12/11/2009 12:00AM

Stidham still has his barn's biggest guns yet to go


NEW ORLEANS - Trainer Michael Stidham is off to his customary hot start at the Fair Grounds, and has yet to let his veterans loose on the oval.

Entering the weekend with 5 wins from 34 starts, Stidham looks poised to turn in another strong meet. He plans to send Secret Getaway, one of his stable's top horses, out to defend his crown in the Tenacious Handicap on Dec. 20.

Off since a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows on July 27, Secret Getaway has been training well over a track he loves.

"He's run well here in the past," Stidham said. "He's getting ready for the Tenacious and looks great."

His stable biggest star, Tizaqueena, winner of the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill on the Kentucky Derby undercard, is also in residence at the Fair Grounds.

"She's being freshened, and will be preparing for the grass races next year," said Stidham. "We'll have a campaign for her, starting at the Fair Grounds, and going to Keeneland, Churchill, and Arlington.

"We'll point her towards beginning her comeback in the Bayou Handicap on March 26," said Stidham. "Then she'll have to defend her title on Derby Day at Churchill."

Giant Oak to return

Giant Oak, one of the best 3-year-olds stabled at Fair Grounds last season, will return to New Orleans and be pointed to late-winter stakes races, trainer Chris Block said Thursday.

Giant Oak finished off his 2009 campaign in fine form, closing for second in the Indiana Derby, and rallying for a close fourth in the Clark Handicap late last month at Churchill Downs. Giant Oak currently is at WinStar Farm in central Kentucky undergoing a brief freshening.

"It's a good spot for a little time off," Block said. "Sometime between Christmas and New Years, he'll head back down to Fair Grounds."

Block said Giant Oak would be rejoining the barn of trainer Neil Pessin, with whom he was stabled last season.

"We'll get him down there and see where he takes us," said Block. "We're looking at the Mineshaft as a preliminary early goal."

The 1 1/16-mile Mineshaft is on Feb. 20.

Glyshaw armed for stakes

Next weekend features five stakes, including the Bonapaw and the Tenacious Handicap. Trainer Tim Glyshaw, who had a solid meet last year but hasn't hit the board with any of his horses yet this season, has two entrants for the Bonapaw and one for the Tenacious.

In Saturday's Bonapaw, Glyshaw will send the uncoupled Grand Traverse and Turfiste. Grand Traverse thrived last year at the Fair Grounds, finishing second in two stakes, and has looked comfortable training again at the Fair Grounds.

Turfiste enters off of a victory in a high-level allowance at Churchill. He won the Black Gold last January at the Fair Grounds.

Glyshaw's entry in Sunday's Tenacious is Unreachable Star, who will be a longshot against an imposing field. Good and Lucky, Acting Zippy, and Secret Getaway are expected and there remains the possibility of Friesan Fire and Flying Pegasus joining an unexpectedly tough field.

* Rachel Alexandra continued her routine of morning jogs, coming onto the track Friday at 9:40 am as morning workouts were winding down. With exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard, and led by assistant trainer Scott Blasi, Rachel jogged on the outside of the track, going against traffic, as has become her routine.

- additional reporting by Marcus Hersh