Edited Churchill Downs report
The Virginia H. Tarra Trust’s Giant Oak, runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs and the recent Illinois Derby (gr. II), is out of consideration for the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Trainer Chris Block told Churchill Downs officials April 20 that the homebred son of Giant's Causeway would get some time off before focusing on a summer campaign that could include a return to the grass. Block’s colt won his racing debut over that surface.
Giant Oak was considered by many to be a major contender for the “Run for the Roses” after his strong effort in last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club, but he had a star-crossed winter at Fair Grounds that included a fifth-place finish in the Risen Star (gr. II) and a fourth-place run in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). He returned home to his Chicago base to run second to Musket Man in the Illinois Derby (gr. II), but Block said he continued to be concerned by the colt’s mental outlook. So Giant Oak will get some time off for freshening
“Physically he’s ready, mentally he’s not,” said Block by telephone. “He just hasn’t gone forward mentally enough. What I’d be scared to death of is the experience of the Derby is tough on some of those 3-year-olds who aren’t mentally prepared. I’m afraid we’d take major steps backwards. We’d love to be there, but in the best interests of him, I think we’ll wait it out and look for something else.”
Block said a Kentucky Derby bid was tempting, but the ultimate decision to skip the race was not a difficult one.
“It was pretty easy after we considered everything,” he said. “We waited to see how he came out of the Illinois Derby, and he came out of it good. He’s been good mentally since the race, but we kind of looked back over our experience of the last three or four races and I thought the only really solid performance was the race last fall there at Churchill. Things didn’t go well in New Orleans where we could get a real good read, and I’m not sure we learned a ton more in the Illinois Derby that would make us think that we’re worthy of running with those top 10 in the Kentucky Derby.”
Giant Oak has a career record of 2-2-0 in seven races with earnings of $218,396.