05/20/2001 11:00PM

'Defender' returns vs. an upstart

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Great Defender, Woodbine's six-furlong track record holder, will make his 2001 debut at that distance against upstart Krz Ruckus and four other Ontario-sired runners in Sunday's New Providence Stakes at Woodbine.

Great Defender was plagued with foot problems last year, when he made just three starts for trainer Ross Armata. His best showing was a second-place finish to One Way Love in the Shepperton Stakes. He also ran second in a classified allowance and was third in the Kenora Stakes.

Great Defender has worked mostly bullets this spring, including a five-furlong breeze in a sizzling 58 seconds on May 9.

"He's doing much better than last year," said Armata's son and assistant, Ross Jr. "He was nursing a pretty good quarter crack, but it's much better this year. His last work was real nice. We're hoping he's ready to go."

Emile Ramsammy picks up the mount on Great Defender, who shattered the track record when he won the 1999 Kennedy Road Stakes in a time of 1:08.

Krz Ruckus, a late-blooming son of Bold Ruckus, should be well backed on the strength of his three-race win streak. He notched his debut last spring, but finished up the track in each of his next two outings, on turf and over a sloppy strip.

Trainer Mike DePaulo gave Krz Ruckus a

2 1/2-month break heading into an Oct. 21 allowance, which he lost by a nose. He won a first-level allowance a month later and then took the winter off.

Krz Ruckus has won a pair of optional claimers this year, earning a 90-plus Beyer Figure both times. DePaulo credits the sudden turnaround last fall to several veterinary procedures.

"We operated on his throat, and Dr. Daryl Bonder did some shock therapy to heal his shins," said DePaulo. "I guess that helped him. Since then, he's been beaten a nose and has won three in a row."

DePaulo has been pointing Krz Ruckus towards the New Providence. "I squeezed him a little last time - it was second race in three weeks," the trainer said. "Now, he's had a month off, with a couple of decent breezes in between. We're going into the race in good shape."

Rounding out the field for the $128,875 dash are Code Name Louie, Gallop'n Gold, Doug's Legacy and Hot Pepper Hill.

Stakes-placed Doug's Legacy is in with a shot in his second outing of the year.

"I think he needed his first race back," said trainer John LeBlanc Jr. "We used it as a prep."