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Block Adds Two to Record Prairie State Festival Win Total
Trainer Chris Block, the leading conditioner in Prairie State Festival history, added to his win total with two tallies in the ninth edition of the six-race state-bred stakes extravaganza. The 41-year-old Champaign, Illinois, native won the $88,400 Purple Violet Stakes with Apple Martini and the $93,950 Springfield Stakes with Amazing Results.
Apple Martini, who races for the Virginia H. Tarra Trust, saved ground early and rallied in the stretch to get up in time to post a ¾-length victory in the one mile Purple Violet, getting the distance in 1:36.76 while returning $7.80, $4.40 and $3.
“I had a perfect trip,” said Rene Douglas, who rode the daughter of Giant’s Causeway. “I was able to get her to the inside and that’s what made us win.”
“We were turning back to a flat mile out of the chute,” added Block. “I was very confident with this filly coming into the race. I would have liked to have had two turns, but we have to adapt to what’s there. I told Rene it was in his hands and he could move where ever he wants to and make a big move turning for home.”
Team Block’s Amazing Results finished strongly to capture the one-mile Springfield Stakes by a length over Mr. Mischief in 1:35.48, again with Douglas in the irons. The son of Grand Slam paid $6.40, $4 and $3.40.
“I worked him last time and he worked good,” Douglas said. “That’s the good thing about Polytrack is that turf horses seem to like it and that’s good for racing. I had a great trip. He has a beautiful stride and he was striding out at the end.”
It wouldn’t be a Prairie State Festival without a victory from trainer Christine Janks and the conditioner, who ranks second in career Prairie State Festival tallies, found the winner’s circle with Arbaway Farm, Carson Springs Farm & David Campbell’s Mighty Rule in the $86,400 White Oak Handicap, scoring by a half-length in 1:09.27 for the six furlongs. He paid $8.80, $4.40 and $3.
“It set up well for Mighty Rule today,” said Janks, who has saddled the winner of the last three editions of the White Oak. “The track has been really speed favoring so High Expectations (winner of the previous two White Oak Handicaps) wasn’t as effective. Luckily, we have one that likes to be up in the front and one that comes from behind. He tries harder than any horse I’ve ever had – he’s just all heart.”
“He can get lazy when he gets by himself but the other horse (Classic R. J.) kept running with him,” Graham said of the son of Gilded Time. “So he only did what the other horses were making him do and he finished strong. He ran all the way to the wire and the other horses couldn’t get by him.”
In other Prairie State Festival races Saturday, Charles Sigrist & Del Sol Farm LLC’s Lady Lionel ($8, $4.20 and $3) survived a claim of foul by Jesse Campbell, the jockey of runner-up Royal Leah to win the $97,350 Lincoln Heritage Handicap by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:44.48 under jockey Junior Alvarado. The victory was the first in Festival competition for both Alvarado and trainer Moises Yanez and the first ever stakes win for Sigrist.
“I prayed to God to give me a break just once and he gave me a break,” Sigrist joked after the result had been declared official.
Nick Mamatas & John Kerber’s Gentleman Chester, who won last year’s $88,300 Springfield Stakes, made a three-wide move into the stretch and held off the late champion of three-time defending champion Fort Prado to win the $92,950 Black Tie Affair Handicap by 1 ¾ lengths under Jesse Campbell. The son of 2000 Arlington Million winner Chester House is trained by Ralph Nicks and ran the mile and a sixteenth over “good” turf in 1:43.09 and paid $15.20, $5.80 and $3.60.
“He was a slow learner but we always knew he had potential,” Campbell said. “He’s come big steps and he handled the turf course today great. We thought we’d have a shot to get the jump on Fort Prado and it unfolded like that. We were lucky in a sense, but the horse ran a tremendous race.”
“Of the six horses I had today, I liked this one best,” said Block of the beaten favorite. “This is really frustrating right now. How did this horse get beat? I don’t know. This is a Big Brown situation.”
In the first of the afternoon’s six stakes races, the $86,500 Isaac Murphy Handicap, Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires guided Richard Rudolph & Michael Vranich’s Magnetic Miss to front running 1 ¾-length victory over Taylor Madison. The Spanky Broussard-trained daughter of Deposit Express covered the six furlongs in 1:09.78 and paid $8, $4.60 and $3.40.
“She broke a little slow – same as she did the other day,” said Fires. “She was inside, so I had to use her a little bit quicker that I wanted to, to be there. If she had an outside post, I could have made it up slow. So she ran a little faster than I wanted her to the first half.”