Fair Grounds trainer Neil Pessin was all smiles on
the local backstretch Saturday morning following Giant Oak’s adjudged
victory in Friday’s Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, and why
shouldn’t he be? Pessin trains the Virginia Tarra-owned Giant Oak during
the winter months at Fair Grounds.
“We had to get put up to win it,” said Pessin of Giant Oak,
who finished second by a head under the wire, “but we’ll take it. A win is a
“Giant Oak will be going to Ocala
for about 45 days,” said Pessin. “Then he’s scheduled to be sent down here
where he will be pointed toward the (Grade II) New Orleans Handicap.”
The 4-year-old son of Giant’s
Causeway finished fifth in last season’s New Orleans
Handicap and was third in last season’s Grade III Mineshaft Handicap.
Adele Dilschneider’s Apart, who won three straight stakes
including the Grade II Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and the Grade III
Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs before finishing seventh in the
roughly-run Clark Handicap, will also be coming to Fair Grounds and be pointed
toward the New Orleans Handicap, trainer Al Stall Jr. indicated Saturday
morning when interviewed by Churchill’s Jill Byrne on her paddock show.
New Orleans native
Stall, the Fair Grounds’ leading trainer three different seasons, is in the
midst of his own career year after saddling Claiborne Farm and Adele
Dilschneider’s Blame to win the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic and
possible Horse of the Year honors.
Stall also humorously recalled his own youth in New
Orleans for Byrne during the
“Whenever I got suspended, I was happy,” said Stall, who
would make use of the time by going right to Fair Grounds to watch the
races. “Finally, they figured out that what they really had to do was
making me sit on a bench in the hallway for six hours.”