08/06/2005 12:00AM

Fort Prado powerful once again


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Score one for the home team, and call Fort Prado the highest-class Illinois-bred racehorse in training. Winning for the fourth time in as many starts this year, Fort Prado made an early bid to reach contention, then out-gamed Old Deuteronomy in the final furlong to win the Sea O'Erin Breeders' Cup Mile Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths on Saturday at Arlington Park.

Heavily favored Remind never really fired and wound up a distant third in a field reduced to five by the scratches of Gin and Sin and Parker Run. Fort Prado, a striking gray El Prado colt bred by David Block, owned by Team Block, and trained by Chris Block, paid $7.20 to win, and was timed in 1:36.18 over firm turf. Fort Prado isn't Breeders' Cup eligible, so the race's total purse was reduced to $117,000.

It was this time last summer that the Blocks' star turf horse Mystery Giver went down with a serious injury he suffered during the Arlington Million. Fort Prado still was finding his way then, but he started progressing seriously in the fall, and has been flawless so far this year. In his three wins leading into the Sea O'Erin, Fort Prado was covered up on the inside turning for home, using push-button stretch acceleration to blow by his opponents. His trip Saturday was different. Chris Block instructed jockey Eddie Razo to wander off the rail on the backstretch to avoid getting hemmed in.

"I didn't want Remind to blow by us turning into the stretch," Block said.

Razo followed instructions perfectly, guiding Fort Prado off the rail as Gondolieri and Old Deuteronomy dueled through a half-mile in a snappy 46.80 seconds. But this time, Razo had to use Fort Prado's burst of speed turning for home instead of waiting until the stretch. Fort Prado wasn't as visually dazzling as he'd been in previous starts, but he took aim on Old Deuteronomy, passed him in midstretch, and drew away at the finish.