10/28/2009 12:00AM

One last start for Fort Prado


STICKNEY, Ill. - Six $100,000 Illinois-bred stakes on Saturday were drawn Wednesday, with plenty of familiar names on the overnight - none more so than Fort Prado. But if all goes according to plan, this will be the final time that Fort Prado's name shows up in the entries.

Eight-year-old Fort Prado is scheduled to make his 59th and last start on Saturday. He was cross-entered in the Buck's Boy, a dirt route, and the Lightning Jet, a dirt sprint, but is much more likely to run in the short race, trainer Chris Block said.

And then it will be off to life as a stallion, a seismic change for Fort Prado, who has been on the racetrack since the summer of 2003. An Illinois-bred by El Prado, bred and owned by Team Block, Fort Prado can count victories on turf, dirt, and synthetic, racing long and short, and in graded stakes competition among his 18 wins. He has earned more than $1.2 million - and definitely learned the ropes at the track. Cooling out in Block's barn after Wednesday morning's exercise, Fort Prado saw Block's assistant step into a tack room alongside the shed row. Next time past, Fort Prado stopped by the door, craned his neck, and refused to budge: He knew someone had peppermints, and intended to get his before continuing on.

"He looks as good as he's ever looked," said Block. "You really hate to lose a horse like that out of the barn. It's great having a horse like that. But if you're going to stand him as a stallion, people have been making inquiries about that, and now's the time to try."

Several solid possibilities

The Lightning Jet looks like the deepest of the Illinois-bred stakes, with a field of 11 entered. Besides Fort Prado, Block plans to start ultra-quick Shrewd Operator, with River Bear, Mighty Rule, High Expectations, and Big Rushlet all capable of winning.

The first two stakes in the sequence, the Powerless for older female sprinters, and the Illini Princess for older female route horses, both drew short fields, with six entered in the former (including defending champ Nicks), and seven in the latter.

The Bucks Boy, for older male routers, should have its 2008 winner, Stonehouse, as a solid favorite.