04/20/2009 11:00PM

Giant Oak will point for Arlington turf triple


CHICAGO - While there is no Triple Crown in the future for Giant Oak, the talented 3-year-old colt will be pointed to another three-race series, Arlington's Mid-America Triple, trainer Chris Block said Monday.

Though his qualifications exceed those of several other horses still targeting the race, Giant Oak was withdrawn from consideration for the Kentucky Derby on Monday. Freed from that daunting task, Giant Oak will focus on what figure to be easier races contested over a surface - turf - that the horse might actually prefer to dirt. The first leg of the Mid-America Triple comes up May 23 with the $150,000 Arlington Classic, which is followed by the $300,000 American Derby on July 11 and the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 8. Arlington is offering a $500,000 bonus this year to a horse that sweeps the series.

Giant Oak won his career debut in a turf route at Arlington; he was stopped cold and lost all chance in his only other turf try, finishing eighth in the Bourbon Stakes last fall at Keeneland. Then it was on to dirt, where Giant Oak ran well enough finishing second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall at Churchill and in the Illinois Derby on April 4 at Hawthorne to earn Triple Crown consideration. But his connections, Block and owners Virginia and Rudy Tarra, chose a more prudent path. Giant Oak, Block feels, still races greenly, and does not yet bear fully down in his races or training. Block, for instance, began training Giant Oak in blinkers daily last week, an effort to improve concentration.

"When you wonder what you're going to tell your rider in the paddock, you really don't have any business going in a race like that," Block said.

Giant Oak was moved from Hawthorne to Arlington on Monday, and will have his first work since the Illinois Derby on Saturday, Block said.

"I've been galloping him on a daily basis, just keep up the maintenance," Block said.

Danseurs Nobles racks up huge win

Danseurs Nobles crossed the finish wire first in the ninth-race finale on Monday's card at Hawthorne. There was something of a gap back to the second-place finisher - 32 3/4 lengths, to be fairly exact.

Danseurs Nobles, a 3-year-old by Horse Chestnut, had missed the board sprinting at Hawthorne in his career debut, but this was a turf route race rained onto dirt, the field softened and reduced to just five when it was moved to a muddy main track. The combination of inferior competition and a significantly improved performance by Danseurs Nobles produced the epic margin of victory.

"I told the owner, 'We beat Secretariat's record,' " said trainer Larry Rivelli. "He said, 'Yeah, but we didn't win the Belmont.' "

Danseurs Nobles is bred to be a turf horse, and worked stirringly over Polytrack at Arlington, Rivelli said; the horse's next start will come there on turf next month.

Rivelli, meanwhile, has two stakes-class horses from 2008 coming up to their 2009 debuts, with My Dominick James set to start Saturday at Hawthorne in the $100,000 Land of Lincoln, and Strait of Mewsina targeting a grass allowance race next month at Arlington. Strait of Mewsina won the Hawthorne Derby last fall, and at his best is something between a listed and Grade 3 type of turf horse. My Dominick James was an early-developing Illinois-bred 2-year-old who - unlike many precocious types - grew taller and filled out during the winter after his 2-year-old campaign.

"He's doing super," Rivelli said. "He's really bloomed out. You've got to keep in mind he's only a May foal."

No Pletcher string at Arlington

Todd Pletcher, a mainstay at the Arlington meet the last two years, won't be sending a string to Chicago this summer, Arlington racing secretary Kevin Greely confirmed Tuesday morning. Pletcher's Arlington string occupied an entire barn, and his horses were regular participants in maiden and allowance races here. Pletcher said he'll instead operate a division at Delaware Park this summer.

"We loved Arlington, we loved the management there, the facilities are world-class, but the bottom line was it's isolated a bit from the main part of our business," Pletcher said Tuesday afternoon. "I thought it weakened our Saratoga division a little bit during that month. Part of the success we've had is moving horses from one place to another, and by going to Delaware it makes it that much easier. It was a really tough decision, though. I put it off as long as I could."

Also choosing Delaware over Arlington for 2009 is trainer Ronny Werner, while trainer Bill Mott will have five stalls here compared to the 24 he had in 2008. But Greely said he believes that the arrivals of several new outfits this year, among them Donnie Von Hemel, whose string will occupy an entire barn, will help offset Pletcher's departure.

* Hawthorne will host six $100,000 Illinois-bred stakes on Saturday. The card was drawn on Monday, and several of the races came up with appealing fields.

* A second-level sprint allowance race for fillies and mares, carded as race 1, headlines the Thursday card at Hawthorne.