04/20/2005 11:00PM

'Bourbon' returns in Woodstock

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wholelottabourbon, Canada's reigning champion 2-year-old, will launch his 3-year-old campaign Saturday at Woodbine in the $134,375 Woodstock Stakes.

The six-furlong Woodstock contains just five other 3-year-olds, including winter-raced contenders Promontory and What's Up Dude.

Wholelottabourbon, a quick chestnut trained by Nick Gonzalez, has won 4 of 5 outings, including a trio of stakes. His only loss came when he ran second in the Victoria Stakes to Flamenco, who went on to place in several graded stakes at Saratoga.

Wholelottabourbon prevailed in the Sovereign Award voting by a decisive margin over Dance With Ravens, giving Gonzalez his first Canadian champion. He is elated with the way Wholelottabourbon has been training this spring.

"We blew him out [Monday] and he was awesome," Gonzalez said. "David Clark has been breezing him, and he's been getting better and better. He's matured a lot."

Gonzalez is concerned about Wholelottabourbon facing winter-raced horses in the Woodstock.

"I got a little apprehensive watching the way the races went last weekend," Gonzalez said.

"I got lucky with one who came from the Fair Grounds and won, and it seemed like winter-raced horses were coming from off the pace, getting all the money in the races they were in. We had an inordinately dry spring, and the track's been dry and cuppy, but we got some precipitation [Wednesday], which will tighten the racetrack up and should help me."

Promontory looked promising when he landed his debut here last spring, but he was subsequently sidelined with a fractured tibia, according to trainer David Bell.

Promontory resurfaced this winter at Oaklawn, where he won a six-furlong allowance in February. Most recently, in a 1 1/16-mile allowance, he got weary from pressing a rapid pace and finished fourth.

Bell has no qualms about turning Promontory back to a sprint.

"He's always shown natural speed," Bell said. "We're just hoping that he'll stretch out later on."

What's Up Dude, victorious in the Sept. 25 Swynford Stakes, wound up ninth when he came off a layoff March 5 in the Grade 2 Swale Stales at Gulfstream.