CLARK WINNER GIANT OAK HEADING TO FLORIDA ON SUNDAY – Drew Coontz, assistant to trainer Chris Block, was all smiles Saturday morning a day after Giant Oak brought the month of November to a successful close for the barn.
“I’m on Cloud Nine,” Coontz said. “It’s like winning the (Kentucky) Oaks and (Kentucky) Derby.”
Giant Oak’s victory in the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) via disqualification of Successful Dan came on the heels of a victory the day before in the Falls City Handicap (GII) by the Block-trained Dundalk Dust.
“He is doing great this morning and he will leave for Ocala tomorrow morning for some time off,” Coontz said of Giant Oak, who gave the Illinois-based Block stable its third stakes victory of the meet. Askbut I Won’ttell had won the Cardinal (GIII) on Nov. 7.
“When I came here with Giant Oak (in early November before the Breeders’ Cup), I had two horses waiting for me,” Coontz said. “One was Askbut I Won’ttell and the other horse (Wulfgar) ran on the Friday night (Nov. 19) program and got claimed.”
The only Block runner that shipped in for a stake and did not take home a major check was Mister Marti Gras, who finished fifth in the Commonwealth Turf (GIII) on Nov. 13.
The Block runners shared the west end of Barn 48 with trainer Tony Reinstedler’s stable.
This was the spot to be in,” Coontz said. “We did great and Tony had four winners and two seconds from six starters. This was the right barn.”
While Coontz and Company were floating on Cloud Nine, a few barns away trainer David Fawkes was getting ready to drive Duke of Mischief back to South Florida after the colt was elevated to fifth on the disqualification of Demarcation.
Duke of Mischief pressed the pressed from the outside No. 11 post position and was with the leaders until things got tight in the upper stretch.
“I thought he was maybe a little too close early, but then I saw :49 (:48.92) for the half-mile and I thought we might be all right,” Fawkes said. “But then he got in tight in the stretch and he just doesn’t like to be in a spot like that.”
Fawkes said Duke of Mischief came out of the race fine and would get some time off before possibly pointing to the Sunshine Millions at the end of January or possibly a return to the grass.
Finishing right behind Duke of Mischief was Brass Hat, who was trying to become the fifth 9-year-old to win a Grade I race.
“That was just a tough field yesterday,” trainer Buff Bradley said. “He had a safe trip and came back fine. He will take a couple of months off for a vacation and if he stays healthy we would look at the Elkhorn at Keeneland in late April to start him back.”
Meanwhile, trainer Paul McGee was wondering what might have after seeing both Demarcation and Dubious Miss with the leaders in upper stretch only to have the roof cave in when Demarcation caused the inference that led to his being placed last by the stewards.
“I really don’t know what they were doing playing bumper cars at the three-sixteenths pole,” McGee said.
Jockey) Robby (Albarado) said he felt Dubious Miss was getting ready to explode and he was getting ready to set him down and then he gets walloped … walloped by the home team.”
McGee said both horses came out of the race in good order.
“I might give Demarcation some time off in Ocala,” McGee said, “but he will eventually go to the Fair Grounds, where Dubious Miss will be.”
TODAY’S POTENTIAL STARS FOLLOWING IN SOME FANCY FOOTSTEPS -- Today’s sixth annual “Stars of Tomorrow II” program is entirely devoted to rising 2-year-old stars who have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks
In just five years of existence, Stars of Tomorrow has been the launching pad for 17 Grade I winners, including Super Saver ($1,899,766), who would use a win in last year’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club as a springboard to Kentucky Derby 136 glory, plus millionaires Rachel Alexandra ($3,506,730), Lawyer Ron ($2,790,008), Court Vision ($2,591,521), Pure Clan ($1,987,498), Macho Again ($1,825,767), Swift Temper ($1,296,688) and Any Given Saturday ($1,083,533).
In addition to Super Saver, last year’s “Stars of Tomorrow” program featured future stars Fly Down ($1,167,070) and First Dude ($860,160), who finished one-two in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race; Stately Victor ($613,612), who would go on to win the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass; Thiskyhasnolimit ($547,532), the runner-up in the Iowa (GIII) and Indiana (GII) Derbies; and No Such Word ($503,213), who has won five of her nine 2010 starts going into today’s Gazelle (GI at Aqueduct), including the Monmouth Oaks (GIII).
MINE THAT BIRD TO GET CHURCHILL DOWNS SENDOFF SUNDAY – Sunday will be a day of celebration as Churchill Downs will honor 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner Mine That Bird, who will be leaving on Monday on a journey home to New Mexico.
Owned by the Double Eagle Ranch of Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach’s Buena Suerte Equine, Mine That Bird will walk over with horses for Sunday’s seventh race (post time 3:41 p.m. ET). The 4-year-old gelding will remain in the paddock during the race and then walk to the winner’s circle for his farewell ceremony before returning to Barn 44.
Before Mine That Bird makes his walk to the paddock wearing a winner’s blanket with the Kentucky Derby 135 logo, there will be other festivities.
Following the second race (1:08 p.m. post time) in the winner’s circle, Allen and Dr. Blach will be interviewed in the winner’s circle by Churchill Downs Vice President of Communications John Asher. After the third race (1:38 p.m. post time) Asher will interview former trainer Chip Woolley.
There will be a table in the paddock with a farewell poster for guests to sign along with 1,000 Mine That Bird buttons that will be handed out.
Mine That Bird, who paid $103.20 for the second-highest Kentucky Derby payoff in the race’s 136 years, was retired from racing following a 10th-place finish in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. He completed his racing career with a record of 5-2-2 in 18 races with earnings of $2,228,637.
BARN TALK – Not so fast on handing the Fall Meet’s leading rider title to Julien Leparoux. Robby Albarado rode three winners on Friday to move within two victories of Leparoux with two racing days left in the meet. Leparoux’s margin stands at 25-23 with Leparoux slated to ride 11 races and Albarado all 12. Both riders have 10 mounts Sunday. Also moving into contention with three wins Friday was Shaun Bridgmohan, who now has 20 victories. He has nine mounts today and seven on Sunday. …
Steve Asmussen maintains a comfortable five-victory lead in his bid for a fourth consecutive leading trainer title. This would be Asmussen’s fifth Fall Meet title and ninth overall. …
Ken and Sarah Ramsey also maintain a nice cushion as they pursue their fourth consecutive Fall Meet leading owner title. The Ramseys have sent out six winners, three more than closest pursuer Penny Lauer. The Ramseys have won 16 leading owner titles (eight fall, eight spring) with 15 of them being outright crowns.
WORK TAB – Due Date, sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII), worked six furlongs in 1:16.20 for trainer Steve Margolis.