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Arlington Park

Arlington Park Barn Notes (4/28/10)

Contact: Graham Ross

In today's notes:


A year ago in May, when Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak won the 75th running of the Arlington Classic, the impressive manner of his score suggested that the Giant’s Causeway colt might go on to win the Grade II American Derby in July and Grade I Secretariat Stakes in August to become the first Mid-America Triple winner since Robert Schaedle III’s Honor Glide accomplished the feat in 1997.

However, Giant Oak’s troubled trip in the $300,000 American Derby ended any thoughts of the Triple sweep, and an indifferent seventh-place finish in the $400,000 Secretariat further tarnished his turf-talent reputation enough that the homebred was eventually returned to the main track. So it was not surprising that when Giant Oak galloped by during training hours Wednesday morning at Arlington, trainer Chris Block indicated that a main track campaign at Churchill Downs this spring was still the most likely scenario for Giant Oak.

Nevertheless, the dream of a Mid-America Triple sweep remains alive in the Block barn for the 2010 racing season, when Lothenbach Stables’ Mister Marti Gras could be groomed for an appearance in the upcoming $100,000 Arlington Classic May 22.

“He strikes me as the type of horse who might perform well in that race,” said Block of Mister Marti Gras, who broke his maiden over the Stall-Wilson turf course at Fair Grounds on Feb. 21 in his third career start. “He seems to be a little more confident when he races on the grass.”

Following that maiden tally, Mister Marti Gras might have been somewhat ambitiously placed in the Grade II Louisiana Derby March 27, but his eighth-place performance in that Kentucky Derby prep was not as bad as it might have looked on paper.

“He did draw to the outside of the field,” Block said, “and then Shaun (jockey Bridgmohan) dropped him in toward the rail to save ground and kind of got stuck behind the field in there. When he finally got some running room he closed well. Admittedly, he passed some tiring horses late, but he was coming on at the end and I liked to see that.”

“Back on the grass at Keeneland in his last start April 19 he got blocked turning for home and never really got a chance to run his race,” Block concluded. “I still think this is a horse that is going to show some real talent before too long. I could look for another conditioned allowance race for him, but more likely I’m just going to wait for the Arlington Classic and give him a chance to show what he can do in there.”

Incidentally, Team Block’s Amazing Results, beaten less than four lengths in the 2008 Arlington Classic despite traffic trouble, is back in training after being away from the races since last summer. “He had some serious feet trouble and we had to stop on him for a long time,” Block said, “but he’s back with me now and ready to get back to work.”

Team Block’s Never Retreat, third in the female division of last year’s Illinois Owners Stakes, was second in Fair Grounds’ Blushing K D Handicap last November, first under the wire in the Furl Sail Handicap at the New Orleans oval in early January before being disqualified and placed second, then second by a nose in the Marie Krantz Memorial later that month, and finally third in the Bayou Handicap at the end of the Crescent City season.

Most recently the 5-year-old Smart Strike mare was sixth in Hawthorne’s Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap when stuck behind the field, but will be given another chance in this spring’s Illinois Owners Stakes for members of the distaff set at Arlington on May 15.

- END -

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