04/21/2005 11:00PM

Baker sends out flurry of 3-year-old fillies

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker's barn was strong on the 3-year-old filly front last year with such stakes-caliber representatives as Touchnow, Silver Bird, Ontheqt, and Hong Kong Dancer.

While the names obviously have changed, the situation is similar this year, and Baker will have a quartet of promising fillies in action here Sunday.

Gold Strike and Lucky Tomoli will run in the featured Star Shoot, which Baker won last year with Ontheqt. Baker also will send out River Nore and Whiskey and Low in a first-level Ontario-sired allowance race.

Gold Strike is a candidate for the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here June 12. Lucky Tomoli is a Florida-bred.

Gold Strike was bred in Manitoba and raced last year at Assiniboia Downs, where she won 2 of 3 starts. Her victories came in the 5 1/2-furlong Debutante, an open race for 2-year-old fillies, and the one-mile Buffalo, a restricted race in which she was a 15 3/4-length winner over males.

Gold Strike came to Baker last fall, and he planned on running her in the six-furlong Fanfreluche on Nov. 7. But she bucked shins while working a swift six furlongs and was through for the season.

After starting back up at owner Dick Bonnycastle's Florida farm in January, Gold Strike joined Baker at Palm Meadows in February.

"She was in great shape when she got to me," said Baker. "I thought last year she was a good horse. This may not be her best race, going this short, but she's definitely heading toward the Oaks."

Baker had hoped to use the Star Shoot as Gold Strike's stepping-stone to the May 8 Fury, a seven-furlong stakes that would have been her next prep for the Oaks.

That plan was scuttled, however, when a change in the conditions for the Fury restricted the race to Ontario foals only. Previously, the Fury was open to all Canadian-breds.

The changes, made at the direction of the local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, were not made public until the stakes schedule was released in mid-February.

Lucky Tomoli could use more luck

Lucky Tomoli looked like a world-beater in her only start at 2, overcoming severe traffic problems to win going away at five furlongs. But while she has certainly not disgraced herself, Lucky Tomoli's subsequent efforts have been less spectacular.

In her 3-year-old debut, which came in a difficult first-level allowance at Gulfstream, Lucky Tomoli finished fifth, 11 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

And in her next and most recent appearance, in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Sprint, Lucky Tomoli ended a closing fourth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths.

"She ran okay both times, but she certainly hasn't repeated that initial effort," said Baker. "Her best race might turn out to be the same as Lucky Tom's, on the turf."

Lucky Tom, a 5-year-old full brother to Lucky Tomoli, was an impressive winner of his first two career turf starts when trained by Baker in 1993.

Same goal, different path for 'River'

River Nore also was nominated to the Star Shoot but has taken the path of less resistance.

River Nore finished fifth in her five-furlong debut here last September, but was an eye-catching 12 1/2-length winner when she returned almost two months later in a restricted seven-furlong maiden special.

"I was shocked, since she didn't run any good the first time," said Baker. "She'd bucked her shins, and when I brought her back in the fall I didn't think she was ready to run.

"I'd wanted to run her five furlongs, but when the race didn't fill I ran her seven furlongs. I wasn't expecting much, and she drew away from them."

Baker also has Oaks aspirations for River Nore, and is pleased with her training this year.

"She's worked brilliantly, both at Palm Meadows and here," said Baker.

Whiskey and Low won her only start last year, a five-furlong Ontario-sired maiden race, and is an Oaks nominee.

Lemon Maid carries big Beyer

Lemon Maid has seen action just once, in a six-furlong maiden special at Fair Grounds on Feb. 25. But her performance that day, a 3 1/4-length victory that yielded a Beyer Speed Figure of 91, makes her a serious Star Shoot threat.

"She won very impressively," said trainer Malcolm Pierce. "I didn't necessarily expect her to win, but I expected her to run very well. We're jumping into some deeper water, going from her maiden to a stakes, but she trains like a very good horse."

Lemon Maid, a Kentucky-bred, first came to Woodbine last fall.

"She never got close to racing," said Pierce. "She came up here with the intention of going to Fair Grounds for the winter."

Lemon Maid returned to Woodbine at the beginning of April and took up residence in one of the 30 stalls assigned to Pierce.

Silver Impulse waits for Fury

Silver Impulse, who became a serious candidate for the Oaks after winning the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie in her final start at 2, was not nominated to the Star Shoot.

"It's too short," said trainer Stanley Baresich. "I'll bring her back in the Fury."

Silver Impulse, claimed for $62,500 from her debut here last July, has banked almost $200,000 in six starts for Baresich.

Prior to her Lassie score, Silver Impulse had placed in the seven-furlong Muskoka and the six-furlong Fanfreluche.

"She's in very, very good order," said Baresich, noting that Silver Impulse had shipped south just after the 2004 meeting ended and spent her first six weeks at a Miami-area farm owned by Ralph Sessa.

Silver Impulse moved over to Calder at the beginning of February and was based there until returning to Woodbine in early April.