04/20/2011 2:14PM

Churchill Downs: Giant Oak remains on target for Alysheba

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Giant Oak (left), who was placed first in last fall's Clark Handicap, will return to Churchill Downs for the Alysheba Stakes.

Chris Block’s next big coup on this circuit could well be the Alysheba Stakes on the May 6 Kentucky Oaks undercard. Block is pointing his handicap star, Giant Oak, to the Grade 3, $300,000 race. Giant Oak is now stabled at Churchill after wintering at Gulfstream Park, where he won the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in his first start after being awarded victory by disqualification in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last fall at Churchill.

Giant Oak breezed five furlongs last weekend at Churchill and will have another breeze in the next few days. The 5-year-old Giant Oak is one of a handful of runners that the Chicago-based Block has sent out to win major races in Kentucky within the last year.

Last May, Block won the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap at Churchill with Free Fighter; in the fall, he won the Kentucky Cup Ladies at Kentucky Downs with Never Retreat before taking the Grade 2 Falls City with Dundalk Dust and the Clark with Giant Oak; and at Keeneland last weekend, he won the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley with Never Retreat while also taking a rich allowance race with Suntracer.

Michael Baze will ride in Kentucky

Michael Baze, the leading rider last year at Arlington Park, will be riding in Kentucky this spring, staying through the Churchill spring meet after the Derby. Baze, 24, won seven races at Keeneland last fall and most recently finished fourth with 34 wins at the Oaklawn Park meet. He will make his spring-meet debut Friday with Satans Quick Chick in the Doubledogdare.

Derek Ducoing, who was instrumental in helping Rosie Napravnik win the Fair Grounds meet title, will be Baze’s agent. Napravnik is leaving after the Derby to ride at Delaware Park with Kevin Witte as her agent.

◗ The Coolmore Lexington won’t be the only Grade 3 event run here Saturday, as the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes also is on a 10-race card. Just five older horses are entered in the 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race; from the rail, they are Stay Put, Researcher, Exhi, Dean’s Kitten, and Mister Marti Gras. Also on tap for Saturday is the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway, an ungraded turf sprint for fillies and mares. The Ben Ali will be the seventh race and the Giant’s Causeway the eighth.

◗ Trainer Wesley Ward, always a major force in 2-year-old races here and elsewhere, has a potent first-timing duo ready for the sixth race here Friday, but only one will start. Richard Averill, who co-owns R Turn Now with Ward, said their filly will scratch, with Gypsy Robin remaining in the race. R Turn Now will run during Derby week at Churchill, said Averill.

◗ St. John’s River, a late nominee to the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, was among the workers during a light intermittent rain Wednesday morning at Keeneland, going five furlongs in 1:00.40 with Napravnik aboard. St. John’s River, trained by Andrew Leggio, most recently was second in the March 26 Fair Grounds Oaks in her stakes debut.

◗ Kingpost, one of the more impressive maiden winners this spring at Keeneland, could go next in a first-level allowance over Polytrack at Arlington, said trainer Darrin Miller. Kingpost, a 3-year-old colt by Royal Academy, earned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure in winning a six-furlong race here April 9. “He’s a real big horse, and we’ve had to put a lot of work into him,” said Miller. “I just want to keep him happy.”

◗ Wise Dan, the beaten favorite behind Aikenite in the Commonwealth Stakes here last weekend, will stretch out to two turns when making his next start in the Alysheba, said trainer Charlie Lopresti.

◗ There will be no racing here Sunday because of the Easter holiday. The final three-day stretch runs April 27-29, with Churchill opening the night of April 30 with the Derby Trial.

◗ TVG and Keeneland guarantee a pool of $200,000 for the 50-cent late pick four (races 7-10) every Friday at the meet.