09/20/2011 3:00PM

Giant Oak will join stablemate Mister Marti Gras in Hawthorne Gold Cup

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Giant Oak will revert to his closing style when he joins stablemate Mister Marti Gras in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Oct. 8.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Giant Oak, still seeking his first win since the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 5, will make his next start Oct. 8 in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, trainer Chris Block said.

Block, in fact, will have two horses in the $500,000 Gold Cup, since he also intends to start Washington Park Handicap winner Mister Marti Gras in the race. Giant Oak is one of three nationally known horses pointing for the signature race of the Hawthorne season, with Apart and Awesome Gem also expected for the 1 1/4-mile dirt race.

Giant Oak has finished third or fifth in his five starts since a decisive Donn win. Most recently he was fifth in the Sept. 3 Woodward at Saratoga after his connections made a tactical shift, placing Giant Oak closer to the early leaders.

“We thought we had to change tactics and see if we could change results,” Block said. “Closing thirds, we’d been there, done that. But it didn’t work out. He didn’t like that style, and we’ll go back to doing what we usually do. He’s a one-run closer who needs some help up front.”

Giant Oak currently is stabled at Arlington, but will move to Hawthorne with the rest of Block’s stable in coming days. Block’s other Gold Cup probable, Mister Marti Gras, has done his recent racing on turf and synthetic, and Block said that he and owner Bob Lothenbach chose the Gold Cup over a trip to Keeneland and another Polytrack start.

“The thought was always to try him back on the dirt,” Block said. “He ran well on it down at Fair Grounds.”

Block also said that Shrewd Operator, idle since a blowout Illinois-bred stakes win June 25 produced a robust 114 Beyer Speed Figure, basically is ready for a comeback start with an eye toward another statebred-restricted stakes next month at Hawthorne.

“Right now we’re just kind of hanging loose, looking for a race,” Block said.

QE II Cup at Keeneland likely next for Marketing Mix

Tom Proctor wondered how Marketing Mix would respond to a stable lifestyle in Saturday’s Pucker Up Stakes. Proctor had shipped Marketing Mix from Churchill to Woodbine and back three times between April and July, and she had spent more than six weeks at Arlington before the Pucker Up.

“It was probably a little hard for her going that long without a van ride,” Proctor joked after Marketing Mix’s impressive 3 1/4-length Pucker Up win.

Marketing Mix came out of the Pucker Up in good condition, Proctor told Arlington publicity staff on Sunday, and she is likely to be pointed for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup next month at Keeneland, where she would meet standout turf filly Winter Memories. Marketing Mix relaxed beautifully and finished strongly in the Pucker Up, perhaps mentally steeled to some degree by all her 2011 travel.

“She handled all that shipping great,” said Proctor.