06/22/2003 11:00PM

Stewards mum on 'Mystery' snafu


CHICAGO - The Prairie State Festival of Racing on Saturday at Arlington began well enough for the trainer Chris Block, who won the first of six statebred stakes races with the 3-year-old filly Keeping the Gold.

Supposedly, the best was yet to come for Block, who had the 2002 Illinois Horse of the Year, Mystery Giver, readied for the Cardinal Handicap, which Mystery Giver won last season. But before Mystery Giver got to the racetrack, his day began falling apart.

Not only was Mystery Giver beaten by Act of War, he was disqualified from second to ninth for interference before the first turn. Even beyond the interference, Block said he felt jockey Rene Douglas rode Mystery Giver poorly, and in a strange turn of events before the race, Mystery Giver was called back to the paddock to have weight taken out of his saddle, an incident under investigation by Arlington stewards.

"It was an absolute disaster," Block said.

As Mystery Giver walked through a tunnel leading from Arlington's paddock to the racetrack, he was called back instead of continuing on to the post parade. Arlington racing officials had discovered Mystery Giver and Douglas were carrying 128 pounds, four more than had been assigned. Back in the paddock, Mystery Giver was unsaddled while the weight was adjusted, then sent back out to the racetrack.

"The weight situation alone didn't get him beat, but with the way he is, it sure didn't help," Block said.

Arlington stewards won't discuss details of their investigation, but plan to issue a ruling late Wednesday or Thursday. The investigation reportedly has uncovered what mistake was made, but not why.

Already unsettled by the prerace disruption, Block looked on despairingly strides into the race. "There was no question in my mind that from the start of the race to the first turn, the race was taken away from him," Block said. "Once you ride him out of the gate and get him into the bridle, he'll never come off it. Give credit to Act of War, though. He ran a powerful race and was going to be tough to beat."

Mystery Giver will return to fight another day. His next start, Block said, is scheduled for July 26 in the Arlington Handicap.

After running the best race of her career, Keeping the Gold will get a brief freshening before Block picks out her next target.

Promising colt euthanized

Strong performances abounded on the Prairie State card, but were tempered by sadness. Cart Dancer, a promising 4-year-old colt, shattered his ankle in the stretch run of the White Oak and had to be euthanized on the racetrack.

Trained by Pat Mitchell, Cart Dancer had easily won the first two starts of his career, and Mitchell had looked forward for weeks to running him in the White Oak.

"I really thought he had a good chance of winning it," Mitchell said Monday.

Mitchell trains a small string on the Chicago circuit, and Cart Dancer was the best horse he had gotten in years. Mitchell had worked the better part of two seasons just getting Cart Dancer to the races, and his patient approach appeared to be working.

"This is the hardest, hardest part about this business," he said. "It's a part of the business I hope I never have to live again. When I got out there on the track - you live and work with them every day, and then something like this happens. It'll be tough to replace him, but we'll have to try."

Wiggins learns how to rate

Only unbridled exuberance was coming from the camp of the 3-year-old Wiggins after he put together a career-best race to win the Springfield Stakes. Last year's Illinois 2-year-old champion, Wiggins had lost his prep for the one-mile Springfield, but revealed a newer, more relaxed running style on his way to a five-length victory, his first beyond a sprint distance.

"We tried to get him to rate the last time, but he was a little too fresh," trainer Tony Granitz said. "I think this surprised a lot of people, but I knew he was a good horse when we bought him last year."

Granitz said Wiggins "came out of the race super," but he has no plans for the colt's next start. "There aren't many 3-year-old races around for him right now," Granitz said.

Wiggins will be nominated to the Round Table Stakes here, but also could run in a fourth-level allowance race.

My Extolled Honor looks tough moving up

Time after time the last two racing weeks, horses who raced on a dead rail here during the latter part of May returned to outrun their odds. Often these horses had put in a poor performance trying to buck the track bias. My Extolled Honor ran so well that he overcame it.

My Extolled Honor and jockey Eddie Razo rallied along the rail on the way to a win in an $80,000 optional claiming race here May 23. Trainer Leo Gabriel first cringed when he saw Razo make a move on the inside. Then he cheered, as My Extolled Honor overcame a slow pace to win by a half-length.

My Extolled Honor returns Wednesday in Arlington's featured eighth race. The inside bias has long vanished, and Razo can let My Extolled Honor unleash his closing kick on any part of the racetrack as he faces six opponents. My Extolled Honor moves up from an $80,000 claiming tag to a $100,000 claimer while turning back to a 5 1/2-furlong sprint, but neither change should get him beat.

On the contrary, My Extolled Honor may be ever more effective as a one-run sprinter, provided he has ample pace at which to run. And with Fine Stormy, Gold Taker, and Bet on Joe all entered here, the pace should at least be honest.

* Rene Douglas appealed a three-day suspension handed to him Sunday for his ride on Mystery Giver. A stay of the suspension allows him to continue riding this week.

* On tap this weekend are a pair of Grade 3 stakes; Saturday's Arlington Classic, for 3-year-old turf horses, and Sunday's Hanshin, for older horses at a mile on dirt.