06/23/2004 12:00AM

A Cardinal no-show?


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The star of the show is supposed to come in last. But will Mystery Giver even make an appearance during Saturday's Prairie State Festival of Illinois-bred racing?

That will not be made clear until Saturday, according to Chris Block, Mystery Giver's trainer and part of the Team Block family ownership group. Mystery Giver was one of 10 horses entered Thursday in the Cardinal Handicap, one of six Illinois-bred stakes scheduled for Saturday. But entering is one thing, running another, and a final decision on Mystery Giver's participation will have to wait.

Weight, in fact, is a major factor in Block's hesitancy to run. Mystery Giver was assigned 127 pounds for the Cardinal and would spot his rivals between seven and 17 pounds. Mystery Giver carried 124 pounds in the race last season, but finished second and was disqualified to ninth for interference. In three starts this season, Mystery Giver has won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup and the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz, and finished third in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve at Churchill, but Block said he still hoped for a lighter weight.

"I'd have been really pleased if it was a pound or two less," Block said Wednesday. "We're going to watch the weather, we're going to look at the race on form, and we're going to see how he gallops the next two days. We'll probably wait until Saturday morning to make a decision."

Team Block does have a backup for the Cardinal, albeit an old one: Reno Rumble, a 10-year-old with 10 wins over the Arlington grass course, also was entered. Reno Rumble was entered in a turf claimer here Thursday, but rain is forecast, and Block will not start Reno Rumble on dirt. Instead, he could wind up in the Cardinal - with or without Mystery Giver.

Defection leaves Murphy wide open

Tony Mitchell was true to his word.

On Tuesday, Mitchell said Summer Mis, the 2003 Illinois horse of the year, would not be entered in Saturday's Isaac Murphy Handicap. Indeed, 10 were entered in the Isaac Murphy, and Summer Mis, the winner of the race last year, will not defend her title. Mitchell is holding Summer Mis out of the race because he said he feels her weight assignment of 128 pounds is too high.

Do not count Percy Scherbenske among the disappointed. Scherbenske figured he would have more than a little trouble getting past Summer Mis with Synco Peach, the filly he has entered in the Isaac Murphy.

"No, I was not real disappointed when I found out [Summer Mis] wasn't entering," Scherbenske said Wednesday afternoon. "There were rumors she wasn't running, but I only found out about it late this morning.

Synco Peach has gone 3 for 3 in 2004, and in her last start, she successfully made the jump from statebred to open allowance company.

"Without Summer Mis, it kind of leaves the race open," said Scherbenske, who might have the horse to fill the void.

Summer Mis, meanwhile, could make her next start on July 4 in the Saylorville at Prairie Meadows. Julie's Prize, Summer Mis's younger Illinois-bred sister, also is passing on Prairie State Day in favor of an open stakes race.

Wiggins to go in tough sprint

Wiggins, one of the best Illinois-breds in training, has made eight straight starts over a route of ground, but Saturday he shortens up to six furlongs to start in the White Oak Handicap.

"He's pretty good going short, too," said trainer Tony Granitz.

Wiggins is plunging into perhaps the toughest spot on the Prairie State card, but he still might be favored. He finished sixth in the Grade 3 Hanshin here May 29, but had a difficult trip in that race and has won 8 of 14 career starts. Granitz gave Wiggins a half-mile blowout over a muddy track on Tuesday, and Wiggins was timed in a bullet 46.60 seconds.

"That was the best I've ever seen him work," Granitz said.

Other top contenders in the White Oak are Silver Bid, Shandy, and Magic Doe.

Bare Necessities breezes

Bare Necessities, who finished second June 12 in the $400,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill, is back at Arlington, and Wednesday she got back to work, breezing a half-mile in 49.80 seconds. For most of her career, Bare Necessities was based in Southern California with trainer Wally Dollase, but a month before the Fleur de Lis, she was transferred to trainer Frank Kirby.

"She came out of the race perfect," Kirby said Wednesday morning. "She's doing great."

Kirby said there are two spots in which Bare Necessities could next show up: the Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows or the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park.

Johnathan preps out of state

Down in Kentucky, an Illinois-bred has been preparing for his stakes debut.

The meet at Ellis Park in western Kentucky begins in a couple of weeks, but Johnathan and trainer Justin Johns have been there since May. Johns was based this spring at Hawthorne, but he has no stalls at Arlington and has been laying low at Ellis.

Johns and Johnathan are emerging from obscurity for Prairie State Day, on which Johnathan runs in the White Oak Handicap. A lightly raced 4-year-old, Johnathan won three straight races at the Hawthorne meet, and he remains a horse with upside, but even his young trainer isn't sure Johnathan is ready for established stakes horses like Wiggins, Silver Bid, and Shandy.

"There's a lot of back class there, and I don't know if he'll overcome it," Johns said.

Johnathan looked nothing like a runner in the early stages of his career, and he didn't make his debut until late in his 3-year-old season.

"He's a 4-year-old, but he's still like a young horse," Johns said. "I know he'll go up there and try."