Team Block’s Fort Prado grabbed all the headlines at this year’s Prairie State Festival when the 6-year-old gelding became the first horse to be a four-time Festival winner by capturing the $84,150 Black Tie Affair Handicap for the third straight year.
Eusebio Razo Jr. was astride the Chris Block-trained son of El Prado who had previously taken the Springfield Stakes during the 2004 Prairie State Festival.
This year’s win was anything but easy. Fort Prado had to chase down the lone-speed pacesetter Tenpointfive to gain the nose victory in the final stride of the 1 1/16-mile turf race, which was clocked in 1:42.69.
“I was worried about Tenpointfive,” Block said. “He was the lone speed and any time they get on an easy lead like that, they are hard to run down. Eddie did an outstanding job, cutting the corner and saving ground around the far turn. He gave him every chance to get up there in the final strides. This horse has never let us down. He’s one of the best we’ve ever had and we’re real proud of him.”
Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Fort Prado paid $3.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Tenpointfive returned $2.40 and $2.40. Majestic Zeal finished third and paid $2.40.
S. D. Brilie Ltd. Partnership’s High Expectations rallied from last to nail Caruso in the final strides to score a repeat victory in the $82,550 White Oak Handicap. Chris Emigh rode the Christine Janks-trained son of Peaks and Valleys who covered the six furlongs over Polytrack in 1:10.84. The 5-year-old gelding also became a three-time Festival winner, having captured the 2005 edition of the Springfield Stakes.
High Expectations, the second choice in the betting, paid $7, $3 and $2.40. Caruso, the 2-1 post time favorite, paid $3.20 and $2.80. Last Gran Standing returned $2.60.
Triple C. Thoroughbreds’ Royal Leah split horses mid-stretch to earn her first stakes win when she captured the $83,950 Lincoln Heritage Handicap by three-quarters of a length under jockey Jesse Campbell. The Mike Stidham-trained daughter of Royal Academy covered the 1 1/16-mile distance over firm turf in 1:44.03.
Royal Leah paid $9, $4.80 and $4. The Brian Williamson-trained entry of Lampoon and Now finished second and third, respectively, and paid $4.20 and $4.80.
The Janks-trained entry of Modadji and Pretty Jenny finished one-two, separated by only a neck, in the $83,750 Isaac Murphy Handicap with James Graham aboard the victress who stopped the timer in 1:10.91 after six furlongs.
Modjadji and Pretty Jenny, the 6-5 favorites, returned $4.40, $3.80 and $2.20. Defending champion Bluesbdancing ran third and paid $2.80.
Richard Rudolph and Michael Vranich’s Magnetic Miss took the lead leaving the chute and drew off to an easy 4 1/4-length victory over Secret Kin in the $84,800 Purple Violet Stakes. Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires rode the “Spanky” Broussard-trained daughter of Artax who got the mile over Polytrack in 1:37.49.
“She fell out of the gate easily and did what she needed to do,” said Fires, who at age 60 is the oldest jockey to win a Prairie State Festival race. “When I asked her she just went on about her business.”
Magnetic Miss paid $7.60, $4.80 and $2.60. Secret Kin returned $4 and $2.40. Lil Cora Tee paid $2.10.
Nick Mamatas and John Kerber’s Gentleman Chester, making his first start in his state of birth, burst through from between horses to win the $88,300 Springfield Stakes with Rene Douglas in the saddle by 3 1/4 lengths over Wayoff. The Chester House 3-year-old is trained by Ralph Nicks and covered the mile over Polytrack in 1:37.63.
Gentleman Chester, the even-money choice, paid $4, $3 and $2.20. Wayoff returned $27.80 and $12.20. Stonehouse finished third and paid $3.60