04/29/2009 11:00PM

El Brujo on path to Plate

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Early Queen's Plate favorite El Brujo should be heavily favored against six other Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds Saturday at Woodbine in the $150,000 Queenston Stakes.

El Brujo never won a stakes at 2, but he came close on several occasions and wound up second in the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity in November. He spent the winter at Fair Grounds but never saw action because no second-level allowances were offered there when he was ready to run.

El Brujo won the six-furlong Achievement Stakes here April 11 like a 4-5 shot should. After attending a lively pace, he drew away to prevail by 8 3/4 lengths and was awarded a solid 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trainer Malcolm Pierce said he was pleasantly surprised to see El Brujo win off like a thief in the night.

"I didn't expect that at all," Pierce said. "He shipped home in good order, but some of the horses he ran against last year were in there and some of them had winter training. I was just hoping that he could win the race by a length or so."

Pierce said he doesn't anticipate any regression from El Brujo in the seven-furlong Queenston.

"He's come back and trained well," Pierce said. "He had a nice breeze here last Saturday. He went five-eighths in a minute and change. He doesn't seem any worse for the wear. Timing-wise, it should be fine. He'll have three weeks between races. I'm happy with the position I'm in."

Bucephalus graduated in his second start at 2 in the Clarendon Stakes, but he went to the bench after running flat as the favorite in the Aug. 10 Vandal Stakes. He finished third following an eight-month layoff in the Achievement, an effort that trainer Kevin Attard was content with.

"He really wasn't cranked up for the race," Attard said. "He settled in nicely and made a run. He came back with a good strong work the other day. I expect him to run a little better this time."

Active Duty won his maiden in the $250,400 Coronation, defeating El Brujo by 2 1/4 lengths. He finished third and seventh in his two winter outings, both in allowance company on the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita.