12/14/2006 12:00AM

Mystery Giver returns to New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS - Local hero Mystery Giver returns to the scene of some of his greatest triumphs in Saturday's feature race at Fair Grounds, the inaugural running of the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Mystery Giver is one of the most accomplished grass runners in Fair Grounds history, a winner of more than $1 million on the turf. A gelded 8-year-old son of Dynaformer, he won the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup three years in a row, from 2002 to 2004, and added a victory in the $500,000 Mervin Muniz Handicap at Fair Grounds in 2004.

Until recently Mystery Giver's chances of making it back to Fair Grounds looked slim. He sustained a tear to the suspensory in his right hind leg in the 2004 Arlington Million and didn't make it back to the races until earlier this year.

Chris Block, who trains Mystery Giver for his family-owned Team Block stable, turns the horse over to trainer Richard Scherer for his Fair Grounds campaigns.

"It's almost two years since I've had him, 18 months or something," said Scherer. "We put him back in the same stall that he had in the three years that he won the Breeders' Cup and the Muniz. He's in the exact same stall, and he seemed to know where he was at. He seems really content."

Purim, who handled Mystery Giver easily earlier this year at Arlington Park, is likely to be well-bet in his first race since missing by a nose in the Opening Verse at Churchill Downs on June 3. A 4-year-old son of Dynaformer, Purim won the Grade 3 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park on the dirt and has been drilling bullet works over the Fair Grounds main track, but his grass form (3-2-0 in 6 starts) looks just as good.

"Purim's a very nice horse," said Scherer. "It's a very strong race. I guess it'll give us a good test to see if Mystery Giver belongs at that level anymore."

Turf specialist Cloudy's Knight, a 6-year-old Lord Avie gelding, should be a serious contender. He has a 7-5-2 record in 21 grass starts, including multiple placings in graded stakes. Devilment, a 4-year-old by Peaks and Valleys, was a stakes winner on dirt before he won at first asking over the grass at Fair Grounds on opening weekend.

Erroneous I D, Dynareign, and Raw Power all have run well over grass. Student Council has never won on turf but has good grass breeding and has rounded into form recently for trainer Neil Howard.