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Barn Notes: Saturday, May 17, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/17/2014 #
  • Chris Block

 In Today’s Notes: Block Hits 500 Arlington Wins; Mongolian Saturday Works Well toward Hanshin; Mason  High on Impressive 2-Year-Old Winner

BLOCK HITS 500 ARLINGTON WINS
Trainer Chris Block reached 500 wins at Arlington International Racecourse on Friday with a victory in the seventh race with Tim Keeley’s 4-year-old Illinois-bred gelding Awol Adam.  “Getting 500 (at Arlington) means a lot,” Block said.  “This is a racetrack that I hold near and dear to my heart.  To get 500 here is something I’m quite proud of and I think a lot of the credit goes to the horses, the people who work for me back there and the owners who supply them for me.”

One of those is Keeley, who has had horses with Block for years and been a source of high-quality stock for the conditioner.  One of his stars is multiple Illinois champion My Option.  “Tim is a strong breeder here in Illinois and very loyal to the Illinois program.  He’s a really good man and an owner who has been very fair with me.” 

As far as the winning horse himself, Awol Adam – like so many other Block charges – has been a patient project for Block.  “He’s a horse we were experimenting with last year.  We tried different equipment like the blinkers, then took them off and also started taking him back to let him finish at the end,” explained Block.  “Hopefully he’ll just keep growing and getting better – and hopefully become more savvy of what’s going on around him.  Yesterday sure seemed like a step in that direction.”

Also heading toward a training milestone is perennial leading Arlington conditioner Wayne Catalano, who is a mere two wins from 2,500 career victories.  He could achieve such as early as today, with three entries at Arlington (seventh, ninth and tenth races) and one at Churchill Downs (ninth).

MONGOLIAN SATURDAY WORKS WELL TOWARD HANSHIN
Mongolian Stable’s speedy 4-year-old gelding Mongolian Saturday turned in an impressive work Saturday morning when going five panels in 1:01 flat (out six furlongs in 1:14) at Arlington International Racecourse.  The work was the second best of 26 at the distance and will be his last move before next Saturday’s Grade III $150,000 Hanshin Cup. 

“He worked very good - even better than I expected,” trainer Enebish Ganbat reported.  “Right now, we are aiming toward the Hanshin.  This should set him up for it.”

Prior to the work, the headstrong son of Any Given Saturday was feeling so fresh that rider Emmanuel Esquivel had to use a lead pony to escort him to the work.  “He’s just a very strong horse and wants to go when he wants to go.  He was feeling very good,” Ganbat said.  “Now I understand how to train him.  Last year he was very good, but I didn’t quite understand him yet.”

Last year, the son of stakes-winning Miss Hot Salsa was an impressive winner of an allowance and a photo finish runner-up in the Straight Line Stakes at Arlington.  Both races were at venue’s one-turn mile – the same course and distance as the Hanshin.  Mongolian Saturday’s Straight Line conqueror, Jim Tafel’s Fordubai, is also pointing to the race.  

MASON HIGH ON IMPRESSIVE 2-YEAR-OLD WINNER
The first ‘baby race’ of the Arlington International season took place last Sunday – May 11 -  with six strapping juveniles, including ship-ins from the high-profile barns of Wesley Ward and Mike Maker.  In the end, it was local conditioner Ingrid Mason whose modestly bred Irish Nuggets won impressively by nearly four lengths in a solid :53.24.

“She’s always been very classy since the beginning and will turn on and off for you,” said Mason.  “She never acted like a 2-year-old and I knew when she was behaving so well – not turning a hair in the paddock – that she would be tough to beat.”

An Indiana bred by the young Unbridled’s Song stallion Irish Road, she caught Mason’s eye from the very beginning.  “She looks terrible on paper, but I didn’t buy her for that.  She just looked phenomenal at the sale in Texas.  Immediately, when I saw her, I loved her.  I spent $28,000 and knew she’d be well trained because she was from Benchmark Training Center.  They do a great job.”

As far as the next step for the juvenile filly, Mason was explicit about taking her time with the young talent.  “I'm not in a hurry to run her back any time soon.  We’ll give her time and point to something.  She’s just a professional will take it in stride.  We will run when we have a race and she’s ready.”