04/25/2006 11:00PM

Cuba's local debut delayed till Eclipse

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Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Atlas Shrugs wins the Woodstock. He will run next in the Queenston.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Reade Baker, who entered the week as the meet's leading trainer with eight victories, had been looking forward to saddling Cuba for the first time here Friday.

But Cuba's target, the 1 1/16-mile allowance prep for the May 22 Eclipse Stakes, failed to fill after attracting just five entrants and did not fare any better when carried over to Saturday's card.

Baker also had nominated Cuba to the Vigil, a seven-furlong race for 4-year-olds and up, which will be the feature here Saturday, but did not exercise that option.

"I don't want to run him in a sprint," said Baker. "I'll just train him up to the Eclipse."

Cuba, a 5-year-old New Jersey-bred horse owned by Cam Allard, was based in New York last year with trainer Tom Bush and ran in two stakes at Woodbine.

In separate trips north, Cuba finished second in the Eclipse and third in the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup.

"Mr. Allard thought Tom Bush did a great job, but the horse was a poor shipper and really didn't fit the graded-stakes program in New York," said Baker.

Cuba, who joined Baker at Gulfstream in mid-February, checked into Woodbine at the beginning of April.

"He's trained great," said Baker. "I'm really excited about him."

Judiths Wild Rush heads Vigil

Meanwhile, Baker will be looking for his third stakes victory of the meeting in the $125,000 Vigil. He saddles Judiths Wild Rush, who will be favored under returning rider Jim McAleney.

Judiths Wild Rush, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old horse owned by Harvey Tenenbaum, won the six-furlong Jacques Cartier here April 15.

Last year, Judiths Wild Rush was beaten a nose as the runner-up in the Jacques Cartier and then won the seven-furlong Vigil.

The Vigil attracted a field of seven which also includes Jacques Cartier runner-up High Volt Jolt.

Atlas Shrugs Queenston-bound

Atlas Shrugs gave the Baker barn its second stakes winner of 2006 here Saturday, pulling off an upset in the $126,200 Woodstock under Corey Fraser.

The six-furlong Woodstock was the first stakes victory for Atlas Shrugs, who was claimed for $50,000 from his ninth and final start as a 2-year-old on the closing day of the 2005 meeting.

The Woodstock was the first outing of the season for Atlas Shrugs and his first for owners Bud Roberts and John Pepper.

"They asked me last summer to claim a horse for them to run in the Queen's Plate this year," said Baker. "I looked for three or four months before I saw one I really liked."

The presence of Atlas Shrugs in the Woodstock was somewhat fortuitous.

The colt had also been entered in a second-level allowance race that day, with the option of going into the Woodstock if the allowance race did not fill. When Atlas Shrugs was the only horse entered in the allowance, the switch took effect.

"I just wanted to get a race into him," said Baker.

The plan now calls for Atlas Shrugs to swing back in the May 6 Queenston, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds which is the next stakes stepping-stone on the road to the June 25 Queen's Plate.

Hubbert's Peak, an impressive maiden special winner for owner D. Morgan Firestone here April 2, also is pointing for the $150,000 Queenston.

Vibank, who finished second to Atlas Shrugs in the Woodstock, also could go in the Queenston, along with his stablemate Edenwold.

Canada's champion 2-year-old in 2005, Edenwold worked six furlongs in 1:14 Wednesday and would be making his first start of the season in the Queenston.

Vibank and Edenwold are owned by Jim and Alice Sapara and wintered at Santa Anita with trainer Josie Carroll.

Marine next for Bear Character

Atlas Shrugs was saddled for the Woodstock by Leroy Trotman, who joined Baker as assistant trainer this year. Baker was at Keeneland, sending out Bear Character, who ran a solid third at 39-1 in the $325,000 Lexington at 1 1/16 miles.

A Kentucky-bred gelding owned by Danny Dion, Bear Character began his career in Alberta and won the seven-furlong Swynford for former trainer Dale Greenwood at Woodbine last fall.

Bear Character is scheduled to return to Woodbine next week, his next target being the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine, an open 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds on May 20.

Postponed Star Shoot goes Sunday

The Star Shoot, part of last Sunday's program lost because of poor track conditions due to rain, was rescheduled for this Sunday.

Woodbine does not re-draw stakes races in these circumstances, so the race will be carded as originally scheduled, with eight entrants. There will be no more than seven starters, however, as Summer Cruise, who had shipped in from Delaware Park for the race, has returned home.

* Friday's card favors quantity over quality, with 110 horses entered in nine races. The lone non-claiming race on the card, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special for 3-year-old fillies, will be the first two-turn race of the meeting.