After saddling 15 winners
during the first decade of Arlington’s
Prairie State Festival, trainer Chris Block is going into this Saturday’s
renewal of the six-stakes series restricted to Illinois-registered foals with
guns blazing once again.
Chief among those Block
trainees slated to run this weekend is Thomas Fedro Sr. and Team Block’s Free
Fighter, hero of Churchill Downs’ grassy Grade III Louisville Handicap at last
asking May 22.
Free Fighter, a 5-year
gelding, breezed an easy half-mile in 49 flat at Arlington
Sunday morning in advance of Saturday’s $100,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap, to
be run at 1 1/16-miles over Arlington’s
world famous turf course.
“Free Fighter went fine,” said
Block, who saddled Team Block’s Fort
– Illinois Horse of the Year in 2006 – to win four of the last five renewals of
the Black Tie Affair. “This morning was pretty much of a maintenance
move. Junior Alvarado, who will ride him Saturday, was aboard for the
work. I wanted to give him a chance to get a feel of the horse because it
will be the first time he has ridden him.”
Should Free Fighter perform up
to expectations in the Black Tie Affair, Block plans to point the Louisville
Handicap winner to the Grade III Arlington Handicap July 17 on Million Preview
Day. That 10-furlong grass test serves as the designed prep for the Grade
I Arlington Million XXVIII on Aug. 21.
Also on the work tab for Block
Sunday morning was Virginia Tarra’s Apple Martini, a 5-year-old mare who
breezed four furlongs in 49:20 in advance of Saturday’s $100,000 Lincoln
Heritage Handicap, restricted to fillies and mares over the local lawn and also
at the 1 1/16-mile distance.
“She’s all set to go
Saturday,” said Block. “There’s also an outside chance I might run (Team
Block’s) Lakeaway in the Lincoln Heritage, but I would say she’s 50-50 at best.”
Apple Martini, incidentally,
is a full sister to Virginia Tarra’s Giant Oak, who finished a late-closing fourth
in Saturday’s Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
“I thought he ran big,” said
Block. “He gives it all he’s got every time he goes out there, and I
thought he hung in there pretty good. I’m proud of him. He loves
that (Churchill) track and he gave a good showing yesterday.”