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Free Fighter Ready for Black Tie Affair

Arlington Park.
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 Prado – 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.”




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