06/16/2009 11:00PM

Block loads up for the Prairie State Festival


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As if the name "Block" wasn't already synonymous with Illinois-bred racing.

On Wednesday, Arlington Park drew the six Illinois-bred stakes races that make up the Prairie State Festival here Saturday, and "Block" is all over the place. Trainer Chris Block entered 10 horses in the six $100,000 stakes, eight of them owned or co-owned by his family's partnership, Team Block.

Block sent out two winners on the 2008 Prairie State card; both Amazing Results and Apple Martini are back for Prairie State races again this year, too. Also included in the Block lineup is Fort Prado, who won the Black Tie Affair Handicap in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and finished second in the race last year. Block also entered the talented Free Fighter in the Black Tie Affair, one of two turf races in the stakes sequence - both of which are in danger of being moved to Polytrack if the wet local forecast holds. The horse that beat Fort Prado in last year's Black Tie Affair, Gentleman Chester, also was among the entries Wednesday.

In the White Oak Handicap, Block also has a formidable tag team, with 2008 Illinois horse of the year Amazing Results joined by Shrewd Operator, who hasn't raced since May 10, 2008, but has excellent Polytrack form.

Trainer Christine Janks entered horses in four of the stakes and has won the last three editions of the White Oak. She'll try for four straight with High Expectations, who captured the White Oak in 2006 and 2007.

Brueggemann claims looking sharp

Having closed down his Prairie Meadows string this summer, trainer Roger Brueggemann has been more active at Arlington than in recent seasons. Active, yes, lucky, not so much: From 46 Arlington starters, Brueggemann has won but three races while saddling 10 second-place finishers.

"That's just how it goes sometimes," said Brueggemann, who came to Arlington off his typically strong Hawthorne spring meet.

If you doubt Brueggemann plays the claiming game astutely, take a look at the Illinois-bred stakes Saturday. Three Brueggemann-trained horses are entered, and all are recent claims.

Ripe Tomato was taken by owner John Carman for $25,000 on March 16, immediately won for a $50,000 tag at Hawthorne, and came within a neck of winning the May 24 prep for Saturday's Isaac Murphy Handicap. A blazing half-mile work on June 14 suggests Ripe Tomato retains her edge.

And in the White Oak, Brueggemann has two entrants for the Scarlet Stable of Chicagoans Chris and Rose Barney: Mighty Rule, who won the White Oak in 2008, was claimed May 23 for a $50,000 tag, while Big Rushlet was snapped up for $25,000 on April 24 at Hawthorne and won an open second-level allowance race here May 30 in fine fashion.

Brueggemann said he still doesn't know Mighty Rule all that well and isn't sure what to expect, but Big Rushlet has rubbed Brueggemann the right way.

"I really like him," he said.

While Brueggemann could use more luck turning some of those seconds into firsts, he is fortunate to have owners like the Barneys, who continue to claim even in a difficult economic climate.

"Chris, he doesn't mind spending," Brueggemann said. "If he sees something he likes, he'll take it. And, he puts everything he makes back into it."

But even if things go down favorably for Brueggemann on Saturday, he'll have one eye on the calendar, waiting for October and a return to the other Chicago track, where his stable has done its best work.

"Hopefully, we can do well enough to make it to the fall at Hawthorne," Brueggemann said.

No luck for Elle Tish Slew

What did Elle Tish Slew do to peeve the racing gods? Badly boxed in when a close fourth in a second-level turf allowance race here May 23, Elle Tish Slew drew difficult post 10 for the featured 10th race Friday at Arlington, another second-level turf allowance, this one carded at about one mile. At that distance, the run to the first turn is fairly short, making a wide draw all the worse.

But Elle Tish Slew might not even get to race on grass - not if a wet weather forecast holds late this week. If the race is moved to Polytrack, keep an eye on Kimbo, who climbs the class ladder after an entry-level allowance win on the Arlington main track last month.