07/02/2007 11:00PM

Executive Choice tops field


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Steady Growth Stakes winner Executive Choice should be a major player in Thursday's sixth race at Woodbine, a $100,000 optional claimer at 1o1/16 miles on the Polytrack.

Executive Choice was recently sold to Jim Aston, Peter Buzzi, and Augi Onesi, and he made his first start for that partnership and trainer Reade Baker in the June 9 Steady Growth. He led throughout that 1 1/16-mile event, scoring by 7 1/2 lengths while receiving a career-high 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

Executive Choice was previously based in New York with trainer Bruce Levine, who sent him out when he finished a close second behind Arch Hall in the Sir Barton here in December.

Executive Choice subsequently finished third in two straight optional claiming routes on the Aqueduct inner track. He was prominent early before fading to seventh in the six-furlong New Providence Stakes here May 12.

Like the Sir Barton and New Providence, the Steady Growth is restricted to Ontario-sired runners. Executive Choice's eligibility to those races made him an appealing prospect for Baker.

Other possibilities in the feature include Barracuda Boy, Are You Serious, and Cuba.

Barracuda Boy won his first five outings last year while ascending the ranks. He began his campaign with back-to-back scores in $20,000 conditioned claimers and then won a first-level allowance convincingly.

Barracuda Boy got a 98 Beyer when capturing a $62,500 optional claimer in August and then won the Grade 3 Durham Cup Stakes off a two-month layoff. The only blemish on his 2006 record came when he was softened up in a speed duel in the Grade 3 Woodbine Slots Cup Stakes and wound up sixth.

Barracuda Boy, who hasn't started since the Nov. 18 Slots Cup, is back with his original trainer, Sean Smullen. Nick Gonzalez trained him last year.

Are You Serious is stretching out off a poor performance in a grass allowance, but he was previously in solid sprint form. He upset Judiths Wild Rush in the Bold Venture Stakes around two turns on the inner dirt track here last summer.

Cuba struggled when returning from an extended layoff in a June 2 optional claimer on the grass. A route specialist on dirt, he is making his first start on a synthetic surface.