03/28/2009 12:00AM

Illinois Derby next for Giant Oak


Provided the weather cooperates, Giant Oak will join the field for the Illinois Derby next Saturday rather than race at Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes, trainer Chris Block said.

Giant Oak worked five furlongs in 1:01 over a sloppy track at Fair Grounds on Saturday. Provided he exits the breeze in good order, Giant Oak was scheduled to be shipped to Hawthorne on Monday and entered in the Illinois Derby. Block said the Illinois Derby was chosen over the Blue Grass in part because the Hawthorne race is coming up with a field less deep than the Blue Grass. Also, Block said he still wants to find out how well Giant Oak can perform on dirt. The colt had a troubled trip in his first start this year, the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, and did not run well on a sloppy track in the Louisiana Derby there.

Block said Giant Oak won't run on a wet track at Hawthorne.

"We'll hope we get a fast racetrack and see what he can do on dirt," Block said.

A field of about six or seven is expected for the Illinois Derby, Hawthorne stakes coordinator Debbie Lindsay said Saturday.

Also expected to be entered are Al Khali, Lord Justice, Musket Man, Free Country, and His Greatness. Strike a Note is possible.