08/06/2008 12:00AM

Allowance offers puzzling field


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Questions abound regarding Friday's intriguing Woodbine feature, a third-level allowance route with an $80,000 claiming option.

How will Sahara Heat fare in his return to Woodbine? Will Soul Rebel record yet another layoff win? Can Executive Choice handle a jump up in class? Will shipper No Reply take a shine to the quirky Polytrack?

Sahara Heat, a $3.4 million yearling purchase, captured the Grade 3 Marine Stakes here in May of last year. He subsequently went into a horrendous slump while competing in stakes throughout the United States, and has only hit the board twice in the past year - a pair of third-place finishes in allowance company.

Sahara Heat is making his debut for trainer Mark Casse, who has clicked with 16 percent of his new shooters during the last five years. He should be a factor with Patrick Husbands aboard.

Soul Rebel has been idle since December, but the 6-year-old has won off a layoff five times in the past, if you include his debut in October 2005.

Soul Rebel has worked extensively this summer, and his ability to perform well while fresh makes him a contender in the 1 1/16-mile headliner. Chantal Sutherland rides him for trainer Catherine Day Phillips.

Executive Choice has been a staple in the older Ontario-sired ranks since spring 2007. He was prominent throughout his two stakes victories last year, in the Steady Growth and the Sir Barton.

After Executive Choice tanked in this year's Steady Growth, trainer Reade Baker dropped him into a difficult $40,000 claimer July 9, and the 7-year-old came up a neck short after pressing the pace. He should be dangerous under Jim McAleney, in a field without another front-runner.

Like Sahara Heat, No Reply recently left trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's string. His lone win in six starts this year came against second-level allowance opposition at Aqueduct in April. His two most recent races at Belmont were subpar.

No Reply's lone synthetic start resulted in a narrow loss over Keeneland's Polytrack, for which he got just a 77 Beyer Speed Figure. He's making his first start for trainer Sandy McPherson and might need a race over the track.

Bold Finish never fired in his first two appearances at the meeting, but he nearly got the job done against easier optional claimers July 27.

Cobotown Ron, a four-time winner in 2007, has struggled this year, although his third-place finish on the grass June 25 was encouraging.