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Block, Janks Add to Prairie State Festival Win Totals
It wouldn't be a Prairie State Festival without at least one victory from Team Block, but it took until the fifth of the six stakes races for that to occur when Shrewd Operator took the lead just after the start and wired his rivals to take the $92,250 White Oak Handicap by 2 ½ lengths. Trained by Chris Block, the 6-year-old son of Twining was ridden by Eduardo Perez and got the six furlongs over Polytrack in 1:10.42.
"Everything is the break with this horse," said Block, who picked up his leading 16th win in Prairie State Festival competition. "He's got to get away from there cleanly and he did today. When I saw 23 - he's never seen that in his life - and 45 and 4. Eddie did a great job. He gets along with this horse. He settled nicely for him and left plenty in the tank for him. He loves the synthetic surface."
Winning for the seventh time in 15 starts, Shrewd Operator added $52,583 to elevate his earnings to $257,428 for his owner-breeder.
Dispatched as the 7-5 favorite, he paid $4.80, $3.40 and $2.40. Wildeydsouthernboy returned $4 and $3. Mighty Rule paid $3.20.
Trainer Christine Janks, second among active trainers in Prairie State Festival competition, also added to her total by winning the day's final race, the $89,900 Springfield Stakes. S. D. Brilie Partnership's Big Looie overtook front running Royal Express inside the final sixteenth after battling that rival throughout the race to prevail.
Chris Emigh rode the Military gelding who covered the mile over Polytrack in 1:37.82 and paid $6, $3.80 and $3.20 as the betting favorite.
"They were wanting to race each other down the backstretch and I was getting a little worried," Emigh said. "I was able to back off a little bit. I thought my horse was getting a little tired but he has a big heart. He was ready and fit and he had enough to finish."
It was the second straight stakes victory for Big Looie, who won the $100,000 Land of Lincoln at Hawthorne Race Course in April. Overall it was his fourth tally in six starts. He earned $51,782 to push his bankroll to $148,586 for his owner breeder.
Lansing Blue ended up second in the nine-horse field and paid $21.20 and $9.20. Royal Express had to settle for third and returned $4.60.
William Stiritz's My Sonny Boy won the $89,350 Black Tie Affair Handicap over Princeville Condo in a thrilling head-bob photo finish that saw the son of Royal Academy prevail by a nose in the mile and a sixteenth turf race, which was run over "yielding" going in 1:45.24.
Tim Thornton was aboard the Scott Becker pupil for the first time Saturday and said he let the horse run his own race.
"I just let him relax," he said. "I didn't want to send him and get into a speed duel. I followed (race favorite) Free Fighter around there and when he started to get into a little trouble, I angled outside of him. When I made the lead he kind of wanted to pull up a little bit but he felt the other come on back again and he kept on trying."
The win was the fifth in 22 starts for My Sonny Boy, who earned $52,002 to push his bankroll to $162,081 for his owner-breeder. Sent off at odds of more than 11-1, he paid $25.20, $9 and $4.40.
Princeville Condo returned $4.20 and $3. Third-place finisher Gentleman Chester paid $4.
Owner-trainer Mike Stidham had cross-entered Secreat Kin in both the Isaac Murphy and the Lincoln Heritage Handicap and opted to run her in the former. It was the right call as the daughter of Sea of Secrets won the $87,900 race by 1 ¼ lengths over pacesetter Kip Berries. With Jesus Castanon aboard, the 6-year-old mare ran the six furlongs over Polytrack in 1:11.32.
"Mike (owner-trainer Stidham) said to try to keep her close to the pace," Castanon said. I let her be where she was comfortable, and when I got to the quarter pole I switched her to the outside."
Recently claimed for $62,500 by Stidham, Secreat Kin earned $51,158 for the Isaac Murphy win to push her bankroll to $404,420 while bettering her record to eight wins from 29 starts.
Secret Kin paid $11.40, $6.40 and $3.80. Kip Berries returned $15.40 and $6.40. Ripe Tomato finished third and paid $3.40.
Despite drawing the outside post in the field of 11, Two Bucks To Show LLC's Cumulonimble got good early position, took the lead in the stretch and prevailed by three parts of a length over Peyote Patty in the $96,035 Lincoln Heritage Handicap. Michael Baze rode the Wayne Catalano-trained daughter of Stormy Atlantic who covered the 1 1/16 miles over "yielding" turf in 1:45.33.
"He (Catalano) said to let her break out of there and get good position early - just be sitting there with a lot of horse and save it for the end," said Baze, who is riding at Arlington for the first time this summer.
She rebounded nicely off a sub-par effort in her seasonal debut to pick up career win number six from 13 trips to the post. She picked up $54,172 to push her career earnings to $211,601.
Cumulonimble, the 7-5 favorite, paid $4.80, $2.80 and $2.60. Peyote Patty returned $3.80 and $3.20. Apple Martini paid $3.80.
Asiel Stable's Heavenly Lass rallied from far back to overtake Sweet Lemon Chello in deep stretch to win the $93,850 Purple Violet Stakes by a length and a half. Brandon Meier was aboard the Rusty Hellman charge who covered a mile over Polytrack in 1:39.35.
"We were laying good while they were cruising up front," Meier said. "When I asked her, she responded huge. She's been going great in the morning and she came in to the race perfectly."
Saturday's victory was the first on Polytrack for the daughter of Victory Gallop and her second in seven starts overall. The winner's share of $52,898 more than doubled her bankroll to $103,293 for her owner-breeder.
Sent off at odds of more than 11-1, she paid $24.60, $12.60 and $8.20. Sweet Lemon Chello returned $6.80 and $4.80. That's Whatshesaid ran third and paid $9.20.