Giant Oak came with his patented late run and this time, he left no room for doubt or controversy, winning convincingly the Grade 1, $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park Saturday.
Under Shaun Bridgmohan, Giant Oak came storming home outside the trio of Morning Line, Rule and I Want Revenge for a two-length victory in the 1 1/8 mile race. The final time was 1:48.23.
Giant Oak is owned by the Virginia H. Tarra Trust and was bred in Illinois by the owner. Trained by Chris Block, he's a five-year-old son of Giant's Causeway out of the Crafty Prospector mare, Crafty Oak.
Square Eddie and Morning Line went to the early lead and raced a neck apart into the backstretch through a first quarter of 23.36. I Want Revenge and Rule stalked the leaders, while closers Fly Down, Giant Oak and Ron The Greek sat well off the pace, 10 to 15 lengths back. The two frontrunners continued to do battle through a second quarter of 46.73. Rounding the far turn, I Want Revenge and Rule joined the top two and a wall of four horses swept into the stretch, as Giant Oak started gaining ground.
Square Eddie faded mid-stretch while I Want Revenge, Morning Line and Rule continued to battle heads apart to the wire, but Giant Oak was finishing fast and took the lead in the final furlong. Morning Line held for second, with Rule finishing third and I Want Revenge taking fourth. Favorite Fly Down finished another three lengths back in fifth.
Giant Oak was coming off a win in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs November 26. He was placed first through the disqualification of Successful Dan in a race marked by a jostling stretch run. In nine previous races, Giant Oak had recorded no wins, even though he finished a close second in two graded stakes and third in two others.
Fly Down was making his first start since a third place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic while Rule and Morning Line were both coming out of the Hal's Hope Stakes at Gulfstream, where they finished second and third respectively behind Soaring Empire.
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