06/08/2006 12:00AM

Arch Hall looks too good for his rivals


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Arch Hall, the leading older router at Woodbine, should be the prohibitive favorite in Saturday's $125,000 Steady Growth Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile test for Ontario-sired runners. Arch Hall is one of many Melnyk Racing Stable-owned offspring of the late Archers Bay, who captured the 1998 Queen's Plate for Eugene Melnyk.

Arch Hall, who got a late start to his 2005 campaign, won the restricted Sir Barton Stakes for the second year in a row in November. He spent last winter with trainer Tony Reinstedler at Oaklawn, where he finished second in a pair of graded stakes, both going 1 1/16 miles. Arch Hall was reunited with trainer Mark Casse prior to the Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes here May 22. After breaking awkwardly in that 1 1/16-mile event, he rallied wide from off a slow pace to win comfortably, receiving a lifetime best Beyer Figure of 102.

Casse said Arch Hall has been a typical late bloomer.

"We always thought he was the best [offspring] of Archers Bay, but it took him forever to break his maiden," Casse said. "He was always so impressive in his training, and it just took him a while to get his act together. He injured himself at the end of [2004], which is why he was so late coming back."

Casse also entered another son of Archers Bay, Flat Rock, who was a troubled fifth in his only outing this year, in a $62,500 optional claimer.

The Steady Growth pacemaker could be Moonshine Justice, who wound up second to Arch Hall in last year's Sir Barton.

"That was definitely his best race," said trainer Dave Cotey. "It was the first time he went a mile and a sixteenth."

In his lone start this year, in the six-furlong New Providence Stakes, Moonshine Justice was rank on the backstretch before fading to seventh under jockey Constant Montpellier.

"He was boxed in right on the heels of horses," said Cotey. "Constant said he clicked heels three times, and said he didn't know how he didn't go down. It took the race right out of him, but he came back real good."

Barbeau Ruckus, a fast-closing fourth in the New Providence in his seasonal bow, won the Steady Growth in 2005 and in 2003.

Just in Case Jimmy, who rallied for third in the Eclipse, is also in the six-horse field, along with the New Providence runner-up, Millfleet.