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Barn Notes: Sun. June 26
Block Builds Lead, Janks Adds to Streak in Prairie State Festival; Additional Festival Facts
BLOCK BUILDS LEAD, JANKS ADDS TO STREAK IN PRAIRIE STATE FESTIVAL
The more things change, the more they stay the same when it comes to Prairie State Festival Day at Arlington Park.
Trainers Chris Block and Christine Janks, the two continuing stalwarts of the local oval’s showcase day for horses registered, conceived and/or foaled in Illinois, both enjoyed successful afternoons once again Saturday during the Festival’s 11th renewal.
Block, the Festival’s leading trainer since scoring two wins during its inaugural running in 2000, hit for another double Saturday, winning the $89,200 White Oak Handicap with Team Block’s defending champion Shrewd Operator, ridden by Eddie Perez, and coming back to the winner’s circle after the $86,600 Lincoln Heritage Handicap with Timothy Keeley’s Peyote Patty, who was piloted by Tim Thornton. Both horses led their races throughout.
“Shrewd Operator always runs that way,” said Block Sunday morning. “That’s always been his style, but I didn’t anticipate Peyote Patty being on the lead like that. She’s run gate to wire before but most of the time she likes to stalk the pace. Yesterday I just had to hope she had something left for the stretch because I knew a couple of other horses would be making a run at her late. Fortunately, she was able to answer the challenge.
“All in all, I thought we had a very good day,” said Block, who has saddled at least one winner in all 12 runnings of the series and expanded his total record to 18 winners. “Also, all the horses we ran came out of their races in good order.”
Janks, easily the runner-up in Prairie State competition with a total of 10 victories in the series, also extended her Festival streak to at least one win over the last seven years but had to wait until the last Festival race on Saturday to do it.
The native of Evergreen Park, Illinois, currently in seventh position on Arlington’s all-time leading trainer list, won Saturday’s $91,100 Black Tie Affair Handicap with Rob and Kelly Dobbs and Carson Springs Farm’s Tazz, who was ridden by Corey Nakatani. Rob Dobbs is Janks’ invaluable assistant trainer.
“Every year when the babies come along at the farm we give Rob a horse or two,” said Janks Sunday morning during training hours before heading back to the Gainesville, Florida, farm later in the day. “Rob’s whole family was here yesterday to watch Tazz win, and I’m especially happy for him because his oldest daughter is in college, now.
“The pressure was on us to keep our streak alive,” said Janks, who had won two non-Festival races earlier on the program and ended up with a training triple for the day. “We had to wait until the last race to do it, but with that win in the Black Tie Affair, we have now run the gauntlet, getting at least one win in all six of the Festival races.
“Also, Tazz is out of our mare Empress of All,” Janks said. “That means that mare has given us three foals that have won Festival races. (Arbaway Farm, Carson Springs Farm and David Campbell’s) Mighty Rule won the White Oak in 2008, and (The Estate of William Lydon and Carson Springs Farm’s) Ms. Lydonia won the Lincoln Heritage in 2006. They are both out of Empress of All as well.
“We had a little luck to end up winning three races, but a couple of races we had been waiting on went ahead and filled on the big day,” Janks said. “Speaking of that, I think (racing secretary) Chris Polzin has done an amazingly good job since he’s been racing secretary. This year he’s been able to fill such a wide range of races, especially considering what the weather has been like.”
ADDITIONAL FESTIVAL FACTS
In addition to Janks’ training triple and Block’s Festival double, conditioner Frank Kirby also saddled two winners Saturday.
Kirby saddled Gary and Beth Leverton’s Wild Hope to win the $101,900 Isaac Murphy Handicap, somewhat surprisingly giving two-time Arlington trainer champion Kirby his first victory in Prairie State Festival competition. Kirby also won the eighth race with Hondo Ranch’s Giant Shift.
Trainer Spanky Broussard saddled Richard Rudolph’s Hydro Power to win Saturday’s $92,350 Springfield Stakes, giving him his third Festival victory and a tie with Mike Stidham for fourth place on the Festival’s all-time leading trainer list.
The late Gene Cilio, a longtime supporter of the Illinois program before his death in 2003, still holds down third position on the all-time list with five victories.
Jockey Tanner Riggs, aboard both of the Kirby-trained horses, had a riding double Saturday, as did jockey Julio Felix, who scored aboard Carson Springs Farm’s Turn n’ Fire in the opener for Janks and Last Call Racing Partnership’s Our Lady in Red for trainer Richie Scherer in the $92,900 Purple Violet Stakes to give Scherer his second win in Festival history.