Arlington Million

Barn Notes: Saturday, July 28, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/28/2012 #

In Today's Notes: Chris Block: Suntracer Shining as American St. Leger Possibility; Jockeys Jeffrey Sanchez, Tim Thornton Ride Friday Doubles; Calumet Farm's Citation Retired at Arlington 61 Years Ago 

Trainer Chris Block may be the pride of Champaign, Illinois, but he has also been an extremely positive force among Arlington horsemen since his own career began in 1989. The 45-year-old conditioner saddled a training double July 27 to gain sole possession of fourth place in Arlington's trainer standings, but Block doesn't keep tabs on that sort of thing.

In fact, as the 2012 Arlington season progresses toward its one-day International Festival of Racing centerpiece afternoon on Aug. 18, Block remains focused on the inaugural running of the $400,000 American St. Leger Stakes that will be contested on that day. That's Arlington's newly created mile and 11/16ths marathon that will grouped for the first time with Arlington's troika of Grade I events – the 30th anniversary edition of the Arlington Million, the 22nd renewal of the $750,000 Beverly D. and the 36th running of the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes.

"I think it's very important that the American St. Leger draw a lot of interest from horsemen all over the world and that seems to be happening," said Block. "North America has its own niche of marathon runners, but European-based horses are more prone to marathon distances, so if we can get some European trainers to show interest with their marathoners, they are more apt to bring other horses along to compete in our Festival."

Block could show his own support for the American St. Leger with as many as two contestants. He saddled the second Grade III Stars and Stripes winner of his own career when Team Block's Ioya Bigtime captured the 2012 renewal of that mile and a half test July 14, and this year that traditional classic was placed as an ideal prep race for the American St. Leger.

"Right now, with Ioya Bigtime we're going to see who else goes in there as the race gets closer," Block said. "We're still not sure how far (Ioya Bigtime) really wants to go, and of course we'd be asking him to go (three-sixteenths of a mile) farther (in the American St. Leger). If we decide that more distance is really his niche, we'll make the decision to run him at that time."

However, Team Block's Suntracer, who had somewhat fallen off the American St. Leger radar of late after finishing third in the Stars and Stripes, has reemerged as a possible starter in Arlington's upcoming marathon.

"We're strongly considering him for the (American St. Leger)," said Block of Suntracer, who was beaten 1 3/4-lengths by Ioya Bigtime in the Stars and Stripes. "We feel the (upcoming) added distance is something he can get and I really believe his confidence is coming back."

Suntracer suffered an eye injury some time ago that Block believes affected his ability to perform at his best, almost as if he were afraid of getting hurt again.

"His eye is fine now," said Block, "but we still keep the goggles on him when he races because I think that helps him feel like he won't get hurt again. In that last race he began to look like his old self and the American St. Leger may be just the kind of race where he could show us exactly what his capabilities might be. I don't think we've seen the best of him yet."

Incidentally, the Block-conditioned Mister Marti Gras, who is owned by Lothenbach Stables and finished third in the Grade III Arlington Handicap July 14 as the Arlington Million's designed prep, is not under consideration for the 2012 Million.

"We're saving Mister Marti Gras for the (Grade III) Washington Park Handicap Sept. 1," Block said.

Arlington jockey Tim Thornton, star of this season's "Behind The Silks" video series posted on the Arlington website, won the second half of Friday's Daily Double aboard the Michael Reavis-owned and trained Kitten's Kitten. The 25-year-old Louisiana-born rider, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at U. S. Cellular Field for the Chicago White Sox game on July 24, returned to the winner's circle after the eighth race on Bradley Bedell's Nic the Quick, trained by Steve Fridley, who returned an $80.20 win mutuel.

Puerto Rican-born jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, new to the Arlington colony this season, won Friday's third race on Terry Biondo and Cherrywood Racing Stables II's U Step Aside for trainer Michele Boyce and came back to the winner's circle after Friday's finale astride Ellen Bennett's Telma, conditioned by Suzanne Vander Salm.

Calumet Farm's Citation, inducted in the National Musuem of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga in 1959, paraded before a crowd of approximately 28,000 at Arlington on July 28, 1951, in his last public appearance at a track before being retired to stud.