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Giant Oak, Apart Eye New Orleans 'Cap

Fair Grounds Race Course
Photo: CDI

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 win.


“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 interview.


“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.”





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