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Weekend Stakes highlights.

Off-the-pace type runners appeared to hold an advantage on Saturday's Arlington card where five of the six stakes races restricted to Illinois-bred runners were won by horses that were allowed to rate early. The most popular winner of the day was the game eight-year-old Fort Prado who registered his 17th career victory in the off-the-turf Black Tie Affair H. Trained throughout his career by Chris Block, the gray entire was winning for the first time on a synthetic surface from five tries. After rating wide throughout, Fort Prado took the lead late in the stretch and held off the late charge of the odds-on favorite, Gentleman Chester.

Fort Prado completed a stakes double for the Block barn who had earlier won the Lincoln Heritage H., which had also been transferred from the turf to the Polytrack, with Apple Martini. A son of Giant's Causeway, Apple Martini is a full-sister to recent Arlington Classic winner Giant Oak. Well off the pace early the chestnut filly, whose best previous performance had been a third place finish in the Arlington Park Oaks (G3) here last year, came with a furious inside run to win by a nose.

River Bear pulled off a 25-1 upset in winning the White Oak H. over six furlongs. Taking a step up in class off winning a decent claimer here, River Bear split horses at the top of the stretch and rallied to garner a neck victory.

Fernando Jara has recently returned to riding in North America and he has quickly made his presence felt by winning the Springfield S on Ocean Ace. Close to the pace throughout, Ocean Ace took the lead at the top of the stretch and ran on to win by one and a half lengths for longtime Illinois owner/breeders Nancy and Harvey Vanier.

The first stakes race at Arlington, the Isaac Murphy H.,  was won by Nicks, trained by Christine Janks who narrowly missed a double when her filly Pathway was touched off by the Tom Dorris trained Bow tie Pasta in the Purple Violet S. one race later.

Runners trained by David Fawkes have been in find form at Calder with the barn winning at a 43 percent rate. The success continued when the stable sent out Possetothemax to victory in the Reappeal S. over five furlongs on the turf. The four-year-old son of Posse chased the fast pace set by Midnight Ridge before being fully extended to hold off the late charge of Lettie's Relic.

Stakes action continued on the grass at Calder on Sunday in the Donthelumbertrader S. over seven and a half furlongs. The Martin Wolfson-trained Misty Oak was most recently third in the Lord Juban S. behind Grand Cash and Cinnamon Road but reversed those placings with a hard fought head victory.

Tim Holland 6-22-09.

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