10/30/2003 12:00AM

Mystery Giver keeps Block guessing


CHICAGO - Chris Block has done enough talking about Mystery Giver. For Saturday's Grade 3 Robert Carey Memorial Handicap, he is taking a different approach.

"This time, I'm going to let the horse do the talking," said Block, who trains Mystery Giver. "I've talked about him till I'm blue in the face."

The subject of Mystery Giver has come up frequently because the gelding has so often been favored to win stakes races. Six times in his last 10 starts - including last year's Carey, when he finished seventh at 2-1 - Mystery Giver has gone off as the favorite in a stakes, but only once did he win. That victory came in the $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap, which Mystery Giver won by more than three lengths with a powerful stretch run. It was the sort of performance that turns heads, and Mystery Giver seemed set for an excellent 2003 campaign. Instead, he enters the Carey looking for only his second win of the year.

Without question, Mystery Giver is one of the best Illinois-breds to race in years, but he has flashed brilliance that has never been consistently produced. On this, Block, whose family bred and owns Mystery Giver, will elaborate slightly.

"There's no question about it," he said. "He's had a lot of bad luck."

For this race, however, Block is positing no excuses, making no predictions. "He's ready to run, and I'm going to lead him over there and hope he runs a big race," Block said.

There is nothing more to say.

Turn to Lass hits road for acid test

On Thursday night, the trainer Gene Brajczewski was to put the 2-year-old filly Turn to Lass on a horse trailer headed from Hawthorne to Churchill Downs. The trip is a fact-finding mission: how good is Turn to Lass?

Turn to Lass came from nowhere to win her debut at odds of 21-1 on Sept. 20 at Arlington. The race seemed slightly suspect until Turn to Lass returned Oct. 9 at Hawthorne and looked even better, winning a first-level allowance race by more than three lengths. Now, she is headed to Saturday's Pocahontas to see where she fits in the hierarchy of stakes-class Midwest 2-year-old fillies.

"This will give us an idea of what we have," Brajczewski said. "If she does okay, we can take her down to Oaklawn and point for races there."

Brajczewski does not have the stock to make regular forays to out-of-town stakes races, and Turn to Lass didn't figure to break the mold. Last spring, reports from Turn to Lass's handlers in Florida pegged her as "a nice, useful little horse who wasn't anything special," Brajczewski said. "She's grown so much since I've had her. She's 16 hands now, a beautiful filly. She's a sweet horse to train. She'd eat 24 hours a day if you let her. She loves everything about what she's doing."

Nicole's Dream is fine despite clunker

Nicole's Dream, eighth as the 5-2 favorite in the $75,000 Clark County Stakes at Keeneland, breezed three furlongs in 37 seconds Thursday over a dull main track at Hawthorne. Despite her poor showing at Keeneland, Nicole's Dream came out of the race in good condition and is likely to start here in an overnight stakes race on Nov. 9.

"I guess she didn't like the deeper turf course at Keeneland," said trainer Larry Rivelli. "[Jockey E.T. Baird] said he knew 100 yards into the race he wasn't going to get anything."