09/19/2006 11:00PM

Early and late threats for Baker


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker has been busy at the Keeneland sales this week, picking up several yearlings for some of his major clients. But he will be back at Woodbine in plenty of time for the weekend and will be looking to send out a meet-leading ninth stakes winner in Saturday's $125,000 La Lorgnette at 1 1/16 miles.

Baker will send two entrants who complement each other: Vestrey Lady, who prefers to run on the front end and is coming off an impressive victory in the 7 1/2-furlong Duchess on Aug. 12 over the temporary inner track, and Classical Miss, who prefers to run from off the pace and is coming off a win in a 1 1/16-mile second-level allowance on Aug. 27 over the inner track.

Classical Miss drew post 6 and Vestrey Lady drew post 9 when a field of 12 was entered for the La Lorgnette on Wednesday.

Jim McAleney, the regular rider of both Vestrey Lady and Classical Miss, has been named on both fillies and can take his pick.

"Vestrey Lady's last race was huge," said Baker. "I've given her some time now, and I would guess she'd come back and run big again."

Although the Duchess was around two turns, the La Lorgnette will be the longest race of Vestrey Lady's career. In her only previous try at a middle distance, Vestrey Lady set all the pace but was run down late in a mile and 70-yard second-level allowance here May 19.

"It depends on how fast we go up front and if somebody wants to sacrifice themselves to go with us," said Baker. "If they do, a speed duel would help set it up for Classical Miss. She seems to be improving all the time."

Judiths Wild Rush eyes Phoenix

Baker said he plans to be back at Keeneland on Oct. 7, when he sends Judiths Wild Rush in the Grade 3, $250,000 Phoenix Stakes, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward.

A 5-year-old, Judiths Wild Rush was voted Canada's champion sprinter last year for owner Harvey Tenenbaum. He has won the Vigil and Jacques Cartier here this season and earned $312,203 from nine 2006 starts.

Another local trainer, Malcolm Pierce, could send Hide and Chic to Keeneland for the Grade 3, $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America. The Thoroughbred Club of America is a six-furlong race for fillies and mares.

A Kentucky-bred 4-year-old owned by Live Oak Plantation, Hide and Chic has won both of her starts since joining Pierce here this spring, the Grade 3 Royal North over six furlongs on turf and the Grade 3 Seaway over 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack.

"We have a few choices, but the Keeneland race fits timing-wise, it's $300,000, and it's on Polytrack," said Pierce.

The next appropriate local stakes opportunity for Hide and Chic is the $125,000 Ontario Fashion, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares on Nov. 4.

"Just waiting here for the Fashion doesn't make a lot of sense," said Pierce.

Even better than Pierce expected

Pierce unveiled another talented newcomer here last week, when Stradivinsky, a Florida-bred 3-year-old gelding owned by Live Oak, won a second-level allowance by 6 1/4 lengths. The race was switched from turf to Polytrack.

Stradivinsky led throughout the seven furlongs of the race and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98, the best of his 11-race career.

"I thought he'd run well, but I didn't expect him to run that well," said Pierce. "Obviously, he was getting a little relief in his company."

Stradivinsky made his first start since July 15, when he finished third in a minor turf stakes at Calder for the second straight time.

Pierce has two options for Stradivinsky's next race. He has nominated Stradivinsky for the Grade 3 Ontario Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds here Oct. 1, and the $150,000 Bryan Station, a one-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds at Keeneland on Oct. 15, is also a possibility

Thumbs up to Elle Runaway

Pierce said he was pleased with Elle Runaway's performance in Saturday's Grade 2 Canadian, in which she finished third, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Ready's Gal.

Arravale, a locally based horse who was coming off a Grade 1 victory in California, finished second.

"I was thrilled with my filly in the Canadian, to see her run a game third," said Pierce. "I don't know where to go with her next."

* Reade Baker will be the special guest at Jennifer Morrison's next handicapping seminar, which will take place at the Greenwood teletheatre from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday.