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Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/25/04)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


With multiple wins in multiple years during past Prairie State Festivals, trainer Chris Block and his Team Block family appear poised once again for Saturday success when Arlington hosts its latest six-stakes afternoon honoring the Illinois Thoroughbred racing program.

Of course, Team Block's headline attraction Saturday would be 2002 Illinois Horse of the Year Mystery Giver in the $75,000-added Cardinal Handicap, and although a final decision on whether or not to run will not be made until Saturday morning, Friday's sunny weather with its chance to dry out the turf course was considered a positive development.

"We'll see how the turf course plays today," said Block Friday morning when asked about the appearance of Mystery Giver in the Cardinal. "I don't want to run him if the course is real soft, or real yielding, but I'll see how things go today and then we'll decide tonight or tomorrow morning. But the way the weather looks right now with the sun out the way it is, things are moving in the right direction."

Mystery Giver, third at last asking in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, was only beaten two and a half lengths for all of it despite being forced to steady on the first turn. Before that the Dynaformer gelding captured the Grade II Mervyn Muniz Jr. Handicap in New Orleans March 21 and took down winning honors in the $125,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap Jan. 31.

During last year's campaign, Mystery Giver won Hawthorne's Grade III Carey Memorial Handicap, finished third in the Grade III Arlington Handicap, and was second under the wire in the 2003 Cardinal before being disqualified. Two years ago the Block homebred won the Cardinal on his way to his Illinois Horse of the Year honors.

"We really enjoy this day," said Block, speaking of Saturday's Prairie State Festival. "Days like this are what our entire program is all about."

Team Block's Reno Rumble, co-owned with Gene Hoffman, is also entered in Saturday's Cardinal. The 10-year-old gray won the Cardinal three years ago.

"Reno Rumble is training well but he's lost a step or two," said Block of the older gelding. "If Mystery Giver runs, I won't run him."

Hussar Racing Stable LLC's Lighthouse Lil, another Block trainee, is slated to be a contestant in Saturday's $75,000-added Lincoln Heritage Handicap for fillies and mares at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf. In her last start May 29 at Arlington she made a belated run to be up for third in a one-mile turf race over yielding going.

"I really look for her to run a big race Saturday," said Block. "She's doing very well and as long as there is some pace in front of us, she'll be able to give her best performance."

The 37-year-old Block, born downstate in Champaign, Illinois, also has Team Block's Fort Prado and Moabo Stable LLC's Fraternity entered in Saturday's $75,000-added Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile over the main track.

"Fraternity is at the top of his game right now," said Block of the sophomore gelding beaten a nose May 21 here at the mile distance. "He's been steadily on the improve lately.

"Fort Prado may be a little better as a grass horse," Block concluded, "but he possesses a lot of talent and is worthy of a shot in that race. I don't particularly like the fact that he drew the one-hole, but the one-turn mile should help."


Can the $75,000 Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile be a precursor of further Illinois stardom again this year? Since the inception of the Prairie State Festival five years ago it has fulfilled that role.

Last year's Springfield winner Wiggins, owned by Pacella, Schwed & Rizza, ended up as Illinois 3-Year-Old Male Champion and runs in Saturday's $75,000-added White Oak Handicap in an attempt to add to his laurels.

Irish Acres Farm's Colorful Tour, Springfield winner two years ago, is a contestant in Saturday's Cardinal 'Cap.

R N R Breeders II's Act of War, the 2001 Springfield hero, won last year's Cardinal 'Cap and will try to defend his championship Saturday.

Also, Crown's Way Farm's Out of My Way, who captured the 2000 Springfield, returned to take down winning honors in last year's White Oak 'Cap.


Saturday's "Get In The Game" handicapping forum at Arlington's Starting Gate Theatre will concentrate on handicapping the six Prairie State Festival races, while Sunday's "Get In The Game" forum will feature some tips on "how to get into horse ownership."

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