05/29/2009 11:00PM

El Brujo takes next step to Plate

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sunday's $150,000 Plate Trial Stakes will be make or break time for many of the 10 3-year-olds in the field, as they try to prove their worthiness for the $1 million Queen's Plate.

:: RACE OF THE DAY:

El Brujo is unbeaten this year, and will likely be favored in the nine-furlong Trial. A decisive victory should make him the clear choice in the June 21 Plate.

El Brujo romped in his season opener in the six-furlong Achievement Stakes, and was awarded a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. He had to work much harder most recently in the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes. He beat Shut It Down, who set slow fractions before giving way grudgingly.

"He had to really try last time," said Malcolm Pierce, who trains El Brujo. "He had to sustain a half-mile run. He was tired after the race, and got a lot out of it. That should move him forward to get the two turns. He's on target, but this isn't the big dance. We'd like to win, but it's more important to win three weeks from now."

In his lone route attempt, El Brujo wound up second after closing from off a slow pace in the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity in November.

"He's versatile," said Pierce. "He handled two turns pretty well in the Coronation."

Southdale, unraced at 2, has quickly evolved into one of the better 3-year-olds at Woodbine. He ran third as the favorite in his debut at Keeneland, and then won his maiden here over seven furlongs with an 89 Beyer.

Trainer Ian Black said Southdale was plagued with shin problems last year. He told owner Rod Ferguson that he liked the colt a lot, and suggested that he send him to Florida for the winter with trainer Roger Attfield to help better prepare him for a run at the Plate.

Black believes a route of ground is within Southdale's range.

"The way he's bred and the way he gallops out you would think that it would be okay," Black said. "He's by Street Cry and out of a Saint Ballado mare."

Attfield entered Rapid Release, who has been a minor player in allowance company since shipping across the pond from England. Active Duty's lone win in eight starts came in the Coronation, and he was recently third in the Queenston.