06/18/2010 11:00PM

Blocks win one, lose one at Prairie Festival


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - About $600,000 in Illinois-bred stakes purses were up for grabs during the Prairie State Festival on Saturday at Arlington Park.

Consider that wealth thoroughly spread.

The six stakes produced six winners for six different trainers, owners, and jockeys. Several of the performances were solid, but there was not a standout effort in the bunch.

For trainer Chris Block, and his family's ownership partnership, Team Block, the $92,250 White Oak Handicap at least eased disappointment in a couple different ways. In Saturday's first stakes, the Black Tie Affair, Team Block's 6-5 favorite, Free Fighter, got shuffled back on the far turn, losing all chance in the process and winding up sixth. Team Block had 7-5 chance Shrewd Operator for the White Oak, but Shrewd Operator had been heavily favored in Illinois-bred sprint stakes at Hawthorne in April and October, too, and made no final impact in either race after breaking badly both times.

Shrewd Operator's start was not flawless Saturday, either, but he was away decently enough to shoot up the fence and take a clear early lead, racing through a shockingly slow opening quarter-mile of 23.07 seconds.

"I saw 23 and I said 'Whoa!' " Block said. "He's never seen that in his life."

There was no catching Shrewd Operator ($4.80) after that pace; he kicked home nicely, and easily held clear closing Wildeydsouthernboy, running six furlongs on Polytrack in 1:10.42 while scoring by 2 1/2 lengths. Mighty Rule finished third.

While Free Fighter found traffic in the $89,350 Black Tie Affair, My Sonny Boy ($25.20) rallied wide under Tim Thornton, winning a head bob with Princeville Condo to score by a nose. Gentleman Chester - who broke down after the finish - finished third. Trained by Scott Becker for owner Bill Stiritz, My Sonny Boy was timed in 1:45.24 for 1 1/16 miles over a tiring turf course rated yielding.

The winner of the older female turf race, Cumulonimble, might be as good as the boys. Jockey Mike Baze had to use Cumulonimble out of the gate after breaking from post 11, but the filly was able to get good position into the first turn of the $96,305 Lincoln Heritage. Cumulonimble ($4.80) pushed past pacesetting Pretty Slick Chick before hitting the homestretch, and held off a decent rally from Peyote Patty to win by three-quarters of a length, with Apple Martini third. Winning time here was 1:45.33.

Springfield: Big Looie gives Janks a winner

An Illinois-bred stakes day would not be complete without a Christine Janks-trained winner, and Big Looie obliged in the $89,900 Springfield Stakes. Big Looie ($6) tracked the hot pace of Royal Express, who set splits of 22.70 seconds for his opening quarter-mile and 45.17 for the half, and inherited the lead when the pacesetter tired. No late runners showed up on the scene, and Big Looie won by 2 1/4 lengths over 34-1 shot Lansing Blue. The winner was timed in 1:37.82 for one mile on Polytrack, and was ridden by Chris Emigh for The S.D. Brilie Ltd. Partnership.

Isaac Murphy: Stidham's claim pays off

Trainer Mike Stidham became owner Mike Stidham when he claimed Secret Kin for $62,000 on May 30. The 6-year-old mare generated quick returns when she earned the $51,158 winner's share of an $87,900 purse in the Isaac Murphy Stakes.

Rallying wide under Jesus Castanon, Secret Kin ($11.40) collared pace-setting Kip Berries in the final furlong, and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths, running six furlongs in 1:11.32. Kip Berries held second over late-running Ripe Tomato.

Purple Violet: Heavenly Lass comes running

A fast early pace set up the $93,850 Purple Violet Stakes for late-running Heavenly Lass ($24.60), who beat game Sweet Lemon Chello by 1 1/2 lengths. The winner was ridden to victory by Brandon Meier, and is trained by Rusty Hellman for the Asiel Stable.