Meeting: Prairie Meadows holds a thoroughbred meet from early through the beginning of September, and a quarter horse meet from mid-August until early October. Though there is overlap between the two meets in August and September, the race dates are kept separate. The main event of the thoroughbred meet is the Grade 3, $300,000 Cornhusker Handicap for older horses, which shares the same card as the Grade 3, $20,000 Iowa Oaks and $200,000 Iowa Derby for 3-year-old fillies and 3-year-olds, respectively. The day is the richest day of racing at Prairie Meadows, but is rivaled by another card at the end of the meet that boasts seven stakes races for Iowa-breds. The quarter horse meet also has many lucrative stakes races for open company and Iowa-breds alike, led by the Grade 3 Valley Junction Futurity for 2-year-olds. Racing at Prairie Meadows is conducted exclusively on dirt.
History: Upon the legalization of parimutuel betting in Iowa in 1983, Prairie Meadows received a license to operate a horse racing facility in 1984. Groundbreaking at the site did not occur for another three years, and it wasn’t until 1989 that Prairie Meadows held its inaugural race meet. The first few years were turbulent, and the track was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1991. A complete resuscitation of racing at Prairie Meadows began in 1994, when the track was permitted to install slot machines, and was further bolstered in 2004 when table games were OK’d at the facility. Due to the popularity of its casino activities, a $60 million expansion began in September 2005. Prairie Meadows is owned by Polk County and is operated by a local, non-profit board of directors. The revenue generated by Prairie Meadows is given to community projects in the Des Moines area. The track is also famous for hosting races for unusual species, including ostriches, zebras, and camels.
Facilities: Prairie Meadows has an on-site casino with 1,900 slot machines and table games, including poker, roulette, and blackjack. The track also has a 1,200-seat concert hall known as “The Meadows,” and a sports betting facility was opened in 2019. The racetrack is a one-mile dirt oval with a chute for quarter horses.