05/17/2006 11:00PM

Better trip should redeem Bear Character

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Bear Character will be ridden by Jim McAleney in Saturday's Marine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A questionable ride in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland may have cost Bear Character a spot in the May 6 Kentucky Derby. He finished a troubled third in the race, leaving him with insufficient graded earnings to make it into the Derby field.

Bear Character will try to get back on the winning track Saturday at Woodbine in the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds in which he should be the prohibitive favorite.

After commencing his career in Alberta, Bear Character won the Swynford Stakes here in September and finished seventh in the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes in October. He spent the winter on the sidelines in Florida and returned in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream in March, finishing eighth.

Bear Character turned things around after shipping to Kentucky in March, finishing third in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway under jockey Jim McAleney.

Bear Character earned a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure in the Lexington, in which he was beaten 1 1/2 lengths. Trainer Reade Baker said McAleney had already made commitments before Lexington, so he secured Rene Douglas for the mount.

"I guess you could say the ride was unusual," Baker said. "He went in, out, and around [rivals]. He's one of the few horses I've trained who really runs from the stick, and [Douglas] lost his stick inside the eighth pole. He didn't get beat that far."

After going three races without blinkers, Baker is putting them back on Bear Character for the Marine. He said he anticipates another solid effort from Bear Character, who will have McAleney in the saddle.

Throng figures to be the second choice in the five-horse field. Based in New York with trainer Todd Pletcher, Throng scored a 6 1/4-length maiden victory in a one-turn mile in January at Gulfstream. He was beaten a combined 32 lengths in his next two starts, both in allowances, but was rejuvenated after shipping back to New York in April. He finished second in an optional claimer April 8, and last time out, at Aqueduct, he led throughout a nine-furlong optional claimer to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths and earn a 95 Beyer. Mike Luzzi rides.

Malakoff, trained by Brian Lynch, is the lone runner in the lineup eligible to the June 25 Queen's Plate. Malakoff placed in two maiden special weight races over the winter at Gulfstream. He won his maiden going 1 1/16 miles here April 30 after dueling three wide on the lead through slow fractions.