Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, June 10, 2012

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/10/2012 #
  • Desert Blanc, winner of the G1 Manhattan, is being pointed toward the G1 Arlington Million. NYRA photo by Adam Coglianese

In Today's Notes: Haran Ready to Crash Saturday's 'Prairie Festival' Party; Promising Saturday Previews for International Festival of Racing; Curlin's First Foal to Start Entered Wednesday at Arlington


Longtime Illinois trainers Chris Block and Christine Janks are the acknowledged king and queen of Arlington's Prairie State Festival which will celebrate its 12th renewal this Saturday and showcase six $125,000 stakes races restricted to horses registered, conceived and/or foaled in Illinois.

Block, who has saddled at least one winner in every Festival since the series' inception, is easily its all-time leading trainer with 18 winners, while Janks is clearly in the runner-up spot in Prairie State Festival competition with a total of 10 wins. Also, she has posed in the winner's circle after at least one of its races for the last seven straight seasons.

Not surprising, both Block and Janks were born in Illinois – Block in downstate Champaign and Janks in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park.

However, this Saturday, the Irish-born conditioner John Haran is crashing the Prairie State party in big way, much in the style of the Gaelic football player he once was.

Haran, although training at the racetrack for only his second year, has invested in the Illinois program in a committed fashion, and nominated six horses to five Festival races, and although Block exceeds those totals with 10 nominations to five of its races, the sudden surge of Haran onto the Illinois stage makes him a player to keep an eye on.

Conversely, Janks, whose career has always been cyclical, has five horses nominated to four of the Festival races during the upcoming weekend.

Frank Kirby, who holds the distinction of winning two training titles at Arlington 30 years apart, has four horses nominated in three of Saturday's Festival races, while Jimmy DiVito has six nominations to four of its races.

Scott Becker who was in contention for leading trainer honors at Arlington last summer until the penultimate day of the season, has four horses nominated in three 2012 Festival races.

The 140th running of the Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day in New York may have served as an excellent early preview of the 30th anniversary edition of the Grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 18.

When taking the Manhattan, Swift Thoroughbreds, Mackie Racing and Vintage Thoroughbreds' Desert Blanc wore down Connie Apostelos's Papaw Bodie by a nose at the conclusion of a furious stretch duel, with Phipps Stable's Boisterous making a strong late run to finish third, a nose farther back.

Desert Blanc, Papaw Bodie and Boisterous are all original nominees to the 2012 Arlington Million.

Chad Brown, conditioner of Desert Blanc, who saddled Martin Schwartz's Stacelita to win last summer's Grade I Beverly D. Stakes, has already expressed interest in this summer's Arlington Million for Desert Blanc.

Earlier on that Belmont Stakes Day program, Phillips Racing Partnership's original 2012 Beverly D. nominee Winter Memories finished second in the Grade I Just a Game Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile over the Long Island lawn.

Later in the day, out on the west coast, Phil Cunningham's 2012 original Arlington Million nominee Slim Shadey finished second by a length to Hilvers, Johnston and Johnston et al.'s Acclamation in Hollywood Park's Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap.

Stonestreet Stables' two-time Horse of the Year Curlin is expected to have his first foal to reach the races make her debut in Wednesday's first race at Arlington when Pin Oak Stables' Evolutionary goes to the post against six other 2-year-old fillies.

Evolutionary, out of the Gilded Time mare Gilded Wings, is trained by Arlington-based conditioner Donnie K. Von Hemel.