LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A very roughly-run 136th running of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs resulted in a complicated post-race scenario and, ultimately, two disqualifications for separate incidents, with Giant Oak being awarded victory after the first-place finisher, Successful Dan, was deemed guilty of interference in the stretch.
Successful Dan, the 9-5 favorite in a field of 11, crossed under the wire a head in front of Giant Oak, but the stewards placed him third for impeding Redding Colliery when much of the field was bunched together near the eighth pole. Redding Colliery was moved up from third to second as a result.
The switch allowed Giant Oak to "kiss in" at a $24.20 win mutuel, giving the 4-year-old colt his first Grade 1 win. Bred and owned by the Virginia H. Tarra Trust, Giant Oak was winning for the first time since he captured the Arlington Classic in May 2009 for his third career triumph.
All was going smoothly until Demarcation, clinging to a tenuous lead nearing the eighth pole, suddenly veered in sharply, squeezing off his stablemate, Dubious Miss, and causing crowding toward the inside. At the same time, Julien Leparoux, riding Successful Dan just behind the leading pack, steered his mount outward, solidly banging Redding Colliery, while Giant Oak was just behind that pair.
"I saw Julien push him out," said Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode Giant Oak. "I was getting ready to go by them then."
Following a stewards' inquiry, Demarcation was disqualified and placed last, behind Dubious Miss, for his infraction. Win Willy was moved up to fourth.
It took more than 10 minutes for the stewards to sort it all out, and when they did, Chris Block jumped in the air. The Chicago-based trainer has racked up a rare grand slam of sorts at Churchill this year by sending out the winners of four graded handicaps: Free Fighter in the Louisville, Askbutdon'ttell in the Cardinal, Dundalk Dust in the Falls City on Thursday, and Giant Oak in the Clark.
Charlie Lopresti, trainer of Successful Dan, was philosophical about the results. "He ran a winning race," said Lopresti.
Giant Oak earned $328,700 from the $564,000 purse, giving him a career bankroll of $956,677.
Among the notable also-rans, Apart, the 7-2 second choice, was placed seventh after finishing eighth.
The disqualification was the second in the Clark in the last seven years. Evening Attire was taken down in the 2003 running, with Quest being awarded victory.