04/22/2005 12:00AM

Hazelton is now healthy and hot

Benoit & Associates
Trainer Chris Block says he believes Fort Prado's future lies on turf.

STICKNEY, Ill. - During more than four decades training racehorses and dabbling in other peripheral pursuits, Richard Hazelton has seen plenty, much of it from horseback, most of the rest from a standing position. But over the winter, Hazelton was flat on his back, laid out by a serious spinal problem and wondering if and when he was coming back from this one.

At his lowest point, Hazelton couldn't so much as lift his arms. But on Friday, walking across the Hawthorne track apron, Hazelton thrust them over his head - a minor triumph. And, back on his stable pony at about dawn each morning, Hazelton is having his best meet in several seasons. Through last week's racing at Hawthorne, Hazelton had won with 11 of 50 starters - 25 of his runners have finished third or better - and was tied for fifth in the trainer standings here.

Sunday, in the Hawthorne feature, Hazelton sends out one of those winners, I Love Lisa, a 6-year-old mare who won an April 5 sprint here by a neck. That day, I Love Lisa ran under third-level allowance conditions; Sunday, she comes back at the same class level, this time in for the optional $35,000 claiming price. Don't say Hazelton has lost his edge yet.

I Love Lisa has just five opponents in race 8 on a 10-race card that includes Chicago's first 2-year-old race of the season, the fourth. Hazelton's longtime go-to rider, Carlos Silva, will break I Love Lisa from the outside post, which should pose few problems since the mare won last time from post 9. With a bit of speed drawn to her inside, I Love Lisa figures to get the same sort of favorable pace-pressing trip that led to a win last time. And as she did last time, I Love Lisa will have to hold clear Getcozywithkaylee, who actually held the lead in midstretch of the April 5 race before giving way in the final yards.

Fort Prado awaits spot on turf

Fort Prado enters this season as one of the more promising Illinois-bred 4-year-olds in training, but the horse will not be making his 2005 debut here next weekend in an Illinois-bred stakes race. There are six of them scheduled, but none of the stakes races is on grass, and that is where trainer Chris Block thinks Fort Prado's future lies.

Fort Prado won the $88,000 Springfield Stakes on the Arlington main track last summer, but that was a one-turn race, and Block still isn't sure where Fort Prado fits as a two-turn dirt horse.

"I think he's teetering on a big year this year, and I didn't want to start it off wrong," Block said.

Fort Prado has worked four times in recent weeks, including a bullet six-furlong breeze April 18, and Block will hunt for a third-level turf allowance in which to bring the horse back. Fort Prado is likely to wind up in the Cardinal Handicap, an Illinois-bred turf race in June at Arlington.

Also absent from Illinois Day will be Keeping the Gold, who Block and his family, the racing partnership Team Block, recently retired after a winter campaign at Fair Grounds. Graded-stakes-placed Keeping the Gold, who was briefly retired last winter, has been bred to Smart Strike.

Wiggins runs without a prep

Wiggins is all set for Saturday's Milwaukee Avenue Handicap, though he will enter the Illinois-bred route stakes without the benefit of a prep race, which trainer Tony Granitz hoped to find. Instead, Wiggins had a major seven-furlong work here April 9, breezing in company with the stakes-class filly Code of Ethics, who runs Sunday in a Keeneland allowance race.

"That was a good work for both of them," Granitz said.

Cloudy's Knight targets turf race

Cloudy's Knight, who wound up his 2004 campaign with a close second in the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs, is nearing his first start of the season, trainer Frank Kirby said. Cloudy's Knight has worked six times, and has been penciled in for an overnight turf stakes here May 6.

"He just trains so-so on the dirt," Kirby said. "If the track stays good, I'll try to get a work into him on turf."