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Six Reigning Illinois Champs Headline 2010 Prairie State Festival
Six 2009 Illinois champions are prominent among the 64 horses (including one double-entered horse) who passed the entry box for the six $100,000-added stakes races that comprise the 11th annual Prairie State Festival to be held Saturday, June 19, at Arlington Park.
The six races that make up the showcase for state-breds are:
Up first this year is the Black Tie Affair Handicap which is most notable for who isn't in the race - four-time winner Team Block's Fort Prado, who was retired at the end of last season. However, Fort Prado's connections are well represented by Free Fighter, owned by Team Block in partnership with Thomas Fedro Sr., and Unpaid Crusade, owned outright by Team Block.
Both trained by Chris Block, leading trainer in Prairie State Festival competition with 15 victories, Free Fighter comes in off a winning effort in the Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs on May 22 while Unpaid Crusade steps up to stakes company for the first time here.
Others of note in the Black Tie Affair include Nick Mamatas & John Kerber's Gentleman Chester, runner-up in this race last year and later graded stakes placed in the Grade III Arlington Handicap over this course; and Barr Three LLC & Cherrywood Racing Stable's Princeville Condo, runner-up in the Illinois Owners Stakes here last month.
Defending champion Nicks, who races in the colors of Carson Springs Farm, Arbaway Farm & Ken Meeker, looks to be the horse to beat in the Isaac Murphy Handicap. The Christine Janks-trained daughter of Salt Lake won the $100,000 Governor's Lady Handicap on Illinois Champions Day at Hawthorne Race Course in April and followed that with a second-place finish in the open Prairie Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows on May 22.
Also prominent in the Isaac Murphy are John Carman's Ripe Tomato, winner of last autumn's $100,000 Powerless Handicap at Hawthorne; and the cross-entered Secret Kin, recently claimed by owner-trainer Mike Stidham.
An overflow field of 14 has been entered in the Lincoln Heritage Handicap including last year's Illinois Female Turf Champion Two Bucks To Show's Cumulonimble, who drew the far outside stall. The Wayne Catalano-trained Stormy Atlantic filly was third in the $100,000 Illinois Owners Stakes on May 15 in her most recent start on Polytrack but is a perfect two-for-two on the Arlington turf.
Among those she'll face Saturday are stakes winners Timothy Keeley's Peyote Patty; the cross-entered Secret Kin; Virginia Tarra Trust's Apple Martini; Bob Ackerman et. al.'s Souper Miss; and Nancy Vanier's Home's the Best.
Slapshot Racing's Sweet Lemon Chello makes her second start as a sophomore in the Purple Violet Stakes after earning champion 2-year-old filly honors last year. The Lisa Merritt-trained daughter of Lemon Drop Kid will face 11 rivals including stakes winners Hoss-Bone Racing's Thats Whatshesaid; and Jake Sidoti's Rusty Spinner.
Scarlet Stable's Mighty Rule, last year's Illinois Champion Sprint Male, is the 120-pound co-highweight in the White Oak Handicap. The Roger Brueggemann-trained son of Gilded Time was runner-up in this race last year but has not started since capturing the $100,000 Lightning Jet Handicap at Hawthorne last October.
Other of note in the White Oak include defending champion Dana Waier's River Bear; the co-highweighted Team Block's Shrewd Operator; Team Block's Amazing Results, 2008 Illinois Champion 3-Year-Old Colt; and S. D. Brilie Ltd.'s High Expectations, 2008 Illinois Champion Older Male and Illinois Champion Sprint Male.
Completing the day's sextet of stakes is the Springfield Stakes which features Dana Waier's Devient Behavior, Illinois Champion 2-Year-Old Colt from last year, where he'll face among others S. D. Brilie Ltd.'s Big Looie, who won of the $100,000 Land of Lincoln Stakes in April at Hawthorne.