Block Ships In Search of More Stakes Success At Churchill Downs

Nov 11, 2010 Gary Yunt

BLOCK HOPES TO SHIP IN FOR ANOTHER CHURCHILL STAKES SCORE – Trainer Chris Block spends most of the year in the Chicago area with an occasional foray to Churchill Downs.

Two such moves have paid off handsomely in 2010, first in the spring when Free Fighter won the Louisville Handicap (Grade III) and then last Sunday when Askbut I Won’ttell invaded to take the Cardinal Handicap (GIII).

On Saturday, Block will try to complete the hat trick when he sends out Lothenbach Stables’ homebred Mister Marti Gras in the seventh running of the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Shaun Bridgmohan will have the mount.

“He arrived last night,” said Block’s assistant Drew Koontz of Mister Marti Gras, who joined three other Block runners here. “He has been running great for us all summer.”

Mister Marti Gras enters the Commonwealth Turf off a runner-up finish to likely Saturday favorite Yankee Fourtune in the Hawthorne Derby (GIII) in his most recent start. Mister Marti Gras won the $200,000 Oliver at Indiana Downs in June and finished second in the American Derby (GII).

“Mr. Block told me last night that he has been training great since they moved from Arlington to Hawthorne,” Koontz said. “He said he is on his game. He said he should run big if he can handle the turf.”

DRYFLY RUNS INTO SPEEDY SNAPSHOT IN RETURN TO THE RACES – Trainer Lynn Whiting thought he had found the perfect comeback spot for Charles Cella’s Dryfly on Wednesday.

'I didn’t want to wait until later in the meet, because if something happened, he would not get to run here,” Whiting said. “Hindsight is 20-20 and I thought I was going the conservative route because I didn’t want to run him in that sprint (last week) off a nine-month layoff.”

Dryfly, an allowance winner here last fall on the opening-day “Stars of Tomorrow I” program for 2-year-olds, won his 3-year-old debut going a mile in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park before suffering a chip in a knee that required surgery after the Southwest (GIII).

On Wednesday, Dryfly pressed a rapid pace and wound up fourth behind Snapshot.

“He shot himself in the foot a little bit yesterday,” Whiting said. “He got involved a little too quick, but (trainer Bill) Mott made a mistake. He should have run him (Snapshot) in the Breeders’ Cup. To run 1:09 yesterday on that track was pretty good. That was a graded stake yesterday.”

Snapshot’s final time of 1:09.04 was one-hundredth of a second faster than it took Big Drama to win the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) on Saturday.

Dryfly will head to Oaklawn Park for the winter with the Jan. 29 King Cotton Stakes a possible 2011 starting off point according to Whiting.

BARN TALK – Trainer Steve Margolis said his two Breeders’ Cup runners, Cash Refund (eighth in the Sprint) and Due Date (sixth in the Turf Sprint), came out of their races fine. “We got a little unlucky with the gray horse (Due Date),” Margolis said of the five-furlong Turf Sprint. “He had to steady a bit and only got beat two noses and head for third. I think he is better at 5 ½ or six furlongs and we are looking at the five and a half on the grass at Fair Grounds (the Bonapaw) on Dec. 18.” Both Cash Refund and Due Date are homebreds owned by Richard, Elaine and Bert Klein …

Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the all-time leading owners in victories at Churchill Downs and currently tied with five other owners for the top spot this fall, stand two victories away from 300. Overbrook Farm is second to the Ramseys with 208 victories.

Reaching a milestone over the weekend was trainer Merrill Scherer, who saddled his 100th Churchill Downs winner when Green Bikini won Sunday’s ninth race.

Three riders are nearing milestones that could be achieved before the end of the week. Robby Albarado, fifth all time at Churchill Downs, has 898 victories here; Shane Sellers, who stands eighth all time, has 724 victories here and three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux, who has ridden here on a limited basis in his career, has 96 victories beneath the Twin Spires.

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