Iowa Rolls Out Red Carpet

Iowa horsemen and Prairie Meadows welcome visitors from around the world.

October 24, 2012

prairie meadows

The 2012 Bank of America Challenge Championships germinated two years ago when Iowa Quarter Horse Racing Association President Tom Lepic attended the 2010 Championships at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

He took his entire family to watch his champion Spit Curl Diva contest the Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1). She won, and an idea began.

“We had such a great time,” Lepic said. “It was the first time I’d been at a Challenge Championship. It was an experience that I never will forget.”

Lepic had been working to bring more racing – and more Quarter Horse racing – to Prairie Meadows. So why, he wondered, couldn’t the Championships visit his home track?

“I’m a firm believer that this racetrack and the facilities here are as good as anywhere in the country,” he said. “The problem is so many people have never seen it. Because of that, my vision was if people came, they would return.”

Prairie Meadows was interested in hosting the championship event, and so Lepic worked to bring the event north for the first time in its 20 year history. Horsemen who visited relayed rave reviews, and presentations were given. Last December, the decision was announced.

Prairie Meadows finished its 168-room hotel in March, and it is full during Bank of America Challenge Championship weekend.

“We are thrilled to host the Challenge Championships here in the midwest at Prairie Meadows,” said Prairie Meadows President and CEO Gary Palmer. “It is a perfect opportunity to showcase our facility to everyone from around the country, and we are looking forward to a wonderful weekend of racing that the whole family can enjoy.”

The track’s Quarter Horse meet opened August 18 and closes on Saturday.

“Attendance year-to-date is up 121 percent from last year,” said Palmer. “Our occupancy rate has been averaging 70 percent since our new hotel opened on March 1st, and our convention business has skyrocketed as a result.”

Prairie Meadows welcomed Challenge horsemen, sending a goodie basket to regional winners. The basket included Prairie Meadows-logoed items, such as a hat and shirt, information on the area and a welcome letter of invitation.

Local sponsors are hosting a bus tour of Des Moines on Friday, October 26th. The tour is free, and will leave the Prairie Meadows Hotel at 9:30 a.m. The tour includes stops at the Des Moines Art Center, Pappajohn Sculpture Gardens, Botanical Center and Historic East Village. Those who wish to participate must sign up by 1 p.m. on Thursday, and can do so by calling Wynetta Hammer at (515) 229-7719.

There are many great eateries near the track. In addition to the ones located inside the facility, the nearby Jethro’s BBQ (2601 Adventureland Dr) has won a number of national awards and was featured on the TV Show “Man vs. Food”. Also recommended is Big Steer Restaurant (1715 Adventureland Dr).

Find a complete list of restaurants, categorized by cuisine, at the Des Moines visitor website.

The Iowa Quarter Horse Champions Night on Friday will see country music star Jason Brown singing the National Anthem, and Iowa State Fair Junior Cowgirl Queen Brittany Abernathy of Indianola, Iowa, accompanied by Miss Teen Rodeo Iowa Jenna Kool of Adel, Iowa, leading the presentation of our nation’s colors.

After the races, Brown will be giving a concert in the casino on the second level (attendees must be 21 or older).

On Saturday, the Raccoon River Riders Equine Drill Team will give a special presentation at 6:15 p.m. The Bondurant-Farrar Seventh Grade Choir will be singing the National Anthem and doing the colors presentation.

At 7:30 p.m., the Headless Horsemen will make an appearance in the Prairie Meadows Saddling Paddock.

“Quarter Horse racing, our industry gets in your blood,” Lepic said. “The people in our industry are just so fabulous, you want to treat them to something.”