Chris Block has horse racing ingrained in his DNA.
Block’s dad, David, a horse owner and breeder, took Chris to the track when he was a kid. They traveled to watch horses run anywhere they could, whether it was in St. Louis or Chicago.
Block became infatuated with everything that came with going to the track: the smell of the horses, the crowds and the pageantry of the races.
Now, Block, a Philo native who’s based out of Arlington Heights, will have the opportunity to soak in the excitement in his home state when his horse, Captivating Moon, competes in the 37th Arlington Million on Saturday at Arlington Park.
“There’s a great sense of pride being able to race a horse in the million,” Block said. “This [is] our flagship day of racing in Illinois. It’s an honor to run in it. All the stars have to line up for this to happen.”
Saturday will mark Block’s second appearance at the Arlington Million.
Block said he’s feeling good about Captivating Moon’s ability to compete. He has finished in the top three in nine of his last 10 races.
“I got a horse that’s trending in the right direction, that is locally based and has at times flashed enough talent to think maybe he’s worthy of taking a shot at trying to put in a big performance,” Block said.
Block had dreams of being a jockey when he was younger, but he knew that wasn’t going to work because he grew to be too big.
As a trainer, he mostly enjoys the preparation behind the races and understanding the horses’ personalities.
“It’s very addictive,” Block said. “If you’re an animal lover, it’s even more special. I love horses. You gotta have some love for the horse. Each horse is a different individual. They all have their own personalities. That’s part of my job as a trainer, to find out their likes and dislikes to hopefully move them forward and get them out there to compete at a high level.”
Block understands the challenges Captivating Moon and jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. are going to face.
Bricks and Mortar, the top-ranked horse in the country, is the favorite. Robert Bruce is looking to become the first horse to win back-to-back Arlington Millions and the first since John Henry (1981, 1984) to win two.
Block said that regardless of where Captivating Moon finishes, he would consider it a successful race as long as his horse is competitive and gives him something to be proud of.
“If Block can get his horse across the finish line first, it’s going to be a really great experience,” Arlington International Racecourse president Tony Petrillo said. “You just have that deeper connection with someone you know on a personal basis. You really root for him.”