07/04/2007 11:00PM

Fort Prado has festival's number


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - There may be a year when Fort Prado fails to win a race on the Prairie State Festival card - but if form holds, it will not be this year.

Fort Prado has won a race in the Prairie State Festival, a six-stakes card of Illinois-bred racing, the last three years, though it is hard to believe that he captured the 2004 Springfield Stakes at odds of 13-1. Fort Prado was even money winning the Black Tie Affair in 2005, and 2-5 when he won the race again last year.

A similarly short price looms again Saturday, when Fort Prado could have as many as eight or as few as four rivals in the Black Tie Affair, a 1 1/16-mile grass race with a purse - like all the other stakes - of around $75,000. Three horses - Rey Del Sol, Cavu, and Tenpointfive - were entered in a second-level turf allowance on Friday, and a fourth, Big Glori, was cross-entered in the White Oak on Saturday.

A few things could stand in the way of another win for Fort Prado, a Team Block homebred trained by Chris Block. First is weight. Fort Prado carries 125 pounds, at least nine pounds more than any rival Saturday.

"I'm a little concerned about the weight difference, but the spread's that way for a reason," Block said.

In another scenario, Tenpointfive - capable of really big races on occasion - steals off to a clear early lead, sets a slow pace, and has too much left to be caught. But even in that version of events, Fort Prado may be good enough to run him down. While he won the Black Tie Affair by a scant neck last season, Fort Prado "was coming back from a little bit of a layoff last time," Block said.

This year, Fort Prado has two starts at the meet - a win in the Illinois Owners Stakes on opening day, and a fourth in the May 25 Hanshin Cup, a race in which Fort Prado had no chance to close from the back of the field on a speed-biased Polytrack.

In fact, the Black Tie Affair could come down to a Block-over-Block exacta, since Creative Force has a chance to get a slice of the pie. Creative Force, another Block homebred, has yet to follow through on the turf talent he showed last year, but is a better horse than his recent running lines might suggest.

"We'll put some blinkers on him and try to wake him up a little bit," Block said. "He's flashed ability at times to be in a race like this."