01/28/2010 12:00AM

Block mare looks for luck

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Category Seven (center) and Never Retreat (right) duel in the Furl Sail.

Since being privately purchased early in 2009 by Team Block, the successful Illinois family partnership, Never Retreat has failed to win a race. Oh, she finished first last time out in the Furl Sail Handicap at Fair Grounds, but that didn't count. In the waning yards that day, Never Retreat drifted out, brushed with Category Seven, and wound up being disqualified from first to second.

On Saturday, Never Retreat will try to make a victory actually stick when she runs back in the Marie Krantz Memorial Handicap, a $60,000 grass stakes, just like the Furl Sail.

While Never Retreat's connections hope for better luck on the track this weekend, they also need to catch a break from the weather. There is rain in the New Orleans forecast late this week, and with the turf course already having absorbed more than its usual measure of water this winter, it would not take a deluge for the Furl Sail to get moved to dirt.

That would be more tough luck for the Never Retreat camp, but good news for Bubbler, who was entered for the main track only by trainer Bret Calhoun. Bubbler won her first three starts - all on dirt, two around two turns - before Calhoun gave her a shot in the Furl Sail. But turf turned out to be a no-go, with Bubbler a distant sixth. On the main track, she would be a prime player Saturday.

On turf, Never Retreat stands a good chance of at least running back to, if not bettering, her Furl Sail showing. A 5-year-old Smart Strike mare, Never Retreat was Grade 1 placed in summer 2008, finishing third behind Music Note and Proud Spell in the Mother Goose Stakes. Moved to turf a few months later, Never Retreat earned a minor stakes win in New York and has displayed consistency since the Blocks bought her. Twice third at Arlington, Never Retreat made a late lead but was run down by Much Obliged in the Nov. 6 Blushing K.D. at Fair Grounds before her Furl Sail disqualification. And while a quick pace helped her late run last time, there appear to be several front-end players at which Never Retreat can aim again Saturday.

And no surprise - her main rival appears once again to be Category Seven, who was moved up to first by the stewards in the Furl Sail. In six Fair Grounds grass starts, Category Seven has never finished worse than third, and she looks about as likely as Never Retreat to reproduce her solid form.