02/22/2006 12:00AM

Original Spin returns next week - in Florida


STICKNEY, Ill. - One of the best Illinois-breds in training, the 2005 statebred horse of the year, is wintering far from Illinois - but Original Spin's vacation is almost over now.

Original Spin's trainer, Tony Mitchell, said he plans to have about 20 horses here on the Hawthorne grounds by March 10, but Original Spin is heading a different direction. Wednesday, Mitchell was ready to depart from his Aiken, S.C., base for Gulfstream Park, with Original Spin scheduled to follow on Thursday. Unraced since she finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, Original Spin will make her 2006 debut in the Forward Gal Stakes on March 5 at Gulfstream, then ship north to spend the rest of the spring as part of a 10-horse string at Keeneland, Mitchell said.

Original Spin, who won the Arlington-Washington Lassie in her second start, got a break after the Breeders' Cup, but has been progressing steadily at Aiken. Tuesday, she had her fourth published workout of the winter, going what Mitchell termed a "brilliant" six furlongs in company with the older stakes-class mare Julie's Prize. Mitchell said Original Spin was timed in 1:13.40.

"Touch wood, so far everything's been on schedule with her," he said.

Julie's Prize, meanwhile, will be pointed to an Illinois-bred stakes here in April, though Mitchell said she could prep in an open stakes at Tampa Bay. Mitchell also is high on his group of 16 2-year-olds this year, mentioning in particular a half-sister to Julie's Prize by Touch Gold, and a full brother to Original Spin as talented horses likely to be ready for early-season debuts.

"This is the best crop all-around of 2-year-olds that I've had," said Mitchell.

Creative Force may run next month

Trainer Chris Block lit up when told that National Jockey Club racing secretary Gary Duch planned to write prep races for the first open stakes of this meet, which will be run on Illinois Derby Day, April 8. A local Illinois Derby prep carded sometime in mid-March could be the spot to bring back Creative Force, impressive winner of the Jim Edgar Futurity over this track last December.

Creative Force still is in Florida, along with Block's other top horses, but he's headed north sometime next week, and Block had been uncertain exactly what to do with the colt, one of the top Illinois-breds of his generation. Creative Force finished second on turf in his career debut, then won a statebred-restricted maiden race on dirt before capturing the Edgar Futurity by two lengths. Creative Force wintered at the farm of Block's family near Ocala, Fla., and actually raced Feb. 12 at Gulfstream, finishing 10th of 12 in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on turf.

"He wasn't in that one from the start," said Block. "He wasn't focused at all, for whatever reason. We'll get him up here, sharpen him up, and see where we're at."

Team Block, the Block family partnership, owns Creative Force, and their best horse, Fort Prado, will see action this weekend in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup. That also could be the spot in which Mystery Giver makes his first start since the 2004 Arlington Million. Mystery Giver recently was entered in a Tampa allowance race but scratched when the race was moved from turf to dirt, and Block doubts Mystery Giver will get to run this weekend either, believing the Tampa Bay BC will overfill, and Mystery Giver, with no 2005 earnings, will be excluded.

"We're going to have to run him somewhere," Block said. "He needs to get a race into him."

Catalano's stable less than full strength

Wayne Catalano won the 2005 Arlington training title with 69 wins, 38 more than his nearest pursuer, and came back with another title in the fall-winter meet that ended here Jan. 2. But to win the National Jockey Club title this spring will take some real magic, since Catalano will have only about 25 horses for this meet, with the rest of his string still in south Florida.

Even so, Catalano claims he will be active in February and early March. "I've got 18 ready to enter," he said, reached by phone in Florida, "but I don't know if those races are going to go or what."

Tom Tomillo, second to Catalano here last meet, tops the opening day card with five entries, but Tomillo also is split between Chicago and Florida. Catalano predicts "whoever's got the most horses" is likely to top the standings this meet, a prediction that points to either Frank Kirby or Mike Reavis.