11/27/2002 12:00AM

Baker capping off his best season


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker already has enjoyed the best Woodbine meeting of his career, with 35 wins and more than $1.7 million in earnings heading into the final week.

Baker solidified his hold on 10th place in the standings here on Saturday, winning three races for the second time in his career, and will be looking to move up another notch or two in the standings in the closing days with many of his horses scheduled to run.

Friday will be a particularly busy day for Baker, who will be saddling entrants for five races. Most of Reade's horses appear to have at least a chance to win, particularly Hour of Justice in the day's seventh race.

Hour of Justice, a Kentucky-bred 2-year-old filly, was an impressive winner at first asking, and will be looking to double up. She breaks from the rail in a first-level allowance at six furlongs.

"The one-hole is a major drawback," said Baker, "but she's a pretty darn nice filly. If she runs well Friday I might run her back in a stakes, at Tampa Bay Downs."

Hour of Justice will be one of three horses Baker sends out Friday for Stronach Stable. The others are Bride in the Wings and Wild Zampano.

Bride in the Wings, an Ontario-bred 3-year-old filly, will be facing first-level allowance company in the six-furlong 10th race.

Bride in the Wings also won her first career start and then finished second as the choice in her allowance debut. But in her only subsequent race, which followed a two-month absence, Bride in the Wings was a badly beaten sixth as part of an odds-on entry.

"She cut her mouth in her stall when she was entered in a race in September, and I had to scratch her," said Baker. "She never seemed to be herself again, until her last work."

That move came Saturday, as Bride in the Wings went five furlongs in 59.80 seconds.

Wild Zampano, an Ontario-bred 3-year-old colt, will be looking for his first career score in the third race, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special.

"He's been the most disappointing horse in the barn," said Baker. "He was brilliant in some of his works early this year."

Wild Zampano did finish second in back-to-back attempts over 1 1/16 miles on the main track here in September and October, but then was a nonthreatening sixth over a mile on yielding turf last time out.

"He came back with his eyes completely closed, from getting hit with clods of grass," said Baker. "I'm really not convinced any more that he's a two-turn horse, but the dirt will help him."

Baker, who trained 10 Stronach runners in his first campaign as one of the outfit's trio of trainers here, will be heading to Adena Springs South in Florida next week to keep tabs on his current and future charges.

Baker also trains some 20 other horses - for himself and other partners and clients - and plans to be back at Woodbine Feb. 1.

Pierce is Gulfstream-bound

Malcolm Pierce, who trains 15 horses for Stronach at Woodbine, will be wintering at Gulfstream Park, with 28 of the stable's runners.

Sally Pierce, Malcolm's wife and assistant trainer, said their Gulfstream horses will include "a lot of 2-year-olds," including the promising Pop Princess, a striking Alphabet Soup filly who debuted successfully at a mile on turf here Oct. 25.

Others expected to race in Florida include a pair of 4-year-old fillies, the stakes-winning Love Kiss and stakes-placed Libretto.

Stronach Stable leads the way

Heading into the final five cards of the meeting, Stronach Stable is the runaway leader in both races and money won, with 53 wins and more than $3.3 million.

But the stable had only one stakes winner at the meeting, when Pierce sent out Hot Talent to win the Wonder Where.

Sam-Son Farm, which is second in both wins and earnings, with 27 victories and $2.8 million, had two horses in the entries Thursday, but will not have any on the final three programs.

Trainer Mark Frostad saddled eight stakes winners here for Sam-Son, with Portcullis winning three added-money races and Strut the Stage, Full of Wonder, Quiet Resolve, Strike Smartly, and Sky Chariot adding singles.

Rich Mist to try Valedictory

Rich Mist worked four furlongs in 50.20 seconds on a fast main track here Wednesday and is slated to take on the boys in Sunday's $125,000 Valedictory Handicap, the 1 3/4-mile marathon, which is one of the closing-day co-features.

A 5-year-old mare owned by her trainer, Mike Doyle, in partnership with Bill and Helen Duffy, Rich Mist is winless in 12 starts this season and is coming off a fifth-place finish in the 1 1/4-mile Maple Leaf Stakes.

"I could have run her in an allowance race Thursday, or for $100,000 claiming," said Doyle, "but I just thought I'd take a shot.

"I'm going to turn her out for the year afterwards anyway, and she won't run until next summer."

Rich Mist will get into the Valedictory carrying only 109 pounds, and has a rider who can make the weight in Laurie Gulas.

The last filly or mare to win the Valedictory was Stellarina, in 1995.

* The Toronto Star will present a handicapping seminar here Saturday to raise funds for Jim Proudfoot Corner, a charity that supports children in need during the holiday season. Handicapper Jennifer Morrison-Learn and columnists Dave Perkins and Chris Young will host the seminar, which begins at 11 a.m. on the second floor of the grandstand.