01/11/2007 12:00AM

Block pair know how to win


NEW ORLEANS - The Block family, among the leading owners in Illinois, has a formidable entry handled by two different trainers for Saturday's turf route for older horses at Fair Grounds, the Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap. Jeff Trosclair trains multiple graded stakes winner Fort Prado and Richard Scherer saddles the resurgent Mystery Giver, a hero of past Fair Grounds campaigns.

Though the day's main events are the Lecomte and Tiffany Lass, which are for 3-year-olds, the Bradley leads off an impressive trio of $100,000 stakes races on the undercard.

Fort Prado finished second in the last running of the Bradley - in December 2005 when the race was held at Louisiana Downs - before reeling off four straight stakes wins: the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup, Tampa Bay BC, John Connally BC at Sam Houston, and the Sea O'Erin BC at Arlington.

"He's as good or better than he was then," said Trosclair. "He's been off [since Sept. 30] but he's doing nicely. He's ready to run a good race."

Few horses love the Fair Grounds turf as much as Mystery Giver, who won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup three years in a row from 2002-04 and the $500,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds in 2004.

The Bradley drew 14 starters, in part because so many grass races have been lost to rain this meet. All of them are candidates for the March 10 Muniz.

Purim ran sixth as the favorite in the Diliberto Memorial last month, but that was his first race since June and he should improve off that effort. Raw Power and Cloudy's Knight, second and third in the Diliberto, also both return here. Arbuckle Bandit and Storm Treasure were separated by a head when first and second in the $169,000 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs in their last start.

Costa Rising, a brilliant Louisiana-bred, finished sixth behind Arbuckle Bandit after setting the pace in the Commonwealth. He rebounded with a pair of victories over statebreds, including the $150,000 Louisiana Classic on Champions Day. Desert Wheat is another Louisiana-bred coming off a Champions Day victory, in the $100,000 Louisiana Turf.

Clock Stopper tries to turn back time

Clock Stopper, part of a Dallas Stewart-trained entry in Saturday's six-furlong Colonel Power, is making only his second start after being sidelined 17 months with a bowed tendon.

"He's fully recovered," Stewart said of the 7-year-old earner of close to $800,000.

A return to his past form, which includes a win in the Grade 2 Commonwealth BC at Keeneland, and graded stakes placings at such tracks as Saratoga, Pimlico, Calder, Turfway, and Keeneland, would put him right in the middle of this. Stablemate Storm Surge disappointed in his return, finishing last in the off-the-turf Bonapaw, but has run well here in the past.

Private Vow is another horse looking to revisit past success in the Colonel Power. The winner of the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont and the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill as a 2-year-old in 2005, Private Vow was winless as a 3-year-old and now makes his first start as a 4-year-old. His trainer, Scott Blasi, will also send out Santana Strings, who finished second in the Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct last month.

Trainer Tom Amoss has an uncoupled entry in Smalltown Slew and Monkey Hill that also bears watching. Smalltown Slew has finished a fast-closing second four consecutive times, the last two over this track in the Bonapaw and the Thanksgiving Day Handicap. Monkey Hill closed well for fourth in the Bonapaw, his first race since July.

The Louisiana-bred Meteor Impact is razor-sharp right now for hot trainer Connie Tassistro, who is 3-4-1 in 11 starts at the meet. Meteor Impact, 7, won the Louisiana Sprint on Champions Day and comes into this race off a bullet five-furlong work in 58.80 seconds.

Esplanade trio back in Leggio

Follow the Lite, All for Fashion, and Mykindasaint finished one-two-three in the Esplanade Handicap three weeks ago, and they return in the Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial, a turf sprint for older fillies and mares.

They will face some tough grass runners, including Mocha Queen, an earner of $365,583; Smitty's Sunshine, a winner of 3 of 4 turf starts, including the $116,000 Pent Up Kiss Handicap at Churchill Downs; Candy Ball, who has 4 victories and 2 seconds in 6 turf starts, including a stakes win at Lone Star Park; and Bewitching Miss, who has won her last pair on the grass.