12/02/2009 1:00AM

Baker content with season


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker had a career year in 2008, winning eight stakes races and finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Fatal Bullet.

And while Baker won't be matching those numbers this season, he is far from disappointed with his outfit's performance.

"I think it's been a good year," said Baker. "I had almost as good a year as last year in Canada, but I didn't have nearly as good a year in the States."

Heading into Wednesday night's card here, the Baker barn had banked $2.6 million in purses in Ontario and $350,000 south of the border. The corresponding totals last year were $2.8 million and $970,000.

Baker believes the difference can be summed up by two horses.

"Fatal Bullet didn't get back in gear until late, and I didn't have Bear Now," said Baker. "Put those two back in the picture, and there wouldn't be much difference.

Fatal Bullet, a Florida-bred 4-year-old who races for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion, was injured while training at Santa Anita late last year and didn't make it back to the races until July 19.

Although he won the Bold Venture here and the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland, Fatal Bullet ended sixth in his return to the Breeders' Cup Sprint and his seasonal earnings of $245,000 were a far cry from the $719,130 he collected during his Canadian horse of the year campaign.

Fatal Bullet headed to Kentucky following this year's Sprint and currently is at Rosemount Farm.

"He'll winter here in Ontario, at Curraghmore Farm, and return to Woodbine on Feb. 15," said Baker.

Bear Now, also owned by Dion, earned $268,260 and went on to be the Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top older filly or mare. She was sold at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale last fall.

Next stop Florida

After the races wind up here on Sunday, Baker will be heading to Palm Meadows, where he has 14 stalls.

Six of his horses will be for various owners with the others coming in from Stronach's Adena Springs South in Florida.

The big names there will include Biofuel, a 2-year-old filly who won the Grade 3 Mazarine here and then finished an unlucky fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies; Bear Tough Guy, a 2-year-old colt who was 2 for 2 but came out of his win in the Grade 3 Grey with an ankle injury which required surgery; and Monty's Best, a 3-year-old colt who won his first two starts here this year but was put away following a last-of-six finish in the West Virginia Derby.

Armed with three for Display

Baker will be looking to put some icing on the cake this Saturday when he sends out Bear's Hard Ten, Thunder Ball, and Captain Carlos in the $150,000 Display Stakes.

Bear's Hard Ten, a Kentucky-bred who races for Bear Stable, will be trying 1 1/16 miles for the first time in the Display, an open race for 2-year-olds.

After finishing fifth in his 6 1/2-furlong debut, Bear's Hard Ten won his maiden in dominant fashion over seven furlongs,

But in his third and most recent outing here Oct. 22, Bear's Hard Ten was a flat fifth in a 6 1/2-furlong first-level allowance as the 7-5 favorite.

"I don't know what happened, whether he bounced or not," said Baker. "I couldn't believe he ran like that.

"I thought he was a cinch. I was going to take him to the Breeders' Cup after that. The day he broke his maiden, I thought he was a very special horse."

Baker believes the Display distance will pose no problem for Bear's Hard Ten.

"He's bred to do that and physically, he should handle it," said Baker.

Thunder Ball, a Florida-bred homebred who races for Stronach Stable, is proven around two turns.

After finishing last of 11 when debuting in a six-furlong turf race, Thunder Ball won his maiden at a mile and 70 yards and then finished second after making a huge move to the lead in a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

"He bled a little bit," said Baker. "He's going on Lasix."

Captain Carlos will be making his third career start and stretching out off a runaway nine-length maiden score at the $25,000 claiming level.

"I think he'll appreciate two turns, but obviously it's a big jump up in class," said Baker.

First winner for O'Sullivan

Melanie O'Sullivan, a 27-year-old native of nearby King City who took out her trainer's license this spring, sent out her first winner here last Friday as Mrs. Mathias won her maiden for $12,500.

Mrs. Mathias was one of two fillies saddled in the race by O'Sullivan, bringing her total number of starts for the meeting to 25.

"It nice to get the monkey off my back at the end of the year, and even nicer to able to do it for my husband and my father," said O'Sullivan, who conditions Mrs. Mathias for Paul O'Sullivan and Eric MacDonald. "They're my biggest supporters."

O'Sullivan came to the track seven years ago, signing on as a groom for trainer Roger Attfield, and later galloped horses at Payson Park for Attfield and Shug McGaughey and back here for trainer Mike Keogh.

Her husband, Paul, was an exercise rider who had worked for Keogh and Attfield. The newly-minted couple opened the nearby Wendover Training Centre in June of 2005.

O'Sullivan, as the mother of a 3-year-old boy and 9-month-old girl, has hung up her tack as an exercise rider. But she kept quite busy with four stalls here, another eight horses on the farm, and the boarders and lay-ups who bring the current total to 34 at Wendover.

On Saturday, O'Sullivan will send out her final two starters of the season in Pirate's Legend, who is owned by Lisa Guaraldi, and Personal Signal, who races for the Eastland Partners 2008 outfit of G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

This winter, she will be taking six horses to Payson Park.

"I plan to run some at Keeneland on the way home," said O'Sullivan. "My assistant, Kelly Vanderra, will get the show going here in March.

One horse whom O'Sullivan is looking forward to running next season is Newport Arms, a Kentucky-bred 2-year-old who finished third in a five-furlong "B" maiden special in his only start season.

"We have high hopes for him," said O'Sullivan.