02/11/2011 3:36PM

Trip to Dubai World Cup not on agenda for Giant Oak


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. –Giant Oak, upset winner of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap last weekend, will not go to Dubai for the World Cup, trainer Chris Block said on Friday.

Giant Oak rallied from to a convincing 2 1/4-length victory over Morning Line and Rule in the 1 1/8-mile Donn. It was the second Grade 1 success in a row for Giant Oak, who closed out his 2010 season being placed first via the disqualification of Successful Dan in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

“He came out of the Donn in good shape and has been back to the track for a couple of days now but we’ve decided against sending him to Dubai,” Block said by phone from Chicago on Friday morning. “We’re sure he’s better on dirt than synthetics and see plenty of opportunity here in the states to keep him here. We don’t want to risk going over there and missing a good portion of the season not knowing how good he could be on dirt.”

Block said he has nothing targeted for Giant Oaks’s next start although the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs is penciled in as his main mid-season goal at the moment.

“I’d like to find a race between now and the Stephen Foster,” said Block. “The Oaklawn Handicap could be a possibility. He’ll stay at Gulfstream and continue training down there because he really seems to like and do well over that racetrack.”

Block, who also sent out Never Retreat to finish second in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Suwannee River, will be in action here next weekend with Free Fighter in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida. Free Fighter is coming off a second-place finish in Calder’s Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap going 1 1/2 miles two months ago. The Mac Diarmida is carded at 1 3/8 miles.

“He’s doing well and seems to really relish those mile and three eighths and mile and one-half races,” said Block. “He’s kind of found himself a second career since we tried and then began focusing in on the longer races for him two years ago.”

◗ Sunday’s third race, a first-level allowance at a mile, could yield a player or two in future Derby preps. The seven-horse field is led by the undefeated Rocking Out, an impressive maiden winner in New York in his lone start at 2; Free Entry, who registered a promising maiden win here earlier in the meet; Cane Garden Bay, third-place finisher in the Spectacular Bid on Jan. 8, and the multiple graded stakes-placed Rockin Heat.

◗ Javier Castellano, who began Friday’s card in a dead heat for third in the jockey standings, will serve a three-day suspension from Wednesday through Friday of next week. Castellano was suspended for his ride aboard King Congie in the Hallandale Beach Stakes. King Congie finished first in the Hallandale Beach but was disqualified and placed third for drifting into the path of his own stablemate Brilliant Speed in late stretch. King Congie also drifted through the final furlong and finished out near the middle of the track en route to his victory five weeks earlier in Calder’s Tropical Park Derby.