06/20/2001 11:00PM

Prairie State Festival to be just another Block party?


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The three horses trainer Chris Block saddled in last year's Prairie State Festival finished first, first, and second. All three, plus a new shooter, are back this year, which means Block could have another big day at Arlington on Saturday.

Besides Reno Rumble, runner-up in last year's Cardinal Handicap, Block also has Davey's Cutlass for the White Oak and Ioya Two for the Lincoln Heritage, both defending champions, and the 3-year-old filly Surprise Me Again in the Purple Violet.

Davey's Cutlass, a 5-year-old Rubiano horse owned by Imagine Stables, won three straight races here last summer, including an exciting score in the White Oak, then finished sixth in an open handicap in August and went to the sidelines with bone chips in both knees. Surgery to remove the chips was successful, and Davey's Cutlass spent the winter training in Florida, returning to Block this spring.

"He came to me in great shape," Block said. "He's filled out quite a bit since last year. For the most part, for a horse that's run as many times as he has, he's in great shape."

Before his three-race win streak, Davey's Cutlass, a one-run closer in sprints, had developed a case of seconditis. But the horse showed no sign of that affliction here last summer. "He's as focused as can be in his training," Block said. "I'd have loved to have given him a prep, but as long as speed's not holding real well, he should be okay."

Davey's Cutlass, who will be ridden by Eddie Razo, faces nine rivals and must beat Classic Appeal to win the six-furlong White Oak. Like Davey's Cutlass, Classic Appeal, a 4-year-old owned by Asiel Stable and trained by Richard Hazelton, has proved himself capable of competing at a high level in open company. Last season, he finished second in two open sprint stakes for 3-year-olds, the Bet Twice at this track and the Perryville at Keeneland.

Classic Appeal, who would love a muddy track, comes out of a fine try here opening day in an overnight handicap, finishing third to the good sprinters Robin de Nest and My Halo.

Lincoln Heritage: Ioya Two is fresh

Ioya Two hasn't raced since March, when she finished sixth in a tough edition of the Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but is fresh and capable of repeating in the Lincoln Heritage. A 6-year-old Lord at War mare owned by Team Block, Ioya Two may be approaching the twilight of a successful if abbreviated career that has seen her win seven of 22 starts.

Ioya Two loves the Arlington turf course - she won two stakes here last summer - and has trained sharply here this month, including a major six-furlong work June 13 in 1:12.40. Mark Guidry picks up the mount on Ioya Two.

Erin Murphy has been pointed to this race and other Illinois-bred stakes, and was sent north from Florida, where she was trained by Eddie Plesa, to trainer Tom Amoss this spring for the purpose of summering at Arlington. Erin Murphy has placed in two stakes and has never raced in Illinois-bred company, and will be dangerous if she shows her best. The mare may strictly have been prepping for this start when she finished an even fourth June 4 in a Hawthorne allowance race.

"She was very sharp when she worked on turf Wednesday," said Chris Richard, Amoss's Arlington assistant. "She probably needed her last race."

Springfield: It's Lil Mephistopheles

The Springfield Stakes for 3-year-olds lost its likely favorite when Meadow Champ was declared from the race with a leg injury this week.

Meadow Champ's absence could leave Lil Mephistopheles as the favorite in a seven-horse field. Lil Mephistopheles won the $100,000 Jim Edgar Futurity at Hawthorne last December the race after he had finished second in an open 3-year-old stakes race, which makes the colt the most accomplished horse in this race. Trained by Roger Brueggemann, Lil Mephisopheles had a useful turf allowance prep at Hawthorne on May 19, and the colt should run well at this mile distance.

Act of War or Freeway Ticket could pull a slight upset.

Purple Violet: Shemya's the one

Shemya is the horse to beat in the Purple Violet, a one-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. Shemya ran poorly in her last two starts, but trainer Gene Cilio said the Valiant Nature filly was suffering from upper-respiratory infections in both starts. In March, Shemya won the $75,000 Violet Stakes at Sportsman's by three lengths, though Saturday's race will be her first start beyond a sprint distance.

Ballado's Baby and the undefeated East Featherbed should not be overlooked here.

Murphy: Come September repeat?

Come September just beat Capitol View at Hawthorne, but Capitol View won the Isaac Murphy Stakes last year and can repeat this season for owner John Conforti and trainer Ron Goodridge.

Goodridge said Capitol View was purchased as a yearling as part of a package deal with another horse. The 6-year-old mare, by Sports View, cost only $5,500 and has gone to win nearly $350,000 in her career.