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Arlington Park Barn Notes (7/28/07)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


How does trainer Chris Block describe what Team Block’s Mystery Giver did for his family’s Illinois-based Thoroughbred racing operation?

“He’s the horse that put ‘Team Block’ on the map,” said the 41-year-old conditioner of his father David, mother Patricia and brother Ryan Block’s breeding and racing business. “Whenever any of us are introduced as a member of Team Block, often the person recognizes the name by saying, ‘Oh, you raced Mystery Giver.’ That’s how important Mystery Giver was to the success of our operation.”

Now, as a 9-year-old, two months after Mystery Giver’s last start in a turf race at Arlington on Preakness Day May 19, Team Block has announced the Illinois-bred Dynaformer gelding’s retirement.

Highlights of Mystery Giver’s career include victories in three straight Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup Handicaps, one win in the Grade II Mervin Muniz Memorial Handicap at that same New Orleans oval, three starts – including one runner-up finish – in the Grade III Arlington Handicap, one start in the Grade I Arlington Million – when he lost all chance when injured – and a win as well as a second in two Black Tie Affair Handicap appearances.

“It would be hard for any horse of ours to achieve what Mystery Giver has achieved,” said Block. “We’re certainly going to miss him. It was a long, fun ride, but it was time to stop.

The funny thing is – he doesn’t want to – but I don’t want to see him try to run and hurt himself.”

However, Team Block tends to view the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, and is looking forward to an appearance by Fort Prado during this year’s International Festival of Racing on Aug. 11.

Joining the Arlington Million, the Grade I Beverly D. and the Grade I Secretariat Stakes during this year’s International Festival is the 20th renewal of the $150,000 Sea ‘o Erin Mile, a grass test that served as Chicago’s local prep for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2002 when Arlington hosted Breeders’ Cup Day.

Ironically, both Fort Prado (2005) and Mystery Giver (2002) boast victories in previous Sea o’ Erin renewals, but their wins came before the eight-furlong event became part of the Arlington Million Day program.

“Fort Prado is going to need a little luck to win the race this year,” said Block of his family’s new point man. “He needs a little pace to run at, and he seems to keep running in races with a moderate pace.”

Nevertheless, Fort Prado has won twice at the local meeting, initially in the $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day May 5, and then again in the $84,150 Black Tie Affair Handicap on Prairie State Festival Day July 7.

The 6-year-old’s win in this summer’s Black Tie Affair was his third straight tally in that state-bred mile and a sixteenth grass test, and the gray’s fourth win the Illinois-bred series. Both accomplishments established records in Prairie State Festival history.

However, in addition to their mutual open stakes victories in the Sea o’ Erin, Fort Prado won the Grade III Fair Grounds Breeders’ Cup Handicap during the abbreviated Fair Grounds-at-Louisiana Downs session in 2005. That win came just months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans as well as its historic hometown race course.


Lansdon Robbins III’s Ling Ling Qi, a starter in Saturday’s sixth race at Arlington Park, has a license to kill – in Chinese!

Ling Ling Qi – pronounced “ling ling she” (depending on the dialect) – is translated literally as “Double ‘O’ Seven.”

The 2-year-old son of Yonaguska (named for a Cherokee Indian Chief) is out of the Holy Bull mare Holy Love and was bred by his owner in Kentucky. Unfortunately, at least in terms of poetic license – the bay colt is trained by Ken McPeek – not by James Bond.


Look! Up in the Sky!

Starting Aug. 1, there will be a hot air balloon aloft in the skies over Chicagoland – reminding all those within its view to buy their tickets to the upcoming silver anniversary edition of the Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 11.

The balloon will fly from Aug. 1-3, and then reappear in the skies from Aug. 8-10.

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