03/03/2017 10:00AM

Giant Oak euthanized due to neurological disease at age 11

Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park
Giant Oak, winner of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in 2011, was euthanized Wednesday at age 11.

Multiple Grade 1 winner Giant Oak was euthanized Wednesday due to complications from an acute onset severe neurological disease.

The 11-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway had resided his entire stallion career at Millennium Farms in Lexington, Ky., and had not covered any mares during the 2017 breeding season.

He began to show mild signs of discomfort in mid-February and was put under watch by farm staff and veterinarians at Hagyard Equine Medical Associates, but his condition rapidly deteriorated in recent days. The horse will be buried at Millennium Farms.

“Giant Oak was what dreams are made of,” said J. Ted Neel, business manager at Millennium Farms. “He took his owner-breeders on the ride of a lifetime as a racehorse and continued to reward them, along with the breeders who supported him, during his all-too-brief career at stud.”

Campaigned as an Illinois homebred by the Virginia H. Tarra Trust and trained by Chris Block, Giant Oak won 5 of 31 starts during his ontrack career for earnings of $1,484,829.

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Giant Oak debuted at Arlington Park, winning his first race on turf and then moving to the synthetic main track to win an allowance race by five lengths. He concluded that season with a runner-up effort by a neck in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

He came back at 3 to test the Louisiana trail to the Kentucky Derby, but ended up first hitting the board that season in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby, finishing second to Musket Man. He skipped the classics and instead raced in the Midwest, winning the listed Arlington Classic Stakes on turf and finishing second in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby.

Giant Oak saw his most lucrative run at ages 4 and 5, closing his 2010 season with a win in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap, where he was promoted to first via disqualification, followed by a score in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in his 2011 bow.

Those two campaigns also saw him place in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Marathon, Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap, Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap and New Orleans Handicap, and Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap.

Retired to Millennium Farms in 2012, Giant Oak is the sire of 17 winners from three crops of racing age, for combined progeny earnings of more than $1.4 million. His top runners include Grade 2-placed stakes winner Whateverybodywants and stakes winners Sunny Oak, Giant Cruiser, and Bucket Beat.

“We feel so much gratitude toward Rudy and Virginia Tarra and their family for entrusting us with Giant Oak’s care and stallion career,” Neel said. “He was just a pleasure to be around. Good-natured, good-looking – he was a real class act. We all get to know these horses and get close to them. Giant Oak will be sorely missed by everyone here at Millennium.”