08/10/2011 12:11PM

Arlington: Never Retreat has shot to become first Chicago-based horse to take Beverly D.

Michael Burns
Never Retreat comes into the Beverly D. off a win in last month's Grade 2 Dance Smartly at Woodbine.

Chicago racing landed a Beverly D. in storybook fashion last year when longtime Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois owned the winning filly, Eclair de Lune. The victory was met with raucous cheers and heartfelt tears from the locals, many of whom said there could not possibly have been a more fitting and deserving winner than Duchossois.

Still, Eclaire de Lune was and is based in California with trainer Ron McAnally, and Chicago trainers still have never even come close to winning the Beverly D., long acknowledged as a world-class event since Duchossois inaugurated it in honor of his late wife in 1987. The occasional Chicago filly has tried it, to no avail, with the best results being fourth-place finishes by One Dreamer for trainer Tom Proctor in 1994, Dreaming of Anna (Wayne Catalano) in 2008, and Tizaqueena (Mike Stidham) in 2009.

Chris Block, who leads all trainers in earnings at the current Arlington meet, would love to change all that in favor of the home team.

“I’ve always wanted to run a filly in the Beverly D., and I’m proud just to have my first starter,” said Block, who on Saturday will saddle Never Retreat for the 20th running of the Beverly D. at 1 3/16 miles. “But I also think we’re going in with a legitimate chance.”

Never Retreat, a 6-year-old Smart Strike mare owned by Block’s family, has reached peak form this year, winning three graded turf stakes, most recently the Grade 2 Dance Smartly on July 10 at Woodbine. She already has earned $470,774 this year, accounting for more than half the $867,255 bankroll she has amassed in 28 career starts.

“She’s really stair-stepped her way into the elite of the division, really earned her way right up,” said Block. “I do think she’s of the same caliber as these other fillies. The one minor reservation I have is the distance, because she’s never run this far for us. But class-wise, I think she’s shown she belongs.”

Block said he was among those deeply touched by the Duchossois victory last year and that hopefully a Beverly D. upset by a Chicago trainer would be similarly well received by the local crowd.

“Everybody was over-the-top happy last year for Mr. D.,” he said. “Now is maybe the time for one of the local trainers to get a Beverly D.”

Never Retreat, with Shaun Bridgmohan riding from post 11, is listed at 10-1 on the Arlington morning line. Two other locally based horses also are in the lineup of 11: Upper Line (post 4, 20-1) for Stidham and Romin Robin (post 10, 30-1) for Dave Kassen.