I know I said we would have another look back at the Belmont in today's blog post, but I'd rather postpone it until tomorrow and discuss the story this spring of Giant Oak. Giant Oak was bound for Churchill Downs earlier this year, seemingly ready to run in the Kentucky Derby. He was the runner-up in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, finishing behind Musket Man, who has proven to be one of the better members of a decent three-year-old class. However, Giant Oak's connections decided to bypass a chance at the Roses (good thing too since they have since said he would have scratched with the sloppy track) and head to Chicago for the Mid-America Triple, a three-race turf series at Arlington Park. Giant Oak will start this Saturday in the Arlington Classic, which is the prelude to the American Derby in July, which is the prelude to the Grade 1 Secretariat on Arlington Million day in August.
Arlington Park has put up a $500,000 bonus to any horse that manages to sweep the series. No horse has done that since Honor Glide in 1997. Let's bypass the bonus for a second and applaud the connections for doing the right thing by their horse. Giant Oak would not have been one of the favorites for the Derby. All he would have been doing was taking someone else's spot (Mine That Bird, maybe) and if he would have gone on to scratch in the wake of the weather, that would have been all the more disturbing. It is not easy for horsemen to say no to the Derby and put their horse in the spot that benefits them the most (are you listening Nick Zito and D. Wayne Lukas?). The connections of Giant Oak (Trainer Chris Block and Owner The Virginia H. Tarra Trust) should be rewarded for their approach. Maybe they'll get $500,000 as their ultimate reward.
Tune in tomorrow for that Belmont look back from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!