12/08/2011 4:46PM

Hawthorne: Yankee Dealer heads Block trio

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STICKNEY, Ill. – One former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, made news this week when he was sentenced to a prison term of 14 years. Another, Jim Edgar, has kept a mercifully lower profile, but this is the time of year when Edgar’s long association with Illinois Thoroughbred racing gets acknowledged in the $100,000 Jim Edgar Futurity at Hawthorne.

And trainer Chris Block is doing plenty of honoring. Block trains three of the nine entrants in the Edgar, and Yankee Dealer looks like the one to beat in the 1 1/16-mile race.

All three of the Block-trained entrants – Real Power and Strongest Link are the others – were bred and are owned by Rudy and Virginia Tarra of Giant Oak fame. Strongest Link has only a Polytrack sprint maiden win to his credit, while Real Power remains a maiden after five starts. But Yankee Dealer won an open two-turn maiden race over talented All Stormy on Oct. 20 at Hawthorne, and came back a month later to wear down Edgar rival Bling King in a two-turn, Illinois-bred entry-level allowance race.

Both Real Power, who was second to All Stormy in a two-turn maiden race last out, and Yankee Dealer are proven on Hawthorne routes, which is a major plus.

“They’ve got the experience you need around two turns in a race like this,” Block said.

Yankee Dealer also has tactical speed working in his favor. He figures to sit a favorable trip in the first flight behind the early leaders on Saturday, and his steady, grinding run has so far proven effective in two-turn dirt races.

Trainer Jim DiVito sends out Bling King and Twelve Hundred, both of whom possess early speed. Blink King led Nov. 18 in his two-turn debut from the start until the final half-furlong, when Real Power wore him down, but Twelve Hundred appears to be the quicker of the DiVitos. A fading third after rushing into a hot pace in the Sun Power Stakes here in October, Twelve Hundred did win the Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile in August, a two-turn dirt race, though a route race at Prairie Meadows does not demand as much stamina as a route at Hawthorne.

Prince Cheval appears at least moderately talented, but he has yet to make a two-turn start. Trainer Mike Reavis also has two entrants, front-running Shellys Wild and closer Here Comes Mario, but neither appears to have ability comparable to the Block or DiVito horses.