05/27/2001 11:00PM

Geraint tuned for Steady Growth

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ETOBICOKE, ONTARIO - Geraint, unbeaten in two stakes preps this year, should be favored when he ascends to stakes company Wednesday at Woodbine in the $110,200 Steady Growth for Ontario-sired runners.

Geraint has already banked $84,660 this year while winning the allowance preps for the Vigil and Eclipse Handicaps. Trainer Catherine Day said she bypassed both of those races with Geraint in favor of the 1 1/16-mile Steady Growth.

"It drove me nuts not to run him," said Day, "because he was doing so well and he can have a few races close together before taking a bit of a break. I was awfully tempted to put him in the Eclipse, but then Graeme Hall showed up. I also thought there was no way he could make the Steady Growth after running three or four times in a row. It would be too much to ask of him."

Day describes Geraint, a 5-year-old Ascot Knight gelding, as the consummate late developer.

"I remember saying when he was 3, 'I can't wait to see him at 4'," Day recalled. "I remember saying when he was 4, 'I can't wait to see him at 5'. He was pretty rank as a 3-year-old - he always had to be on the front end, but he's grown out of that. You can put wherever you want, and then make your move when you want."

Days felt Geraint is going into the Steady Growth in top shape. "He's won three in a row," she said, "and I think his confidence is up. He's very quiet, so he's hard to get a real read on, but he's sharp and he worked well the other day."

Gerry Olguin has the mount for Kingfield Farm.

Rounding out the field are Skeete's Bay, Hot Pepper Hill, Casino Prince, Inspired Kiss, Speed River, Can You Feel It, Prince of Style, Gallop'n Gold, Bold n' Fancy and Ice Water.

Prince of Style proved an easy winner of the Nov. 18 Sir Barton Stakes the last time he ran for trainer Grant Pearce.

Hot Pepper Hill won the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton in 1999, but missed all of 2000 with a nagging injury, according to trainer Mac Benson.

"He broke a splint bone," said Benson. "It wouldn't heel, and it had to be removed."

Hot Pepper Hill was fourth in the six-furlong New Providence Stakes May 20 in his first start in 18 months. "He definitely needed it," said Benson. "He's never been a sprinter."