07/26/2007 11:00PM

Ole Faunty has done it all - except race on Poly


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The feature comes early on Sunday's Arlington Park card, with six horses entered in race 1, a third-level allowance also open to $50,000 claimers, and carded for 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack. And, the racing surface looks like a key component in any analysis of the race.

That's because Ole Faunty, who well may be favored to win the Sunday feature, never has raced on an all-weather track. On turf, Ole Faunty has won twice; on dirt, six times. And in his most recent start, a June 17 grass race one class level above Sunday's, Ole Faunty led every step but the one that counted, nailed on the wire by a less-than-obvious horse named Mining for Silver. An 8-year-old trained by Shannon Ritter, Ole Faunty has ground out nearly a half-million in career earnings, and still is racing at a high class level for a horse his age. But he may be slipping. Ole Faunty didn't race between a win last July at Churchill Downs and a seventh-place finish this past April at Keeneland. Combine that with the running-surface question, and a bettor might be inclined to look elsewhere.

Only two horses in the race have won on a synthetic surface, and one of them, Prophet John, is starting to look like a Polytrack specialist. His career was going about nowhere earlier this year, which is why Prophet John was offered up for a $16,000 claiming price at the Keeneland meet. Claimed out of an easy win that day, he won again opening week at Arlington for trainer Murray Johnson, and on June 23, making his first start for trainer Pat Mitchell, he won a second-level allowance race by more than two lengths, running his Polytrack record to 3 for 3.

Temporary Saint also has amassed three Polytrack wins, but it has taken him 10 tries to get them, and those victories have come at Turfway, where the Polytrack is somewhat different than the surface at Arlington and Keeneland.

Also worth considering is Tally Up, who was beaten a mile by graded-stakes-class Lewis Michael last out, but seems set for an improved effort in his third race after a layoff for trainer Brian Williamson.

Mystery Giver, 9, retired

Mystery Giver, one of the best Illinois-breds in memory, has been retired at age 9 by his owners, Team Block.

"The horse has done so much for us," said trainer Chris Block, whose family bred and owns Mystery Giver, a gelding. "We want to retire him and give him some time off, and perhaps make him a stable pony."

Mystery Giver will go to the Blocks' farm near Ocala, Fla., where he'll get some rest, followed by instruction in the job of working as a pony.

Mystery Giver won 13 races, all on turf, and earned more than $1.2 million. He won three straight editions of the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap, and in 2004, followed up with a win in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz, one of the top turf races during the first half of the U.S. racing season.

But later that year, Mystery Giver suffered a serious tendon injury during the Arlington Million. He eventually made it back to the races after more than a year and a half, but was unable to regain top form, though he did score two victories in this last phase of his career.

"There's a long list of horses that are favorites of all time, and this guy has to rank at the top, that's for sure," Block said.

* On Thursday, however, Block sent out a horse one year older than Mystery Giver to win a race at Arlington. That was the Dick Duchossois-owned Apt to Be, who at age 10 dominated a field of $25,000 claimers in race 4, going one mile on Polytrack in a fast 1:34.87 while posting a 2 1/4-length victory.