Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, September 07, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/14/2013 #
  • Afortable wins first out for Team Block to give his sire Fort Prado his first win. (Four Footed Fotos)

In Today’s Notes: First Progeny Win for Eight-time Illinois Champ Fort Prado; Strong Nominations for Illinois Owners Stakes

Team Block’s Fort Prado, who for seven seasons graced the state of Illinois with his considerable talent, has sired his first winner from his freshman crop.  On Friday afternoon, Team Block’s Afortable, a handsome gray colt with a sharp resemblance to his sire, debuted in a tough one-mile maiden on the turf for open 2-year-olds and went last-to-first despite a slow pace.  Closing his final furlong in about :23 under Eduardo Perez for trainer Chris Block, the colt caught favored pacesetter Kwacha to win by a comfortable half-length. 

The colt’s win was a special one for the Blocks, as it was not only the first win by a stallion they raced and still fully own, but it was also their first win by a homebred whose parents were also homebreds. 

A war horse who started 59 times overall, including 25 times at Arlington International Racecourse, Fort Prado won more than $1.2 million and won 14 stakes for the Blocks.  Of those, eight were at Arlington – including a stakes win on all three surfaces and four editions of the Black Tie Affair Handicap.  In the process of such Prairie State success, the son of emerging sire-of-sires El Prado (father to quality stallions Medaglia d’Oro and Kitten’s Joy) won eight Illinois championships – 3-Year-Old Colt (2004), Horse of the Year (2006) and three each of Older Handicap Horse (2005-2007) and Turf Male (2005-2007). 

“The win really means a lot,” said Block.  “We raced and bred him ourselves and he was quite a wonderful racehorse for our stable for many years.  To have him go on as a stallion and be successful and get career started with his first win –  especially with a homebred – it’s really special.”

The dam of Afortable is the stakes-winning mare Taxable Deduction, a daughter of Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Prized.  In the shed, she has been nothing short of superb for the Blocks, siring stakes winners Leading Astray, Suntracer, Corrupt and Free Fighter.  It was one year ago this weekend that the now-retired Leading Astray won the Grade III Pucker Up for the Blocks and on Saturday the peaking Suntracer will go off as one of the favorites in the $400,000 Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs. 

Afortable reminds Block of his siblings in many ways.  “The way he moves on the racetrack is similar to a lot of them.  Also, the way he comes along in his training and moves forward.    He’s a little more focused and ahead of the game than some of the others.  He’s quite typical, otherwise – very focused and smart.

“I wasn’t worried about winning; I was worried about him figuring out what was going on.  The more he went along in the race, the more he started to pick things up and focus.  When (jockey) Eddie (Perez) reached back and hit him once, he really accelerated,” Block explained.  “It was not only a good race but a good learning experience.  I went up there with a horse I thought would run well win, lose or draw.   I just wanted to see him take a step forward we can move from.”

From here, it is most likely that the promising colt will head south to Kentucky.  “We’re more than likely headed to Keeneland.  We’ll look for a conditioned allowance,” reported Block.  The conditioner also did not rule out attempting the Grade III Bourbon Stakes – a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf “Win and You’re In” event – but considers it much less likely. 

As an added bonus to the day, Afortable’s part owner Thomas Fedro – who also owned Free Fighter – was celebrating his 70th birthday on Friday when Afortable won.  “It was great to win for Mr. Fedro,” said Block.  “He owns Free Fighter and claimed him back after losing him.”

The final stakes events of the Arlington 2013 season takes place on Saturday, Sept. 21, with two $65,000 one-mile turf races scheduled – one for each sex, but restricted to Illinois-registered owners.  Led by stakes winners Nates Mineshaft, Mr. Vegas and The Pizza Man, the male division looks particularly tough.

Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft exits a dull 12th-place finish in the Grade I Arlington Million in which he failed to show any life throughout the entire race.  Found to have a hind-end issue after the race, the colt is back to top form, including a blazing Saturday morning four-furlong move in :46.60 on the grass.  A winner of a tough allowance at the course and distance in July for trainer Anne P. Smith, Nates Mineshaft will be a tough customer if entered. 

Andrews T and S Racing’s Mr. Vegas, a graded stakes winner in 2012 on the grass, would be making only his third start of 2013 if entered by trainer Richie Scherer.  Third to Nates Mineshaft in the aforementioned allowance to kick off his campaign, the 6-year-old gelding recently ran a disappointing seventh in the West Point Stakes at Saratoga.  The race, though, should set him up for a good performance at Arlington.

Midwest Thoroughbreds’ reigning Illinois Champion 3-Year-Old The Pizza Man exits a solid third in the Grade III Stars and Stripes over 12 grassy furlongs on Million Preview Day – July 13.  In his 12-race career, the son of Breeders’ Cup Turf winner English Channel has won two stakes races over turf routes and four of seven starts at Arlington for trainer Tom Amoss. 

Other nominees which draw intrigue are Hernandez Racing Club’s improving Ultimo Trago and graded-stakes placed All Stormy.  A son of exceptional turf and synthetic sire Pure Prize, Ultimo Trago has won three consecutive allowance races against older horses – one in open company – at the current Arlington meet, while never going off at odds lower than $4.40-1 in those three victories.  He is undefeated on the grass this year for trainer Armando De La Cerda and has consistently shown good stalking speed.  Though 2013 has been a poor season for All Stormy, the son of Stormy Atlantic has considerable back-class if his form picks back up for trainer Greg Geier and owner Jim Tafel.  He has finished off the board in all four starts this year, but in 2012 was a good second in the Grade III American Derby and won an allowance over the course impressively.  He could be a live longshot if entered. 

The female division of the Illinois Owners Stakes might be a rematch of two seasoned rivals, Barr Three, Cherrywood Racing and Michael Bojarski’s Katie the Lady and Nancy Vanier and Lyda Williamson’s Kepi.  The dark bay mares have met six times in the last 15 months, including last out where Katie the Lady set a torrid pace of 1:10.03 for six furlongs in a mile turf allowance, before being passed late by a capitalizing Kepi.  Despite the defeat last out, Katie the Lady has beaten Kepi in four of those meetings.  Kepi, on the other hand, is has an impressive record of 7-5-2-0 at the distance.  

Those of note who may challenge the aforementioned include a talented gray duo from the barn of Chris Block.  Team Block’s Oskee Wow Wow is nominated off a gritty win in a high-priced claiming event on Sept. 5 over 1 1/16-miles on the grass.  Earning a career-high 99 Equibase Speed Figure, the 4-year-old daughter of Cashel Castle seems to be coming into her own.  Darrell and Sadie Brommer’s With a Twist, also a daughter of Cashel Castle, is lightly raced but has never finished worse than fourth in six career starts, including a good third in the June 15 Lincoln Heritage Handicap behind local turf queen La Tia.  The lone fourth-place finish came last out in a blanket finish where the 5-year-old mare lost by a length. 

Arapaho LLC’s Stormin Elle has been nominated to possibly take on her elders for trainer Rick Slomkowski, though it would not be the first time she has beaten older foes.  In making only her third career start in an Aug. 30 allowance, the filly ran away from her opposition by 4¾ lengths in her first attempt on the turf.