07/21/2008 11:00PM

Fatal Bullet impresses with Bold Venture win

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker and owner Danny Dion's Bear Stable were the star performers here Sunday as Bear Now and Fatal Bullet captured the two stakes races on the program.

But while Bear Now's expected victory in the $155,500 Ontario Matron confirmed her status as a force to reckon with in the filly/mare division and boosted her career earnings past the $1 million mark, Fatal Bullet stamped himself as a star of the future with his romp in the $151,700 Bold Venture.

Fatal Bullet, a $27,000 2-year-old purchase at the Adena Springs sale in 2007, came with that name, and Dion elected to keep it intact rather than change it to fit his "bear" theme.

After cruising through his first three starts here this year, beginning at the $62,500 claiming level and continuing through his first two allowance conditions, Fatal Bullet was shipped to Belmont to contest the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Juneo7, Belmont Stakes Day.

Fatal Bullet finished a distant eighth of nine in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens after attempting to match strides early with J Be K, probably the top 3-year-old sprinter in North America.

"It was 97 degrees, it was dirt, and it was J Be K - I don't know how good that horse is, he's awesome," said Baker, explaining Fatal Bullet's failure to fire that day.

Back at his home track Sunday, on his preferred Polytrack surface, Fatal Bullet faced the top older sprinters on the grounds and scored by three lengths with jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva in the irons for the first time.

His 1:14.54 clocking for the 6 1/2 furlongs broke the track record and earned Fatal Bullet a lofty Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

"He's been a very, very laid-back horse, since he was castrated," said Baker, who had Fatal Bullet gelded following his 2-year-old campaign. "He's extremely calm. He's quieter in the morning than the stable pony. But he was on the toes in the paddock on Sunday. I expected good things."

Fatal Bullet certainly was on the mark, but, with a dearth of suitable local opportunities through the balance of the meeting, Baker will have to look south.

Baker's current option of choice is the $100,000 Tom Ridge Labor Day Stakes, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds over the artificial Tapeta surface at Preque Isles Downs on Sept. 1.

Next start undecided for Bear Now

Bear Now's options also are open following her front-running 1 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Matron, which followed her similar but more suspenseful score by a head at the same distance in the Hill 'n' Dale here June 21.

"I hadn't been able to train her the way I wanted to before her last start," said Baker, who had Bear Now on a rushed schedule after she underwent surgery for an entrapped epiglottis following her third-place finish in Pimlico's 1 1/16-mile Allaire du Pont Distaff on May 17.

In the Ontario Matron, Bear Now maintained a strong pace under regular rider Jerry Baird and finished in a quicker time than the Hill 'n' Dale, although both wins yielded Beyers of 92.

"She came home quick," Baker noted. "Nobody here's got the speed to go with her early and stay with her at the end."

The $100,000 Belle Mahone, at 1 1/16 miles here Aug. 16, would be the next suitable spot here for Bear Now, but the race is an overnight stakes and would require a field of at least five to be carded.

"Ideally, I'd like something in five or six weeks," Baker said. "Danny would like to keep her on artificial surfaces until the Breeders' Cup."

Baker, however, admits that he is intrigued by the idea of trying Bear Now in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ruffian, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares at Belmont on Sept. 6.

"I think her race last fall at Philadelphia Park, in the Cotillion, was the best race of her life," Baker said. "She might be better on dirt."

Bear Now led throughout the Grade 2 Cotillion, a 1 1/16-mile race in which she left Grade 1 winner Octave in second place.

Bear Now proceeded from the Cotillion to the Breeders' Cup Distaff, where she set the pace over a very sloppy Monmouth Park surface before faltering to finish eighth. Following the race, it was discovered that she had bled badly.

Sterwins heading to farm for rest

Sterwins, who was a late scratch when he came up sore prior to the July 1 Dominion Day Handicap, will be heading for owner Eugene Melnyk's farm in Florida and will not see action here again this season.

"We're going to send him home for a couple of months," said Malcolm Pierce, who trains Sterwins for Melnyk Racing Stable. "He's jogging sound, but we'll just give him time and bring him back in the fall. You've got to be 100 percent to be competing in these stakes races here."

Sterwins, a 5-year-old gelding, ran just once at the current Woodbine meeting, finishing second behind True Metropolitan in the Grade 3 Eclipse at 1 1/16 miles here June 7.

Prior to that, Sterwins had upset Keeneland's Grade 3 Ben Ali at 1 1/8 miles on the main track following a solid turf campaign at Fair Grounds.