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Arlington Park Barn Notes (6/24/05)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Arlington-based trainer Chris Block isn't old enough to need bifocals, but the 38-year-old native of Champaign, Illinois, has been a dominant force in Arlington's Prairie State Festival since its inception in June of 2000.

The sixth running of the six-stakes series restricted to horses in the Illinois program becomes Arlington's main focus Saturday -- and Block's as well -- as the conditioner prepares to improve on his incredible Festival record of eight winners from 18 starters.

Pinpointing Block's Saturday assault is Team Block's Fort Prado, who convincingly won last year's Springfield Stakes on Prairie State Festival Day on the main track after breaking his maiden on the grass in the first start of his career.

Fort Prado, who has since campaigned on grass following a sixth-place finish in last year's Round Table on the main track, won the Mister Gus Stakes in his last start in open company over the local lawn May 30, and appears well placed in Saturday's Black Tie Affair Handicap at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf.

"It looks like a good spot for him," said Block. "He should run his race, but you never really know, that's why you lead them over."

Hussar Racing Stable LLC's Lighthouse Lil, a Block-trained mare who captured last year's Lincoln Heritage Handicap, will attempt to defend her championship in that mile and a sixteenth turf test restricted to fillies and mares in the Illinois program. Lighthouse Lil suffered a hairline fracture of the cannon bone while getting ready for last summer's Grade III Modesty Handicap, and returned to competition to finish seventh in Arlington's Reluctant Guest Stakes May 29.

"The pace was a little slower in that last race than what she wanted," said Block. "She needs some pace in front of her to soften things up. That's the bottom line with her."

Block also has Hussar's Sara's Shadow entered as part of an entry with Lighthouse Lil, and a final decision on whether she runs or not will be made Saturday morning.

"We put her in there to soften the pace a little," said Block of Sara's Shadow, "but personally I have a slightly different take on her. I think she deserves a shot. She gives it her all every time. I'd like to see her run."

Tom Fedro & Darrell and Sadie Brommer's Mz. Winjum is a Block trainee in Saturday's Purple Violet for 3-year-old fillies at one mile, but Block said: "She's better going two turns." That same owner-trainer team sends Sir Winzalot to the post in the Springfield for 3-year-olds at the eight-furlong distance out of the chute, but Block said, "I don't like the post and that's a tough race."

Nevertheless, you can never underestimate Block, one of the most likeable as well as most talented horsemen on the grounds. In Wednesday's finale, he saddled Jim Edgar's Swift Dakota and Team Block's Scrapbook to finish first and second respectively in the exacta, both 16-1 on the board, for an exacta payoff of $423.20.


Veteran Arlington trainer Christine Janks, born in Evergreen Park, Illinois, is currently second in the Arlington trainer standings this year, and while she is enjoying one of her finest seasons, she is quick to pass along the credit to her horses and her owners.

Interestingly, despite her solid Illinois connections, she has never saddled the winner of a Prairie State Festival race, but that could change Saturday, and Friday morning she assessed her chances with her four Festival starters.

Undefeated Pretty Jenny, owned by William Lydon, Arbaway Farm & Carson Springs Farm, will attempt to extend her victory skein to four in the Purple Violet Stakes.

"The question is: 'Will she get the distance?' " Janks said. "Her breeding seems to produce more sprinters than anything else, but I've found that breeding doesn't always reproduce exactly the way you think it would. We'll just have to find out how she does going a mile.

"Ms. Lydonia, however, is way, way better on grass," Janks said, speaking of the William Lydon & Carson Springs Farm color bearer by the grass sire Labeeb. Ms. Lydonia will go to the post for Janks in Saturday's grassy Lincoln Heritage Handicap. (Ms. Lydonia was second in last year's Purple Violet Stakes on the main track.)

"High Expectations has advanced incredibly since we put blinkers on him," said Janks, when talking about S. D. Brille Ltd. Partnership's sophomore gelding who will start in Saturday's Springfield after winning his last two starts by more than 17 combined lengths.

"Manitowish has always preferred to run at Arlington," Janks said of the Samuel Henry & Dominic Marsella color bearer who will start in Saturday's White Oak Handicap, "but then again, who doesn't? He seems to be coming up to the race okay, but he needs an honest pace in front of him."

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