04/11/2006 11:00PM

Block barn looks ripe with possibilities


STICKNEY, Ill. - The way things are shaping up, this could be a fun summer for trainer Chris Block. Just don't expect him to strut around the backstretch shouting about it. In fact, Wednesday morning at Hawthorne, while Block was scooping feed and throwing it in his horses' tubs, Block was heard to say, "Things aren't ever easy for very long in this business."

That is something Block keeps firmly in mind - but take a look at his arsenal right now. First, there is the usual staple of maidens and young allowance horses, but on the more advanced front, Fort Prado just won the Grade 3 Connally Breeders' Cup at Sam Houston, and won it like a horse ready to bite off a little more than the competition in Texas had to offer. Iosilver, who absolutely crushed foes last Nov. 19 in the $104,000 Schaefer Mile at Hoosier Park, had his first racetrack breeze of the season here Monday, and is not far from his 2006 debut. Mystery Giver had a dismal trip at Tampa Bay Downs last month in his first start since August 2004, and he is headed north. And Block still has some faith in the 3-year-old Illinois-bred Creative Force, though he beat only two last weekend in the Illinois Derby.

First to Fort Prado, who won the Connally for trainer Jeff Trosclair. Block stays in Chicago year-round, and used to send Mystery Giver to Fair Grounds with trainer Richie Scherer, but Scherer also stayed put at Hawthorne this year, which is how Trosclair got involved. Block, who has trained Fort Prado for most of his career, will have the horse in his stable again this summer, but for now Fort Prado has returned to Trosclair's home base at Louisiana Downs. There he will stay for the time being, with a possible start upcoming in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day.

Mystery Giver finished third there in 2004, and at this juncture, Fort Prado is looking every bit as strong as Mystery Giver ever did in his heyday. He won the Connally on Saturday night by three lengths, getting his final furlong in 12 seconds while showing that yes, Fort Prado may be just as effective at 1 1/8 miles as he has been at a mile. Fort Prado now has won three straight stakes, having taken the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup at Louisiana Downs and the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup before this last victory.

"He's sure matured a lot from this time last year," said Block. "He looks so much stronger than he did before."

Fort Prado spent much of the winter with Trosclair in Louisiana, and Block said he is perfectly happy to let the horse train in Shreveport toward his next start. Should that race come at Churchill Downs, Fort Prado would ship only once, rather than shipping to Chicago and then back down to Kentucky.

"Things have worked out good, so why change it?" Block said.

Iosilver, who came to hand quickly the second half of last season, worked five furlongs in 1:02 Monday, and had breezed several times at a Florida training center. Block hopes to find an allowance race for Iosilver, who is owned by Darrell and Sadie Brommer, sometime later this month.

And finally, it's back to turf for Creative Force, who fell out the back door in the Illinois Derby, and had no pace at which to run. Creative Force's big win came last December in the Jim Edgar Futurity, a dirt race, but he also has shown ability on grass.

Plans uncertain for Lewis Michael

The connections of Lewis Michael, the horse who finished a troubled fourth in the Illinois Derby, are resigned to the fact Lewis Michael probably won't get a berth in the Kentucky Derby.

"He's 28th, so it doesn't look good," said trainer Wayne Catalano, referring to Lewis Michael's ranking among Derby hopefuls in terms of graded stakes earnings. Only 20 are allowed in the Derby, and there still remain three historically meaningful Derby prep races to be run.

So, plans are up in the air for Lewis Michael, who has been a turf horse for most of his career, but ran decently here Saturday. Lewis Michael was steadied off heels going into the first turn, trapped inside throughout the race, and came back from the race with his right eye closed from dirt being flung into it.

Catalano said that Lewis Michael's rider, jockey Frank Alvarado, had told him after the race, " 'I was in trouble the whole way.' "

Catalano said upcoming dirt stakes such as the Peter Pan at Belmont could be considered, but Lewis Michael also could be directed toward the Mid-America Triple, Arlington's series of turf stakes for 3-year-olds.

Robertson has an ornery one

Hugh Robertson saddled the winner of the Lost Code Stakes in 2005, but this year he could do no better than second. Celluloid Hero did himself no favors by taking a right turn out of the starting gate, but he was in trouble anyway, since City Dweller, the eventual winner, was the race's lone speed.

Celluloid Hero is known around his barn as the widow-maker, a fairly ominous term, and Robertson said the horse's temper was roused by an unusually long wait in Hawthorne's underground paddock.

"He got mad standing there for so long, and I knew he'd pull something," said Robertson in reference to Celluloid Hero's poor start.

Robertson said he was inclined to await an Arlington stakes race for Celluloid Hero, but will consider a $100,000 turf-sprint stakes at Churchill Downs for Grandelena, who finished second Saturday in the Meafara Stakes.

Out for a Spin may be worth a shot in feature

A fourth-level sprint allowance with a $60,000 claiming option headlines Friday's National Jockey Club program. Carded as race 6, the feature drew a field of seven, and on paper all seem capable of winning.

Roarofvictory may be the least likely, and Shandy was soundly beaten at the same class level last out with no apparent excuse, but longshot Out for a Spin could wind up the lone speed in the race and may be worth playing. High Expectations, whose 2006 debut was delayed by minor illness, is prepping for an upcoming statebred route stakes. Without a Doubt is a solid horse for the class level, though he turned 7 on Jan. 1. Papa Fuse deserves to be favored off a good second in a race similar to this one last out, and Monkey Hill just won a third-level allowance at Oaklawn Park for trainer Tom Amoss.