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Hawthorne Race Course

Hawthorne Racecourse (10/5/06)

Contact: DAK Productions
(708) 222-4540

Block Barn Ready to Rock

Turf Star Vacare, Trio of Illinois-breds on Edge for Big Runs

Chris Block knows what it’s like to train a good horse, but he’ll be the first to tell you that there’s no better feeling than to have a young one with the potential to be any kind.

On Saturday, October 14 at Keeneland, Block will tighten the girth around the undefeated 3-year-old turf filly Vacare in the $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. This past Sunday over Hawthorne’s turf course, the daughter of Lear Fan breezed a razor sharp five furlongs in 1:00.

“And it was every bit as good as it looks on paper,” Block said. “She was in hand the entire way and was never asked, but she reached out very nicely on her own in the final furlong.”

Sent off at odds of nearly 15-1 in her career debut on June 9 at Arlington, Robert Lothenbach’s Vacare overcame a sluggish start and some traffic trouble to score a scintillating debut victory. It was no shock that she won, but the way she fired down the stretch caught even her trainer completely off guard.

“I must admit I was not aware that she had that kind of talent,” Block said. “She showed some ability in her breezes leading up to the race, but those were on dirt. I ran her on turf the first time strictly because of her pedigree. I was surprised, impressed and very excited. She overcame adversity, and won well within herself. When an inexperienced horse can do that, it’s a sign of good things to come.”

Vacare displayed the same flashy stretch kick in her second start, taking down a first-level grassy allowance in the process, but a night before her planned stakes debut in the Hatoof Stakes, a local prep for the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington, Vacare coughed and was scratched.

She returned to training just a couple of days later, and eventually entered the starting gate as the 2-1 second choice for the Pucker Up. Instead of taking back and looking to roll from out of it, Vacare showed a new dimension, pressing the early fractions from second before cruising to a four-length score.

Expectations for Vacare have swelled, not just locally, but nationally.

“We’re very excited about what she’s done so far,” Block said. “She’s fun to be around too. A lot of good horses are tough, but Vacare doesn’t put me on pins and needles. She makes my job easier. She’s getting better with every race, and I think there’s still room to move forward. She’ll face stiff competition in the QE II, but she’s earned her shot.”

Another talented young gal gracing the Block barn is the Illinois-bred 2-year-old Little Star. By Forestry out of the graded stakes winning mare Crafty Oak, she’s bred to be a good one, and she served notice in her career debut on September 7 at Arlington, rolling to a handy seven-length sprint tally.

“She had a touch of a temperature last week, so we missed that optional claimer on Wednesday (at Hawthorne),” Block said. “We had to back off a little bit. She put in a casual work on Wednesday morning (four furlong breeze in :51 4/5), and we hope to get a race in before the Showtime Deb ($100,000 Illinois stake on Nov. 11). Her bloodlines tell us she may want to go long, so the Whitworth ($100,000 Illinois route stake on Dec. 9) is obviously on our radar.”

Block also reports that Fort Prado, the leading candidate for Illinois Horse of the Year honors, came back out of his fourth place run in Saturday’s Grade III Robert F. Carey Memorial in good shape, and that he will be pointed for the Grade III River City Handicap to be run over nine furlongs of Churchill Downs turf on Breeders’ Cup eve, Friday, November 4.

“After the race I was disappointed, but after watching the replay I realized that he ran as hard as he could,” Block said. “He’s never let us down. The turf held speed, and his wide trip didn’t help. The only thing he was up against was the trainer running him over a distance that doesn’t suit him best (the mile), but it’s tough to pass a race that’s in your own back yard. His best distance is nine furlongs, and we’re going to make every attempt to keep him there.”

If all goes according to plan, Fort Prado will follow a run in the River Cities with a six-week vacation to Ocala, Florida. He will then be sent to Jeff Trosclair to winter at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

The millionaire Mystery Giver, who earlier this season returned from an 18-month layoff, and later took down a $40,000 claimer in what was a very emotional win for the stable, is on the grounds at Hawthorne, but he’s yet to make an appearance in the starting gate.

“We can’t get a race for him,” Block explained. “I think we’ll try to run him at Churchill and then send him to New Orleans with Richie Scherer.”

The 2006 fall Thoroughbred meet at Hawthorne Race Course runs September 15 through January 1 with live racing five days per week – Wednesday through Sunday (except Nov. 23). The dark days are Monday and Tuesday (except Oct. 9 and Jan.1). Post time on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday is 1:10 p.m. Friday post time through November 17 is 3 p.m., at which time it will revert back to 1:10 p.m. for the remainder of the meet.

Hawthorne’s races can be seen live on Horse Racing Television (HRTV). HRTV provides full, in-depth coverage of the current Hawthorne Race Course meeting, with complete post parades, and expert analysis from the network's hosts.

Hawthorne’s spring 2007 Thoroughbred meet will run February 23 thru May 3. The summer 2007 Standardbred meet will be held June 22 thru August 5. The fall 2007 Thoroughbred meet will run September 17 thru December 31.

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