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Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/1/06)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Team Block’s Mystery Giver, Illinois Horse of the Year in 2002 and 2004, won for the first time in two years in Friday’s fifth race, sending out signals that he might still be a force in stakes competition as an 8-year-old gelding.

In the 2004 Arlington Million, Mystery Giver suffered a torn suspensory ligament which appeared to end his racing career, but after a year and a half on the sidelines to include an extensive rehabilitation program, he’s back.

Although Friday’s victory was for a $40,000 tag, it was the nature of Mystery Giver’s victory -- fighting back resolutely after being challenged in the late stages -- that made his return to the winner’s circle significant concerning future stakes races.

“He just was not going to let that other horse (Steve Sawatske’s Ivan Jay Perry) go by him,” said owner David Block Saturday morning. “He has his mind frame back that he was going to win that race no matter what; and that’s what makes a real racehorse. That’s also what gives us some hope for the future.

“We did all we could at the farm,” said Block, “but Chris (the owner’s son and trainer) got him where he needed to be mentally. The horse never lost his desire to run and he’s very happy doing what he’s doing. He thinks he’s a big star again, and when he came back to be unsaddled he was having such fun the jockey (Eddie Perez, who had a riding double for the day) couldn’t pull him up.”

Mystery Giver’s stakes-placed efforts in 2004 encompassed a win in the Grade II Mervyn Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap in New Orleans, a runner-up effort in the Grade III Arlington Handicap in Chicago, and a third-place finish in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic in Louisville on Kentucky Derby Day that year.

What if Mystery Giver -- the senior Block family favorite -- had been claimed after all that time and effort invested in rehabilitation?

“We would have accepted that,” said the owner. “Not happily, but we would have accepted it. That’s part of the business. You have to run them where they can compete, and we didn’t know if we’d ever see that competitive effort from him again. But he still wants to do it and he’s a happy horse this morning.”

Team Block, which includes not only David, but his wife Patricia as well as his son Ryan (Chris’s brother), may have another star on the horizon in Creative Force, who runs in Saturday’s Grade III Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve.

“He’s a big strapping colt, who is further along at this point of his career than either Mystery Giver or Fort Prado was at the same time,” said the senior Block. “We’ll know after the Classic (first leg of Arlington’s Mid-America Triple) exactly where we’re at with him, but one thing is certain: if he runs well we will be staying right here at Arlington for the next race (Grade II American Derby, presented by Jack Daniel’s July 22.) This is our home track. We’re not going anywhere.”


Veteran Arlington Park conditioner Greg Geier has been showing a hot hand of late, narrowly missing a training triple Friday and scoring with the longest shot of the season Thursday.

“Yes, we’ve had a good couple of days,” said Geier Saturday morning during training hours. “We almost won three yesterday, and when that winner the day before got banged up at the break, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.

“That horse (Thursday’s $121.40 winner Act Like a Lion, owned by RNR Breeders) hadn’t been running good on the lead, and when he broke bad it forced us to change his running style. Sometimes, things just work out for the best.”

Geier’s Friday training double began when Steve Holland and Crown’s Way Farm’s Goldekips proved a head the best in the third race of the day, and was concluded when Jim Tafel LLC’s Coolwind took the featured eighth event. Both winners were ridden by Eddie Razo.

Crown’s Way Farm’s Taper, also trained by Geier, narrowly missed in Friday’s second race when second by a half to Peter Mattson’s Noah’s Cat, trained by Percy Scherbenske and ridden by Rafael Mojica Jr.


German trainer Mario Hofer, who will saddle Gary Tanaka’s Proudinsky in Saturday’s Grade III Arlington Classic, presented by Woodford Reserve, was on the Arlington Park grounds Saturday morning after arriving from Germany earlier in the day.

Proudinsky, a German-bred son of 2001 Arlington Million winner Silvano, arrived at Arlington Wednesday on an overseas flight from Amsterdam.

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