09/25/2007 12:00AM

Bear Now has earned a shot at BC Distaff

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario - With the news last week that Jambalaya was out for the season, it appeared that there would be no Woodbine representative for this year's Breeders' Cup program at Monmouth Park.

Bear Now stepped into the breech last Saturday, winning Philadelphia Park's Grade 2 Fitz Dixon Cotillion Handicap in impressive fashion and becoming a candidate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 27.

"It gives her five weeks between starts; the timing is perfect," said Reade Baker, who trains Bear Now for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion.

"It was fantastic. The last time I was at Philadelphia Park was with Afleet in the Pennsylvania Derby."

Baker was the racing manager for owner Rick Kennedy when Afleet won the Pennsylvania Derby in 1987.

Afleet went on to finish 10th in the BC Classic at Hollywood Park and was an unlucky third at Churchill Downs the following year in the BC Sprint, the final start of his career.

Baker, who has been in attendance for every Breeders' Cup Day, also had an official connection to the inaugural running in 1984 as the agent for jockey Gary Stahlbaum, who rode Bessarabian to a sixth-place finish in the Juvenile Fillies.

Bear Now would be his first representative as a trainer.

Bear Now, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old, had won three stakes here this year but disappointed in a previous trip south when she finished fourth in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks on July 14.

"She was too sharp; she got worked up before the race," said Baker. "But maybe that experience helped. We went down a day earlier this time and she seemed to settle a lot better."

All being well, Bear Now will ship to Monmouth early in the week leading up to the Distaff.

"I've never been a believer that you have to have a work over the track," said Baker.

In the meantime, the $750,000 Cotillion will stand as the biggest win ever for Baker and jockey Jerry Baird, a Woodbine journeyman who will celebrate his 38th birthday during Breeders' Cup week.

Bear Holiday sidelined with injury

Baker, Baird, and Dion had a second Breeders' Cup candidate in Bear Holiday, but that 2-year-old colt is on the shelf.

Bear Holiday, undefeated in three starts, including the Colin and Silver Deputy, was entered in the Sept. 15 Swynford but came back the worse for wear after galloping over the Polytrack surface three days before the race.

The nature of the injury was discovered when Bear Holiday went for a nuclear scintigraphy last week.

"He pulled a muscle high in behind, in the hip area," said Baker. "He'll probably be off about three months, and then he'll rejoin the stable at Palm Meadows."

Locals take small pieces of big purses

Woodbine's other road warriors did not fare as well last Saturday as Leonnatus Anteas finished fourth in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs and Palladio ran sixth in the Grade 2, $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs.

Leonnatus Anteas, making his first start outside Woodbine, was beaten 5 1/4 lengths in the Super Derby under regular rider Jono Jones.

"He didn't run a bad race," said Kevin Attard, who trains Leonnatus Anteas for Knob Hill Stable and the estate of Steve Stavro. "He was a little fractious in the gate, but he shipped well and handled everything well. I thought he'd run a little better, but I think he'll improve off this race. He was pretty tired afterwards."

With this Sunday's Ontario Derby the last stakes race of the meeting restricted to 3-year-olds, Attard will be looking at the prospect of running Leonnatus Anteas against older horses here or going back on the road.

Palladio was beaten 10 lengths in the Mass Cap under regular rider Richard Dos Ramos.

"The pace was very slow," said Roger Attfield, who trains Palladio for Haras Santa Maria de Araras. "When he quickened, they quickened. I don't know what I read into it, really. He seems fine."

Palladio could resurface in the Grade 3, $150,000 Durham Cup, a 1o1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds here Oct. 13.

Essential scratches because of turf

Essential, a 6-year-old gelding whom Attfield trains for Gary Tanaka, also is pointing for the Durham Cup after being scratched from the Grade 2 Sky Classic here last Sunday.

The Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf race, was to be Eccentric's first start since he recorded his second straight turf stakes win here in the July 2 King Edward.

"I ran two on the turf Saturday, and they were stumbling badly," said Attfield. "The jocks said they weren't handling it.

"With the Sky Classic being a mile and three-eighths, and with the kind of training I'd put into him, I thought the best thing to do was to walk away."

Cotey optimistic about derby chances

Trainer Dave Cotey, who sent out Dance to My Tune to a surprise win in the La Lorgnette here last Saturday, will be looking to engineer another stakes upset with Angel of the House in the Ontario Derby.

The 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby is expected to attract Alezzandro, winner of Fort Erie's Prince of Wales, and Mike Fox, who captured the 1o1/4-mile Queen's Plate.

Angel of the House, who breezed five furlongs in 1:04.60 here Tuesday morning, will be looking for his first stakes win after placing here earlier this year in the Marine, Victoria Park, and Toronto Cup.

A Kentucky-bred owned by Cotey in partnership with Derek Ball, Hugh Galbraith, and Gregg Peacock, Angel of the House also finished fourth in last month's Manitoba Derby and fourth in his most recent start, in a second-level allowance open to older horses over 1 1/4 miles here Aug. 25.

"He didn't run that bad against older horses," said Cotey. "And since then we've found a little bit of something bugging him in behind.

"He's coming along good now. I think he's going to be a little bit tougher in this race."

Husbands wins race in Trinidad

Local riders Patrick Husbands, Jono Jones, and Tyler Pizarro all were in Trinidad on Monday for Santa Rosa Park's Royal Oak Rum Derby Day program.

Husbands had 1 win and 3 seconds from 6 mounts, while Pizarro had 2 seconds and 1 third from 5 rides, and Jones was unplaced in two tries.

None of the trio hit the board in the featured derby.