06/18/2002 11:00PM

Block giveth Mystery Giver, Block taketh him away


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Even as he was presiding over Mystery Giver's rapid development this winter at Fair Grounds, trainer Richie Scherer knew he was in for trouble. Mystery Giver is an Illinois-bred turf horse, just like Minor Wisdom, who also wintered at Fair Grounds with Scherer. The difference is that Minor Wisdom is a permanent member of Scherer's stable, while Mystery Giver was only on loan.

Now, Mystery Giver is trained by Chris Block, who turned the colt over to Scherer when Block decided not to run a winter string this season. Since Block's family bred and own Mystery Giver, there was never any question of where he would go after the Fair Grounds meet.

"He was given to me in good faith, and he was given back in good faith," Scherer said.

And so in Saturday's $75,000 Cardinal Handicap, the highlight of a six-stakes day for Illinois-breds here, it is Block who will be saddling Mystery Giver, while Scherer sends out his aging standby, Minor Wisdom. The Cardinal, which also will draw legitimate threats in Fan Club's Mister and Just Like Jimmy, is coming up as strong as a Grade 3 race.

Mystery Giver, who makes his first start since March, had started to come around last fall at Arlington, and made rapid progress in New Orleans, finishing second in the Woodchopper Handicap before winning the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup.

"At the same time as I was watching him get better and better, I knew he was going to be tough in the Illinois-bred division," Scherer said.

If Mystery Giver weren't enough, Scherer saw another Illinois-bred grass horse, Fan Club's Mister, beat him in the Woodchopper. "I thought Minor Wisdom was going to be strong in the Illinois-bred turf division this year. Then Mystery Giver and Fan Club came along."

Still, don't count Minor Wisdom out. Now a 6-year-old, Minor Wisdom has bankrolled more than $512,000 for owners Carolyn and Joe Friedberg. At Fair Grounds, where he handles neither the dirt track during training hours nor the turf course in his races, Minor Wisdom struggled, but he easily won a May 27 Canterbury allowance race while prepping for the Cardinal, and Scherer said he is training well.

All he needs now is a rider. Scherer said he lost his scheduled rider, Randy Meier, who he said had given him a call for the race, but elected to ride Fan Club's Mister this week. "I don't know what I'm going to do right now," Scherer said Wednesday.

Fan's Club Mister should be on lead

Trainer Rickey Harris confirmed Fan Club's Mister's position in the Cardinal on Wednesday, meaning Harris will forgo a trip to Churchill Downs early next month for the Firecracker Breeders' Cup, a race she had at one point targeted for the colt.

Harris was happy with Fan Club's Mister's five-furlong turf work here Monday, and with a 5 1/2-furlong Hawthorne race under his belt last month, Fan Club's Mister, a habitual front-runner, should be on the pace Saturday.

Fan Club's Mister won the Grade 2 American Derby over this turf course last season, and in December led a one-two Illinois-bred finish in the $100,000 Woodchopper Handicap at Fair Grounds, beating Mystery Giver by a half-length.

Trainer says look out for Miss Spragg

The last time trainer Kenny Spraggins had a real stakes horse it was 1997. His runner Hunk of Class dead-heated with Bet on Sunshine in the Arlington Sprint that season, even as Spraggins toiled in a factory.

Regular factory work is over for now for Spraggins, who is training horses full-time now and has one of the favorites for Saturday's Purple Violet in Miss Spragg. The Purple Violet is coming up a strong race, with Summer Mis and Tejano Honey also expected to start.

Miss Spragg, who won her maiden here last summer, took a pair of allowance races at Sportsman's by a combined 15 lengths. She finished sixth, beaten 25 lengths in her last race, the Summertime Promise at Hawthorne, but Spraggins said that when jockey Jesse Campbell sensed Miss Spragg wasn't handling turf, he wrapped up on her and eased her out of the race.

"I let her run a little in her last work, and she went [five furlongs] in 1:00, out in 1:14," Spraggins said. "They've got to look out for me in this one."

Cashel Castle done for year

Cashel Castle, a 3-year-old colt who has won five of six starts, including the Grade 3 Lafayette Stakes, won't race again until next season, trainer Chris Block said.

Cashel Castle has not been right since he finished second in the Derby Trial at Churchill, and a nuclear scan last week confirmed what Block already thought - that Cashel Castle would be better off with a rest.

Cashel Castle will walk in Block's barn for 45 days before being turned out until December.

"You could probably press on with him, but by the end of the year he'd be done," Block said.