07/13/2004 11:00PM

Block gives pair a chance


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Nine horses were entered Wednesday in Saturday's Round Table Stakes here. And to trainer Chris Block's surprise, he has two of them.

At $100,000, the Round Table has a decent purse, but the race lost Grade 3 status last year, and during the summer, there is a smorgasbord of 3-year-old stakes races laid out across the Midwest. The Round Table is not a bad race, but when Cryptograph, who has never won a stakes race, could be the favorite, it is the right time to take a shot.

That is what Block is doing with at least one of his horses, Iosilver. The other is Fort Prado, an Illinois-bred who was an entry-level allowance horse before he won the statebred-restricted Springfield Stakes on the Prairie State Festival. Block, conservative at heart, does not blithely toss horses in stakes races, but his operation is geared around summers at Arlington, and neither of his Round Table horses is obviously overmatched.

"Three weeks ago, I wouldn't have thought I would have had either one of them in," Block said. "They've both stepped forward, and I think they're worthy of a shot."

Iosilver won an off-the-turf, entry-level allowance race here July 3 and looked good doing it. Block was encouraged to try Iosilver in the Round Table, because the race, like his recent victory, is at 1 1/8 miles. But that is the very thing that concerns Block about Fort Prado, whose strong recent win came at a one-turn mile.

"I think the one-turn mile set it up for him there," Block said. "In the back of my mind I'm concerned about how he's going to get a mile and an eighth on dirt."

Cryptograph, coming off a third-place finish July 2 in the Iowa Derby, and Real Trooper, winner of a second-level allowance race last out at Churchill, should be among the favorites Saturday. Also entered were Chippewa Trail, Avid Skier, Fantasticat, Persuaggle, and American Link.

As others work out, Mystery Giver gallops

Wednesday morning, Block was about the only trainer on the grounds with a graded-stakes-level grass horse that did not breeze on turf. Mystery Giver is on a weekend work pattern, and on Wednesday he went out for a routine gallop. Mystery Giver, defeated as the odds-on favorite on the Prairie State card, works this weekend for a start in the July 24 Arlington Handicap.

"He's been training fine, but we need to get a good breeze into him," Block said.

Carlos Marquez Jr. has been booked to ride Mystery Giver again. Robby Albarado has a commitment that day to ride Stellar Jayne in the Grade 1 Mother Goose.

Three other male grass stakes horses worked Wednesday, though only On the Course is likely to go in the Arlington Handicap. On the Course, who was unplaced last out in the Firecracker Handicap at Churchill, went a half-mile in 50.40 seconds. Warleigh, who is headed to the Aug. 7 Sea O'Erin Handicap, was timed in 1:50.40 for a mile, and Herculated, another Sea O'Erin possible, went five furlongs in 1:02.40. Times are always slow for Wednesday turf works here, because the dogs are placed well out into the course.

Warleigh, from the Steve Asmussen barn, turned in a disappointing race last out in the Dallas Turf Cup at Lone Star. "The Dixie at Pimlico took too much out of him," Asmussen said.

It took even more out of Herculated, who has not started since that race in May. Herculated, second to Mystery Giver in the Mervin Muniz earlier this year, has been fighting a foot problem. Mike Stidham trains both Herculated and On the Course.

Breeze by Bedanken 'real smooth'

Bedanken, a sharp overnight turf stakes winner here in her last start, breezed an easy half-mile on turf in 54.80 seconds and is on schedule to start July 24 in the Modesty Handicap.

"Everything looks good with her," said trainer Donnie Von Hemel. "She worked nice and easy, and everything went real smooth. She doesn't need much right now - 10 days and we'll be there."