08/18/2009 11:00PM

Never Retreat an interesting newcomer


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Familiar filly-and-mare turf-allowance names abound in the featured ninth race on Friday at Arlington Park. Ciao has made graded-stakes forays the last three summers. Illinois-breds Apple Martini and Labar are regulars at this class level.

But it's two newer faces to the circuit that bear watching in a multiple-conditions allowance race also open to $62,500 claimers: Cure for Sale has started twice this Arlington summer, and won three weeks ago, and Never Retreat sees her first action in the heart of the country.

Never Retreat, who raced on both coasts in 2008, was privately purchased as a broodmare/racing prospect this past winter by Team Block, one of the leading owner-breeders in Illinois. A $410,000 yearling by Smart Strike, Never Retreat was withdrawn from Keeneland's bloodstock sale in January, after which the Blocks made a deal for her purchase.

She was given a freshening through the winter, trainer Chris Block said, and started back with light exercise, then short breezes, at the Block farm near Ocala, Fla., before coming into Block's string at Arlington about two months ago. Here, she has turned in six published morning drills in fairly short order, a work pattern at least as promising as Never Retreat's listed-stakes-class form from 2008. Block said in an ideal world, Never Retreat might have come back around Sept. 1, and been nearer peak fitness because of it, but the 4-year-old filly is well enough along in that department.

And something close to Never Retreat's best might suffice Friday. She won her turf debut in the $69,000 River Bend over 10 foes last fall at Aqueduct before finishing sixth and fifth in a pair of graded-stakes tries. With nine starts, and just two on turf, Never Retreat should still have room to grow.

Argentine-bred Cure for Sale, meanwhile, started off in her native land back in 2007, and showed at least moderate talent winning an entry-level turf allowance last fall at Keeneland. In her second start of 2009, she won by a neck over return-rival Ciao late last month.

Ciao nearly ran down Cure for Sale on July 31, and after looking like a longer-distance grass horse through 2008, has settled into a decent groove in shorter races this summer.