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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (4/28/08)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


Twenty-four sophomore fillies were originally nominated to Friday’s featured opening day overnight stakes at Arlington, but when entries are taken for the $50,000 Double Delta Tuesday morning, a supplementary nomination is expected to be dropped in the box.

That would be Norma Lee Stockseth’s Pure Baby, whose connections are hoping to return their filly to the grass surface they think she prefers. Bred by her owner in Kentucky, the daughter of Pure Prize out of a Marquetry mare has been at Oaklawn all winter – which doesn’t have a turf course – but she may get one Friday if Chicago’s wet weather clears out of the Midwest in time.

Trained by Don Von Hemel, Pure Baby won her last start April 11 over Oaklawn’s dirt surface by five and a half lengths, and then completed a half-mile maintenance breeze over Arlington’s Polytrack course Sunday in :47.40. However, the plan remains to get her back on grass.

“Although she just won her last race by five in Hot Springs, we think she’s a better grass filly,” said Bridget Lambert, Von Hemel’s longtime assistant who is presently running his shedrow at Arlington.

In her two career starts on turf – both last summer at Arlington – the chestnut lost her first when second by a nose Aug. 31 going about one mile, but came back for a front-running tally – again by a nose – on Sept. 13 when going a mile and a sixteenth.

The only surface Pure Baby apparently doesn’t like is slop, where she was beaten more than 10 lengths on Feb. 16 in Arkansas.

However, even if Friday’s Double Delta is taken off the grass, sloppy going is no longer a problem at Arlington because the Polytrack surface installed in time for last year’s meeting is always rated fast.

“We had a very good winter at Hot Springs,” said Lambert in reference to the Von Hemel barn’s fortunes. “Now we want to keep it going in Chicago.”


A shot was fired from Fort Prado Saturday – a bullet work of five furlongs in :59.60 over Arlington’s Polytrack course.

The target? This Saturday’s third running of the $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes – Arlington’s featured stakes event on Kentucky Derby Day – the second day of the local session.

This year’s Illinois Owners Stakes is named in honor of James B. Tafel, the longtime Barrington resident who won last year’s renewal of the Kentucky Derby with Street Sense.

Where was Team Block’s Fort Prado last year? Coming from off the pace with a wide move to win the second running of the Illinois Owners Stakes, named in honor of the late Illinois owner Russell Reineman, original owner of 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem.

However, another win in Saturday’s Illinois Owners Stakes would be more than Fort Prado’s 17th career victory from 42 lifetime starts. It would also put him well over the $1 million mark in career earnings. In fact, with current career earnings of $988,051, second place money of $20,000 in Saturday’s stakes would also push Fort Prado over the seven-figure barrier, but frustratingly, third-place money of $11,000 would still leave him $49 shy.

“I’m sure it will happen eventually – hopefully in this next start,” said trainer Chris Block of the elusive $1 million milestone. “At least I hope it will. He’s run well in his last couple of starts (a pair of thirds in a Grade III Stakes at Keeneland and a minor stakes in Tampa.) It’s just that he was sprinting in both those stakes and caught yielding turf both times. It’s kind of hard to catch the speed in those kinds of conditions.”

Team Block, which consists of David and Patricia Block, the trainer’s parents, as well as his brother Ryan, are the prototype Illinois owners which Saturday’s race was designed to recognize. The event is restricted to 3-year-olds and upward where at least 51 percent of the horses’ recorded ownership is registered to an owner whose Illinois Racing Board license registration reflects an address in the State of Illinois.

“A couple of years ago, when Avers Wexler originally brought up the proposal about having a race restricted to Illinois owners during a horseman’s meeting, we all thought it was a great idea,” said the trainer. “When I told my family about the proposal, they were very excited, and the strength of the fields in the race each year has proved it was a very good idea.

“It gives Illinois owners the chance to compete in a quality race at the racetrack that is beloved by all of us,” Block concluded.

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