02/27/2009 12:00AM

Injury won't hold Giant Oak back


Highly regarded 3-year-old Giant Oak missed three days of exercise this week, but his trainer, Chris Block, said the colt's apparently minor setback should not affect plans to start in the March 14 Louisiana Derby.

Giant Oak, a vastly troubled fifth in the Risen Star Stakes, his 3-year-old debut, suffered some sort of mouth injury last Sunday, the day after he worked five furlongs.

"He had either an abscess or a puncture in his mouth," Block said. "Sunday, he was just not himself, not eating the way we want him to, and he carried a low-grade temperature. We thought he might be getting sick, but within 24 hours we started to see some drool in his mouth. On the lower branch of his gum, on the left side, there was a sliver, maybe something from his grain."

The object was removed, Giant Oak's temperature returned to normal, and the colt went back to the track for a one-mile jog on Friday. Giant Oak still shows slight signs of discomfort while eating, but the injury is improving. Block said he would postpone a work that had been scheduled for Saturday, but gallop Giant Oak strongly over the next week.

"We'll put in a very good breeze next Saturday, and if everything went good there, we'd still be right on target," said Block. "You don't want to miss any days, but cautiously, I think we've got it under control."

Giant Oak, who was ridden by Edgar Prado in the Risen Star, will have a new jockey for the Louisiana Derby, Block said, but as of Friday no final decision had been made about who would ride the horse.

War Echo injured, out two months

War Echo, who looked like a serious Kentucky Oaks hopeful after winning the Silverbulletday Stakes in her 3-year-old debut, will miss a much-anticipated showdown with Rachel Alexandra in the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 14 because of an unspecified injury, trainer Steve Asmussen said late Friday.

"She's out for 60 days," said Asmussen. "She'll miss the [Kentucky] Oaks. It isn't anything life-threatening or anything."

War Echo worked once after winning the Silverbulletday over stable-mate Four Gifts, but missed her regular work day last Monday.

Stall has two for New Orleans Cap

Trainer Al Stall sent My Pal Charlie and Star Guitar out for a team six-furlong workout on Friday - a harbinger of what's up next on both horses' racing schedule.

Stall said that he planned to enter both My Pal Charlie and Star Guitar in the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on March 14. My Pal Charlie's presence in the race was expected, but Star Guitar's was not.

My Pal Charlie won the Super Derby and finished fourth behind Albertus Maximus in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last fall. He faded to fourth after setting the pace in the Mineshaft Handicap, his first start of the year, and can be expected to improve in the New Orleans Handicap.

"You'd have to think that off pure handicapping," Stall said. "He ran okay last time, but should have gotten something out of that race. He's looking good, training well."

Star Guitar is the leading Louisiana-bred going at the moment, with a four-race win streak capped by a seven-length thrashing of statebred-restricted stakes foes in the $200,000 Delta Premier Championship on Feb. 7. Star Guitar has lost only once in his seven career races, and in Friday's work, at least, proved the equal of My Pal Charlie. Both horses were timed in a fine 1:12.20 for six furlongs, and completed the work on even terms, Stall said.

"They both ran the same day about a month ago, so it made sense to work them together," said Stall. "The track was fast, but they did it perfect - fast time, serious gallop-out. I'm happy with both of them."

Turning in a good work Wednesday for Stall was 3-year-old Terrain, who hasn't raced since finishing fifth as the favorite in the Dec. 5 Delta Jackpot. Terrain worked three times after that race, but got sick in early January, delaying his 3-year-old debut.

"He acts like he's ready to run," Stall said.

There are three main options for Terrain's comeback race, Stall said: the Louisiana Derby on March 14, the Lane's End Stakes on March 21 at Turfway Park, and the Sunland Derby on March 29.

"I don't know what we're going to do with him yet," said Stall.

Proud Spell puts in day's best

Proud Spell might well have been pregnant by now, had initial plans to retire her after her 2008 campaign gone forward. Instead, Proud Spell was returned to training early this year, and from the look of her five-furlong workout on Thursday, she's happy to be doing it.

Proud Spell was timed in a sharp 59.80 seconds, the fastest five-eighths of the morning by six lengths. It was her fourth timed workout since she returned to trainer Larry Jones's barn at Fair Grounds.