Closing widest of all from dead last, favored Mystery Giver and jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. gave Team Block a stirring half-length victory in the $150,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Hawthorne Park turf Saturday.
For Marquez, the race puzzle for Mystery Giver on the final turn was whether to take the overland route to victory or wind his way through traffic in the eight-horse field. He chose to circle the field six wide and after clearing away in deep stretch, Mystery Giver had enough in reserve to hold off Al's Dearly Bred. Major Rhythm, who could not hold the lead in the stretch, was third, 1 1/4 length behind the winner. The final time was 1:34 3/5 for the one-mile event contested on a firm course.
Marquez allowed the 5-year-old Dynaformer gelding to tail off behind the field down the backstretch as 50-1 Canaverous staked out the early lead while going :23 4/5 for the opening quarter mile, :47 1/5 for the half and 1:11 1/5 for six furlongs. As Canaverous gave way to Major Rhythm and Desert Dancer in the stretch, Mystery Giver was coming on strongly, quickly picking off the field and prevailing under slight urging. Al's Dearly Bred saved ground while trailing everyone but the winner, splitting foes late to make it close. Major Rhythm could not match the winner after getting to the front.
"That's his style of running," Marquez said. "I was a bit worried about Moonshine Hall and Al's Dearly Bred and I was watching them for most of the way. I saw that Al's Dearly Bred had nowhere to go so I got the jump on him. I think that helped. He really came running once he got clear. I thought the pace would be a lot quicker but it was moderate and fast enough. When I got him outside and asked him, he went. He's a big horse. He needs clear running. It's hard to get him going again if he gets stopped. I would rather go lose a bit of ground, like we did today, than try to get him started again."
Incidentally, Marquez, Jr's father won the Carey in 1984 when Ronbra was victorious .
The Illinois homebred bay Mystery Giver ended his seven-race losing streak for trainer Chris Block and owner Team Block. He improved to 9-6-1- in 26 starts while earning $90,000. He now boasts a career bankroll of $695,510. He was seventh as the favorite in the Carey Memorial last year.
"This win has been a long time coming. He's had a lot of hard luck this year," said Chris Block. "This rider he's got on him and that long stride he's got really gets him going. If he gets a good pace ahead of him he'll always come running. I wanted more pace. The plan was to sit behind the pace and see what opened up. I didn't want him to get fanned too wide but I also didn't want him to get stopped. This rider fits him perfectly."
The 9-5 favorite paid $5.80, $3.40 and $2.60. Al's Dearly Bred returned $4 and $3.20. Major Rhythm's show was $7. The $2 exacta was worth $22.40.
The race lost three entrants early as Generals Sword and Beau Classic were scratched along with Burning Roma, who grabbed a quarter shortly before his flight was to leave.