classy Rattle N Roll in his last two starts. 

Those performances in graded stakes at Keeneland and Churchill Downs point him out as a serious contender here. Given his ability to rally that he has shown in his last two, I think he will be heard from in the stretch and is one of the top threats to my top pick.

Frosted Grace

This 7-year-old son of Mark Valeski has never been better and validated that opinion last time with a smart score in the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park. 

Clearly, a much-improved horse since joining the barn of Robertino Diodoro six starts back, his recent form makes him a serious player in the Cornhusker. 

This will be his toughest test yet, though and I would like him better if this race was a little shorter than 9-furlongs. Beaten two starts back by Ain’t Life Grand, I like a few others better on Saturday.

Promise Keeper

The winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan more than two years ago, this son of Constitution has not found the winner’s circle since. Having said that, he has kept strong company and has turned in several solid efforts in defeat. 

Now trained by Dallas Stewart, he bounced back from a dull season debut with a near miss in good allowance company last out at Ellis Park. 

Likely to show speed again on Saturday, he is a threat. Unfortunately, there are plenty of others who want to be on or near the lead here, and I believe that will make things tough for him.

Giant Game

This son of Giant’s Causeway was good enough at 2 to finish third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cul Juvenile. After returning last year with a pair of disappointing runs on the early Kentucky Derby trail, he was put on the shelf for nearly a year. 

Since returning, he has run a series of good races in allowance company at Gulfstream Park and Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans. 

This Grade 3 spot will obviously be a real test, but the horse with back class is clearly trending in the right direction. He is my top longshot.


Sent off at odds of 31/1 in last year’s edition, this Ghostzapper gelding surprised with a second-place finish. He will once again be a longshot this year, and this time faces a stronger and deeper field. 

After an indifferent finish to the year in 2022, and a poor return race, he once again demonstrated his fondness for Prairie Meadows with a sharp win less than four weeks ago. 

He also brings good speed to the table, but with some good horses that have tactical speed signed on for this test, I do not like his chances to repeat his strong effort from last season.

Double Thunder

Second in a Grade 1 race as a juvenile, this son of Super Saver has not been able to live up to that early success since. 

Claimed for $50,000 last fall, he showed no sign of being competitive until his last start when he rallied for a win over the track last month. 

While the victory could demonstrate that he likes the track and is beginning to turn things around, the bump up in class on Saturday will likely make it too difficult a task here.


This gelded son of Brody’s Cause has won 6-of-18 lifetime. Claimed for $25,000 last summer, he has continued his winning ways for trainer Scott Young, but those victories have come against far cheaper competition. 

In the local prep for the Cornhusker, he was sent off as a big longshot but was able to rally for second. Unfortunately, he was far behind the easy winner Ain’t Life Grand. 

He will be a big longshot once again in this Grade 3 race, and I find him hard to recommend on Saturday against this field.



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How to watch the Cornhusker Handicap

  • What: Cornhusker Handicap (Grade 3) 
  • Location: Prairie Meadows
  • Time: Saturday, July 8 - 10:09 pm Eastern time
  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Purse: $300,000
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Image for Brian Zipse


Brian Zipse

288 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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