Chicago Barn to Wire
Home | News | Bloggers | Forums | Resources | Links | Marketplace | Gallery | Contact Us | Search
Chicago racing newsletter sign-up 
Upcoming events
Arlington Million
Horse slaughter in Illinois
Search Chicago Barn to Wire

  Mystery Giver voted Illinois horse of the year (2/15)

Mystery Giver
by Joe Paschen

Mystery Giver
Click to enlarge - photo courtesy Terry Bjork
A "chip off the ol' Block" aptly describes the trainer who hopes to see the first Illinois-bred horse reach the winner's circle of today's richest race at Arlington Park.

Chris Block has gone from an insistent lad who would tag along with his father to downstate Fairmount Park, to an established Thoroughbred trainer who will send out 30-1 long shot Mystery Giver today in the 20th running of the Arlington Million.

"My dad loved horse racing and ran a few down at Fairmount when I was a kid," the 37-year-old conditioner recalled. "I insisted he take me every time he went. I loved the horses and the races. The more I went, I knew I'd get involved in racing."

Chris Block's father, David, talked his son out of his jockey ambitions, because dad knew his son would outgrow that possibility.

With an astute interest in how the horses ran, Chris steered his attention to becoming a trainer.

In addition to working with his father on the several horses the family would breed, own and race, Chris Block went on a classic apprenticeship journey.

"I got my feet wet working with (renowned trainer) Bill Mott during the summers in high school and college," he said. "Then I took the trainer's test in Louisville in 1989 and served an apprenticeship in Lexington at the Kentucky Training Center in the spring of 1990. I brought my first group of horses to Chicago later in 1990 and have been based here ever since."

Chris Block was in charge of six horses back then. Now, his success has attracted 21 horses from outside owners such as Arlington chairman Dick Duchossois and Robert Lothenbach, in addition to 15 race horses from his family business group, Team Block.

The group is headed by Chris' father and mother (Patricia), who still breed, own and raise Illinois-breds on their Philo, Ill., farm, just south of Champaign. Their other son, Ryan, assists both parents and Chris.

Through Aug. 14, Team Block had 11 wins, two seconds and five thirds in 39 starts for earnings of $316,305; good for second in the Arlington owners standings. Block himself is fourth in the trainer standings with 14 wins, eight seconds and 12 thirds in 74 starts. That's 45 percent of his starters finishing in the money.

Finishing out of the money in the recent Arlington Handicap, however, forced Team Block to reassess its thoughts of running Mystery Giver in the Million.

"We decided if he ran well in the Arlington Handicap, we'd bring him back in the Million," Chris Block explained. "We thought it out a lot. We thought about giving him another year, but feel he'd fallen short only due to a couple of bad trips, not because he wasn't ready. He just didn't get the ride he needed to have."

With that in mind, Chris Block has chosen accomplished jockey Kent Desormeaux, who won back-to-back Kentucky Derbys (1999 on Real Quiet, 2000 on Fusaichi Pegasus). That's a change from Mark Guidry, whose late charge in the Arlington Handicap was too little, too late after a tough early trip; a fifth-place finish for Mystery Giver, behind the winner by a mere 1 lengths.

"Mystery Giver has always had raw talent," Block said. "We had trouble getting his mind and physical condition where it needed to be. This year we've seen a big change in his condition. He's become more of a pro to train in the mornings. He's a happier, heavier and stronger horse."

Having proved himself against Illinois-breds in state stakes, such as the June 22 Cardinal Handicap on Prairie State Festival Day, Mystery Giver must prove himself against strong open company. It doesn't get more "open" than the Million, one of three graded stakes being run on the International Festival Day of Racing at Arlington, along with the Beverly D. and the Secretariat.

Four of the nine starters are from across the pond, and three others are out-of-state invaders. Never before has an Illinois-bred won the signature turf race at Arlington Park.

Block thinks his has a shot. And, of course, horse racing has been built on long shots.

"If he gets a clean trip and runs his race, we'll be proud no matter how he finishes," his trainer said about the 1-mile challenge. "He could have a trip that lands him second or third. And if he jumps up and wins it, we'll be very proud."

Capturing the race would be more than a mere feather in Block's cap. The money made and the prestige earned would be a major boon to Team Block and to all Illinois thoroughbred breeders.

"All of our Illinois mares are bred out of state and brought back to foal here so they will be eligible for Illinois-bred only races, " Block said. "It's hard to get a strong in-state breeder program going because there's been a mediocrity in Illinois stallions.

No matter where Mystery Giver finishes today, Block knows what must happen for the sake of a stronger Illinois Thoroughbred breeding program.

"Better purses overall are what drives the industry," he said. "Better purses draw the better horses and breeders. It would make the way for others to be encouraged to sire better stallions with mares right here (in Illinois). My family and I have always believed in Illinois-breds and are committed to them for the long haul."



  'Mystery' injury diagnosis delayed until weekend (8/18)
  Torn ligament could end Mystery Giver's career (8/18)
  Mystery Giver may be done (8/17)
  Mystery Giver suffers career-threatening injury in Arlington Million (8/15)
  Hind injury could end Mystery Giver's career (8/15)
  Inconsistent Mystery Giver belongs (8/11)
  Mystery Giver is fine, trainer says (6/28)
  Mystery Giver's participation an enigma (6/24)
  No Kentucky trip for Mystery Giver (6/9)
  Mystery Giver to try Grade 1 company in Woodford Reserve (4/28)
  Its no Mystery Block runner loves the Fair Grounds (3/21)
  Mystery Giver solves Fair Grounds turf again (3/21)
  Mystery Giver takes Mervin Muniz (3/21)
  Mystery Giver gets up at Fair Grounds again in Muniz Memorial (3/21)
  Little guys bring out their big guns (3/17)
  Mystery Giver three-peats (1/31)
  'Mystery' hard to decipher (1/29)

  Mystery Giver's luck changes at last (11/1)
  Mystery Giver keeps Block guessing (10/30)
  'Mystery' lowers sights (8/16)
  Mystery Giver at uncharted distance (4/4)
  Explosive Bid results (3/23)
  Explosive Bid preview (3/21)
  No suspense for repeating Mystery Giver (2/1) - BH
  Mystery Giver proves superior (2/1) - DRF
  Mystery Giver notches second Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup (2/1) - TTimes
  Mystery Giver favored to repeat at Fair Grounds (1/30)
  Mystery Giver looks ready (1/30)
  When it comes to his star, Block is willing to share (1/30)
  Mystery Giver at crossroads (10/31)
  Illinois-bred Mystery Giver takes Sea O' Erin BC Mile (9/29)
  Sea O' Erin preview (9/27)
  Arlington Million results (8/17)
  Good work and possible Million for 'Mystery' (8/7)
  Mystery Giver carries family load (6/22)
  Mystery Giver heads Cardinal (6/20)


Talk about Mystery Giver and Chris Block in our Racing Forum.




Home | News Updates | Bloggers | Forums | Search
Resources | Links | Marketplace | Gallery | Advertising | Contact Us

Copyright © 2000-2017 Chicago Barn to Wire. All rights reserved.
Privacy policy