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Block and Janks Score at Prairie State Festival
It may be as close as a sure thing as there is in horse racing that trainers Chris Block and Christine Janks will each saddle at least one winner at the Prairie State Festival. Block, the leading conditioner in the annual Illinois-bred showcase, added two more wins to his record, which now stands at 19 victories in the series of races. Janks, who is the second-leading trainer in the Festival, posted a victory as well.
It didn’t take long for Block to find the winner’s circle, taking the $89,200 White Oak Handicap, the first of the six stakes races, with Team Block’s defending champion Shrewd Operator scoring by nine lengths in 1:09.89 under jockey Eduardo Perez.
“‘Shrewd’ won here last year and then had some problems so we gave him time off,” said Block. “We got him ready and he loves the synthetic (track). His big problem is always breaking sharp. He broke good today and he just took Eddie (jockey Perez) right around there. He’d been training really well coming into it. He’s a fast horse. If he gets a clean break, he’s capable of doing something like that (running 1:09.89) so I wasn’t shocked.”
The 7-year-old son of Twining earned $49,509 to boost his bankroll to $307,972 while improving his overall record to eight wins from 18 starts. On Arlington’s Polytrack, Shrewd Operator boasts a record six wins from nine starts. Sent off as the 5-2 betting favorite, he paid $7, $4.40 and $3.40.
River Bear, Illinois champion sprinter of 2010 and winner of this race in 2009, finished second and returned $4.20 and $3.60. Big Looie ran third, paying $4.
Timothy Keeley’s Peyote Patty, second in last year’s Lincoln Heritage Handicap, returned to win this year’s renewal of the $86,600 race, leading from gate to wire to score by a length under jockey Tim Thornton and covering the mile and a sixteenth over “good” turf in 1:43.84.
“She’s got a lot heart,” Block said of the daughter of Cactus Ridge. “Timmy (jockey Thornton) does a great job with her – they’re pretty successful together. She just left there running and she showed her heart and determination that last eighth of a mile.”
The 6-year-old mare won for the sixth time in 18 trips to the post. She picked up $50,401 to push her earnings to $246,643.
Pathway was second in the eight-horse field and it was another 2 ¾-lengths back to 9-5 favorite Dundalk Dust.
Peyote Patty, second choice in the wagering at 2-1 odds, paid $6.20, $3.20 and $2.60. Pathway returned $3.40 and $2.80. Dundalk Dust paid $2.20.
Janks waited until the last of the six stakes races to score her victory, taking the $90,100 Black Tie Affair Handicap with Robert & Kelly Dobbs & Carson Springs Farm’s Tazz. It marked the seventh straight year she’s saddled at least one winner during the Prairie State Festival.
Under Corey Nakatani, the son of Roar of the Tiger broke on the lead and was challenged much of the way by Racing Bran. He put that rival away turning for home and held off the late rallies of runner-up Princeville Condo and Free Fighter to prevail by a length in 1:43.69 for the mile and a sixteenth over “good” turf.
“I was being patient with him and letting him be comfortable and happy where he’s at,” Nakatani said. “I just let him relax. When I asked him, he leveled off, kicked clear and was able to win the race.”
“We’d been trying to get him on the (Polytrack) because as a 3-year-old, he ran a really big (speed figure) on it, but his races never seem to fill so he’s had to run on the turf,” Janks said. “He’s sort of learned to run on the turf and does better and better every race, so I thought he warranted a chance here.”
Tazz earned $50,816 to boost his bankroll to $224,676 while improving his overall record to seven wins from 20 starts. On the Arlington turf, his ledger shows three victories from eight starts.
In other Prairie State Festival races, Gary & Beth Leverton’s Wild Hope rallied from far back to overtake longshot Kel’s Dreamer inside the furlong marker to win the $101,900 Isaac Murphy Handicap. Tanner Riggs rode the Frank Kirby-trained daughter of Quaker Ridge who covered the six furlongs in 1:12.42.
“It seemed like there was quite a bit of pace,” Riggs said. “The horses up front were congested. Going up the backside, the track was kicking up a little bit and I was afraid she wouldn’t run into that stuff. From the half-mile pole on, she was creeping up on them, creeping up on them. Before the quarter pole, I angled her out and she kept steadily coming. She got past that horse (Kel’s Dreamer) in the end.”
Cruise, the 9-5 favorite, ran third in the nine-horse field.
“She was a bit difficult to handle,” said her rider, Corey Nakatani. “I tried to pull her out and she went in.”
The Isaac Murphy was Wild Hope’s fourth victory in 16 starts. She earned $65,054 to elevate her bankroll to $239,032.
Wild Hope paid $15, $6.40 and $4. Kel’s Dreamer, a 38-1 outsider, returned $26.20 and $9.80. Cruise paid $3.20.
Last Call Racing Partnership’s Our Lady in Red rallied wide into the stretch and overtook frontrunner Cityrap nearing the wire to win the $92,900 Purple Violet Stakes by a neck. Julio Felix guided the Richie Scherer-trained daughter of Pioneering through the mile over Polytrack in 1:39.47.
The Purple Violet was the second stakes victory for the 3-year-old filly who previously won the $100,000 Pretty Jenny Stakes over six furlongs at Hawthorne in April.
“I had no concern about the Polytrack,” said Scherer. “I had more concern about the mile.”
"There was a lot of speed in the race and I wanted to stalk the pace,” Felix added. “I got a little bit further back than I wanted to be, but she’s a great horse.”
“My filly ran a little green but she’ll get better,” said jockey Corey Nakatani of his trip aboard Cityrap. “I tried to get a little separation from them at the quarter pole but she ran a little green before she finally switched leads. She got to looking at the crowd. She’ll get better.”
Our Lady in Red earned $50,630 for the win, her third in 10 starts, to boost her bankroll to $154,760. She paid $9.40, $4.40 and $3.40. Cityrap returned $4.60 and $3.20. Third Chance finished third in the nine-horse field and paid $3.40.
Richard Rudolph’s Hydro Power exploded from the gate and led throughout en route to a 1 ¾-length victory in the $92,350 Springfield Stakes under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. The Joseph “Spanky” Broussard-trained son of Aptitude covered the mile in 1:38.56.
“We were confident,” said Hernandez. “The best thing for him was he drew outside so we were able to see where we were going to set up. We used the whole race track to get good position. Anytime he makes the lead, especially against 3-year-olds, he’s going to keep going.”
The Springfield was the third victory in 13 starts for the 3-year-old colt, who added $50,534 to his earnings which now stand at $130,997.
Forbidden Forest was second in the 11-horse field, a neck clear of third-place finisher Rivershire. Mavericking, the 5-2 post time favorite, finished fifth.
Hydro Power paid $11, $5.60 and $5.20. Forbidden Forest returned $9 and $6.40. Rivershire paid $11.60.