06/09/2005 11:00PM

Baker has half of Oaks field

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Gold Strike breezes a bullet three furlongs on Thursday under jockey Jim McAleney.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker will be holding a very strong hand Sunday when he sends out five of the 10 Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies in the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

The 50th running of the 1 1/8-mile event heads a quality card that includes two other stakes, the $136,125 Victoria Park and the $111,000 Alywow.

The Oaks is the first leg of the Canadian triple tiara. It will be followed by the July 4 Labatt Bison City Stakes at Fort Erie and the Wonder Where Stakes here July 31. There is no longer a bonus for sweeping the series.

Baker's quintet is headed by Gold Strike, an explosive winner of the Grade 3 Selene Stakes in her last start. She earned a lofty 97 Beyer Figure in the 1 1/16-mile race. The last two Selene winners, Eye of the Sphynx and Too Late Now, both came back to capture the Oaks.

Baker said Gold Strike suffered a nail puncture in a sensitive area of the hoof when she twisted a shoe after coming back from a workout last Sunday. After missing a day of training, she breezed three-eighths in a bullet 34.60 seconds on Thursday in a move that Baker said he used to test Gold Strike.

"We just wanted to make sure that she was 100 percent for the race," Baker said Wednesday. "At this point, it looks like it's not going to be a problem."

Baker's other two big guns, Bosskiri and River Nore, are both trying two turns for the first time off victories in seven-furlong stakes.

Bosskiri, who is unbeaten in four starts, trounced Ontario-sired fillies in the May 28 Lady Angela Stakes. She is a stocky filly with lots of speed, but Baker believes you can't judge her distance limitations until she stretches out.

"It's not like she was stopping," Baker said of her run in the Lady Angela. "She could have beaten those horses going seven miles. She's doing super. She's going to be tough to catch, especially if the track comes up a foot of mud."

River Nore has been idle since May 8, when she took the Fury Stakes convincingly. Baker said he didn't want to over-race her going into the Oaks.

"She doesn't carry a lot of weight and is not a great eater," Baker said. "I could have run her against Bosskiri in the Lady Angela, but

I knew it wasn't going to be an easy spot. I couldn't be any happier with the way she's come up to the race."

Whiskey and Low wound up third in the Lady Angela after rallying along the inside, where Baker said she doesn't like to be. She has stamina in her pedigree and is big and tough, according to her trainer.

Pirouetting, Baker's fifth filly, was recently a distant second behind Dancehall Deelites in a 1 1/16-mile allowance.

Harlequin Ranches owns Gold Strike, Pirouetting, and Whiskey and Low, and is the majority owner of Bosskiri.

Dancehall Deelites, trained by Sid Attard, had a woeful seasonal debut in the Fury, but made up for it when she beat Pirouetting by 13 lengths in the allowance. With the presence of the swift Bosskiri, Attard predicted that Dancehall Deelites would assume an early stalking position in the Oaks.

"She doesn't have to go to the lead," Attard said. "She can come from a little off the pace."

New York invader Ready and Alluring will try to become the first filly to win the Oaks in her third career start. She ran third in her debut at Gulfstream and graduated by 16 1/2 lengths with an 85 Beyer in a one-turn route at Belmont on May 11.

Ready and Alluring, who was supplemented to the Oaks for $5,000, is well regarded by her trainer, Randy Schulhofer.

"I think she's got a lot of class," Schulhofer said. "This is a big step up for her, but she's trained like a real good horse."