06/10/2004 12:00AM

Barbeau Ruckus faces Barath

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Barbeau Ruckus will try to win the $129,375 Steady Growth Stakes at Woodbine for the second straight year on Saturday.

Barbeau Ruckus, a 5-year-old trained by Ross Armata, began a four-race win streak in the 2003 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired runners. He went on to capture three other restricted stakes, all at 1 1/16 miles.

Barbeau Ruckus was let go at 14-1 when he returned from a winter break May 15, in the New Providence Stakes. He stalked the pace in that six-furlong dash and overhauled Choreography in deep stretch. The Beyer Speed Figure of 100 he earned for that win is the highest of his 24-race career.

Armata said he wasn't surprised by Barbeau Ruckus's super comeback effort. "I thought he would run good," Armata said. "He's not a sprinter, but he likes to lay very close, and things worked out well."

Rounding out the field for the Steady Growth are Barath, Time of War, Hot Pepper Hill, Bravely, and Norfolk Knight.

Barath has come full circle since finishing third behind runner-up Barbeau Ruckus in the Frost King Stakes in October of 2001. He hit rock bottom about a year later, when he won his maiden for just a $7,500 claiming price at Thistledown, but was in improving form when he returned to Ontario last summer.

Barath had won two low-level races in a row heading into a $20,000 claimer here last June 25. He broke very slowly that day and finished sixth. He was claimed for $18,000 by his current owner, Tze On Yeung.

Barath dwelt again in each of his next two starts and was subsequently barred from racing in Ontario by the stewards. He resurfaced last fall at Philadelphia Park with trainer Guadalupe Preciado, who rejuvenated the troubled gelding.

Barath won three consecutive allowance races during the winter at Philadelphia, and he won his fourth in a row in an $8,000 starter handicap Feb. 18. After running second in another $8,000 starter, he won two $10,000 starter allowances.

Barath, who has won 6 of his last 7 starts, will have Gary Chan listed as his trainer for the Steady Growth.

Preciado, Chan said, "thought he might need his last race, because it was after a two-month layoff, but he still won. That was three weeks ago, and the timing is perfect for him to come up here and take a shot in this race."