BLOCK HOPES TO COMPLETE FALLS CITY-CLARK DOUBLE WITH GIANT OAK – The most recent time a trainer has swept the Falls City Handicap (Grade II) and the Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) the same year was in 2005 when Todd Pletcher won the former with Indian Vale and the latter with Magna Graduate.
Dundalk 5, LLC’s Dundalk Dust put Chris Block in position to match the feat with her three-length victory in Thursday’s Falls City under Shaun Bridgmohan. This afternoon, Block bid for the Clark when he sends out Giant Oak for the Virginia H. Tarra Trust.
The Falls City was the first graded stakes try against older fillies and mares for Dundalk Dust and Block’s expectations were not extremely high.
“I was hoping she would run one, two or three in a Grade II, take another step forward and increase her value,” Block said. “She did all of that. She will head to Ocala for the winter and we will plan for next spring.”
Dundalk Dust now has won on grass, Polytrack and dirt.
“She appears to be useful on all three surfaces, but she seems to be better on dirt … or mud,” Block said.
Meanwhile, Giant Oak enters today’s 136th running of the $500,000-added Clark Handicap off a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GIII) here on Nov. 5.
“The plan was to wheel him back in the Clark if he came out of the Breeders’ Cup good, which he did,” Block said. “I expect he will run a very good race, which he seems to do here at Churchill Downs.”
The Clark will be Giant Oak’s 21st consecutive stakes start, 18 of those in graded races. Only Brass Hat, making his 24th consecutive stakes start, has a longer streak among Clark entrants.
Giant Oak has yet to break through with a graded stakes victory even though he has five runner-up finishes and two third-place showings. In races at Churchill Downs prior to the Breeders’ Cup, Giant Oak had finished second in the 2008 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) beaten a neck, fourth in last year’s Clark, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Blame and fourth in this year’s Stephen Foster (GI), 4 ½ lengths behind Blame.
Despite the close calls, Block remains a big booster of Giant Oak.
“Maybe for some other people not close to the horse, he might be a disappointment, but not to me,” Block said. “He always runs to the best of his ability. In the races he has run, he has to give up ground to make his run. It is tough to do that running against that kind of company. He can’t be stuck inside and in traffic because he can’t quicken fast enough.”
Bridgmohan, who rode Dundalk Dust to victory Thursday, has the call on Giant Oak this afternoon. Bridgmohan also teamed with Block to win the Cardinal Handicap (GIII) on Nov. 7 with Askbut I Won’ttell.
The last rider to complete a Falls City-Clark double in the same year was John Velazquez in 2005 on the above-mentioned Pletcher-trained duo.
ONE DAN DOWN, ONE TO GO FOR LOPRESTI – Trainer Charles Lopresti will be going for a double of his own also in the Clark Handicap when he sends out morning line favorite Successful Dan for owner Morton Fink.
On Thursday, Successful Dan’s younger half-brother, Wise Dan won an optional claiming test as the 7-10 favorite over a sealed sloppy track.
“He had won on an off track there on Derby Day, but I think the track yesterday was worse than on Derby Day and I was a little bit worried,” Lopresti said Friday morning from Keeneland. “He got around there safe and I don’t think two turns is going to be a problem with him. He is going to get the winter off like all of my horses.”
A 3-year-old gelded son of Wiseman’s Ferry, Wise Dan had finished sixth, beaten only 2 ¼ lengths in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) in his previous start and prior to that had won the Phoenix (GIII) at Keeneland.
Lopresti is hoping for a better track this afternoon for the 4-year-old Successful Dan, even though Wise Dan is now two-for-two on off tracks.
“They are two different horses,” Lopresti said. “I worry about (Successful Dan) because he has never run on an off track. Plus, he was off 14 months with a suspensory, so the track will have to be awfully good this afternoon to run.”
RIDEOFTHECHAPTER COULD GIVE TRAINER EARLY BABY GIFT – So, what to get a first-time mother with a baby girl on the way in about three weeks?
How about a Grade II stakes victory?
“That would be a good gift,” said Helen Pitts-Blasi, who will send out Old School Racing’s Prideofthechapter in Saturday’s 84th running of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
Idle since winning an allowance race at Hoosier Park on Aug. 26, Prideofthechapter will break from the rail under Rosemary Homeister Jr. Prideofthechapter is listed at 20-1 on the morning line.
“We thought about running at Mountaineer, but decided not to go,” said Pitts-Blasi, wife of Churchill Downs outrider Greg Blasi. “Then we were going to run in an allowance race here but that didn’t fill.”
A son of Strong Hope, Prideofthechapter shows a steady stream of works since mid-October for the Kentucky Jockey Club.
“He has been training well and we are going to take a shot,” Pitts-Blasi said. “The two turns, that’s the question for him.”
BARN TALK – Mike Rutherford and Terry Green’s High Quail, runner-up in Thursday’s Falls City Handicap, will be heading to the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Monday according to Dennis “Peaches” Geier, assistant to trainer Bret Calhoun. “She came out of the race fine,” Geier said of the 4-year-old filly who was making her stakes debut. “She ran well and I thought for a while she was going to win. (Jockey) Garrett (Gomez) did a good job of slowing the pace down. She has run four good races for us now since we got her (this year).” …
Black Sheep Racing’s China became the first two-time winner of the meet when he won Thursday’s eighth race with Robby Albarado aboard. China’s initial victory here came on Nov. 5 in a first level allowance sprint. The second two-time winner of the meet came in the very next race when Penny Lauer’s Rigamaro was elevated to the top spot via disqualification. Rigamaro had broken her maiden here on Nov. 10. …
Julien Leparoux increased his lead to five (25-20) over Robby Albarado with three racing days left by riding two winners on Thursday. Leparoux is named on eight mounts Friday; Albarado on 10.
Steve Asmussen maintains a 13-8 edge on Todd Pletcher in the race for leading trainer and the best Pletcher can do is tie Asmussen if his last five starters win and Asmussen is blanked on his final 14 entrants of the meet. The only other trainers who could overtake Asmussen with a scalding hot final three days are Ken McPeek and Dale Romans. McPeek, who has six victories, has 10 entrants the final three days while Romans, who has four wins thus far, has 17 entrants the final three days.