06/22/2009 11:00PM

Fort Prado shows staying power


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It's not like Fort Prado busted the timer, or blew away the competition. But any 8-year-old who can win a stakes race is worthy of note - and on Saturday at Arlington, Fort Prado won the Black Tie Affair Handicap for the fourth time in a 54-start career.

Think about that. This is the era of Win and You're Out. But 2009 marks Fort Prado's seventh season of racing. He has been a pillar in the barn of trainer Chris Block, with form dating to 2003. His first stakes win came in the Springfield Stakes, run at Arlington over mile on dirt, three years before the current Polytrack was installed. And as for Polytrack, Fort Prado finally became a tri-surface winner Saturday with his score in the off-the-turf Black Tie Affair.

A solid Grade 3-type turf-miler at his zenith, Fort Prado won 9 of 13 starts in 2005 and 2006. In 2007, he was reinvented as a grass sprinter. But more recently, he had been losing, and losing a lot. Fort Prado's string had reached 16 in a row dating to the Woodford Stakes in October 2007 before he rallied steadily to win Saturday's Black Tie Affair by a neck over favored Gentleman Chester. That's the same Gentleman Chester who had ended Fort Prado's Black Tie Affair win streak at three last year.

For Block, Saturday's victory had to feel a little like vindication. This being the racetrack, where most everyone talks about most everyone else, there had been chattering about Block and the family partnership, Team Block, that bred and owns Fort Prado pushing on with the aging millionaire as his losses mounted.

"I never paid any attention to that at all," Block said, "but I'm sure there were people saying it. We know the horse, and if he ever indicated a lack of desire, or there was a soundness condition, we'd never put him out there. But if the horse could talk, he'd be saying, 'Put me out there.' That's how he comes across to me in the barn."

Fort Prado's racing days, however, are probably up after this season. Fort Prado is not a gelding, and as a Grade 3-winning son of the successful sire of sires El Prado, Fort Prado has a future stallion career, be it here in Illinois or elsewhere. As for nearer-term racing plans, Block has an eye on the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash in September, but what might come before then is uncertain. The old cliche says to let the horse tell you where and when to run. Fort Prado has been around so long, he might actually speak up for himself.

Acoma possible for Beverly D.

There's a chance the top three finishers from the June 6 Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill Downs all could make their next start at Arlington, but not necessarily in the same race.

If the Mint Julep winner, Acoma, comes to Arlington, it will not be until the Beverly D. here on Aug. 8, trainer David Carroll said Tuesday.

"The Beverly D. is definitely a possibility," Carroll said. "She had basically two months off when she ran at Churchill, and she runs well fresh."

Pure Clan, a strong closing second in the Mint Julep, her 2009 debut, also is being pointed toward the Beverly D., but she will start next in the July 11 Modesty Handicap here, trainer Bob Holthus said Tuesday. Holthus said Pure Clan would be shipped from Churchill a couple of days before the race.

The Mint Julep's third-place finisher, Tizaqueena, who won the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill in May, is based at Arlington, and worked a half-mile on Polytrack in 48 seconds Sunday. Tizaqueena is nominated to the Modesty, but she also is being considered for the July 5 Locust Grove at Churchill, trainer Mike Stidham said.

Abby's Angel looks strong for return

In Thursday's featured eighth race, Stidham will send out Abby's Angel to make her first start since Jan. 11, 2008, when she won an off-the-turf Fair Grounds maiden route by almost 15 lengths.

And from the look of her work pattern, Abby's Angel is ready for her comeback. She has bullet works dating to May 15, and should be difficult to beat if she takes to the Polytrack in the afternoon as well as she seems to have done in the morning.